Can you speak monkey? Well if you hang out with them long enough you’re bound to pick up a few words. After more than thirty years in the Amazon, Dr. Sara Bennett can talk some monkey, which, with a little encouragement on my part, she demonstrated for me one sweltering morning on Mocagua Island in the Colombian Amazon. One wooly monkey in particular also had a lot to say to Sara. I’m sure what he was saying was the same thing most of the monkeys on this island adjacent to Amacayacu National Park probably say to her, “Thank you. Thank you for saving us and for starting the rescue center that takes in orphaned and captive monkeys in this part of the Amazon.
Dr. Sara Bennett got a grant from National Geographic to study trees when she first went to the Amazon, but she soon fell in love with the creatures that live in the trees, and began working with local tribes helping them understand the importance of altering their hunting and fishing practices so they would be more sustainable. On Mocagua Island which is shared by four different tribes she got them to agree to stop the hunting of wooly monkeys which were in danger of being wiped out. It was here that she also helped establish Maikuchiga, a small non-profit that operates a rescue center for orphaned animals.
Most of the rescued animals are monkeys that were in either in captivity or were orphaned after hunters killed their mothers. Sara now uses the rescued monkeys as educational ambassadors. We talk about my visit to the monkeys this week on National Geographic Weekend. This video shows Sara and some of her rescued monkeys jumping in her arms and climbing on her head. It also shows some of the monkeys trying to help me with the filming.