Exploring the Amazon Monkey Reserve: A Sanctuary for Primate Conservation

This article is part of a series exploring the Amazon region of Brazil, featuring in the illustrated picture book “Alexander the Salamander.” The focus of this installment is a monkey reserve located near the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge along the Tarumã River. The reserve serves as a sanctuary for orphaned, injured, or confiscated monkeys, providing them with rehabilitation and, when possible, releasing them back into the wild. Managed by the Amazon EcoPark, the reserve offers visitors the opportunity to interact with these primates, offering a unique and memorable experience in the Amazon.

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Upon our arrival at the reserve, we were greeted by the gray woolly monkeys, one of the two genera of monkeys residing there. These monkeys are named for their dense, wool-like fur, which invites touch and admiration. Their longing eyes conveyed a sense of eagerness, as if they were hoping for treats from visitors, captivating even the most seasoned of observers with their charm.

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The gray monkeys are closely related to other species like the brown, Colombian, and silvery woolly monkeys, found in similar regions of South America. Despite not feeding them ourselves, one woolly monkey took a liking to my young son, allowing him to pet its soft fur.

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The red bald uakari monkeys we encountered were more timid than the woolly monkeys, preferring to stay in trees and keeping their distance from our group. These unique creatures belong to one of four uakari species, including the black-headed uakari, Ayres black uakari, and Neblina uakari. One of these monkeys inspired the character “Manny the Monkey” in my book Alexander the Salamander.

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Woolly and uakari monkeys usually dwell in trees, but those at the reserve appeared at ease navigating on the ground alongside humans. Woolly monkeys utilize their lengthy tails to balance and swing between branches, while uakari monkeys employ their robust arms and legs to leap across trees. When walking near us, both species utilized a mix of limbs. Their acrobatic displays while swinging in the trees were a delightful sight.

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Watching the monkeys peacefully share meals was a delightful experience, highlighting their harmonious coexistence in the reserve. Despite their peaceful demeanor, I couldn’t help but imagine the playful antics and mischief they might engage in from time to time.

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Despite potential criticism regarding the close interaction between humans and monkeys, as well as tourists seeking to pet and photograph these creatures, I commend the Lodge for its efforts to rescue and rehabilitate them. Given that their populations range from vulnerable to endangered due to factors such as legal and illegal hunting and habitat loss from deforestation, the sanctuary’s endeavors will contribute to the survival of these monkeys for generations to come.

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