Zoo Boise, in partnership with Paso Pacífico, a non-profit dedicated to the protection of tropical ecosystems, has established a spider monkey sanctuary in El Salvador. The initiative is aimed at helping the country’s National Program for Spider Monkey Conservation train and care for rescued spider monkeys that are often left traumatized by the illegal wildlife trade. In February 2022, three Zoo Boise staff traveled to El Salvador to educate and train animal care professionals on ethical care, rehabilitation, and husbandry of monkeys. During their trip, the team conducted workshops, covering conservation and educational topics, including diet, social structure, enrichment, and housing.
Zoo Boise was asked to aid various institutes in El Salvador to develop better practices to rehabilitate these rescued, mostly non-releasable spider monkeys. The team toured the region to meet park rangers and see first-hand the habitats Zoo Boise supporters are helping to preserve. During the workshops, the team discovered a male spider monkey, Pancho, who was frantically afraid and aggressive. They introduced him to a type of animal training using a target item, reinforcing his reaction, and rewarding him with dried fruit and granola. Wilber, a local keeper, continued the training and successfully removed a long piece of rope tied around Pancho’s neck. The team has recently received videos of Wilber obtaining blood draw samples from Pancho using techniques learned from Zoo Boise.
Zoo Boise is also helping the National Program for Spider Monkey Conservation veterinarians to better develop processes for medical testing, which will play a role in determining which animals may be candidates for possible release after rehabilitation. Additionally, Zoo Boise is coordinating with other AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) institutes to possibly place some of the rescued animals, including spider monkeys, reptiles, and over three dozen parrots and macaws of various species.
Elvis and Sarah, the spider monkeys at Zoo Boise, were surrendered to the zoo by a family that kept them as pets. The zoo provides them with excellent care, and they have become part of a great zoological network that can help answer questions. Sharing knowledge directly with those caring for spider monkeys in El Salvador will be invaluable for the welfare of those monkeys and their counterparts in the wild. Zoo Boise’s guests and generous donors support its conservation fund, part of every zoo admission, membership, and daily encounter.