How About a Shout-out for Belize’s Community Baboon Sanctuary?
If you’d like to meet Belize’s most enigmatic primates, plan to spend time at the nation’s Community Baboon Sanctuary. These animals aren’t actually baboons, so it’s anyone’s guess how they came to be called that. Feel free to refer to them by their official species name: Black Howler Monkey. Kids love this place. Adults do, too. If you’re fascinated by apes and their place in Central America’s unique animal hierarchy, a visit to this sanctuary will provide entertaining, you’ll learn a lot and have a screaming-good time as well.
Why you have to visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary
No lesser than World Wildlife Fund officials were encouraged to discover higher numbers of Black Howler Monkeys in Belize than in neighboring nations, so the philanthropic organization consulted with villagers in the Belize River Valley about establishing a refuge. Funds were allocated to do just that in 1985. Thereafter, the sanctuary began to inspire the Creole people living in nearby villages to get in on this species-saving effort. With everyone pulling together, the sanctuary has now grown to an impressive 12,980 acres of territory that safeguards Black Howler Monkeys so they multiply and thrive.
Where in Belize is it located?
Bermudian Landing is the site of the main sanctuary, but the Creole villages that have joined the effort to nurture Black Howler Monkeys include Flowers Bank, Double Head Cabbage, Scotland Half-moon, Isabella Bank and Big Falls/St. Paul’s Bank. The reserve runs along the banks of the Belize River and it’s the pride and joy of landowners who have committed to maintaining this area for this species and other local wildlife, flora and fauna.
When is the best time to go?
Dry season is between February and May. If you visit during the remainder of the year you could encounter wet broad-leaf forest, marsh and pastureland and since the reserve is situated in the subtropical moist belt, river flooding could keep you from a visit during rainy season.
Best way to get there
The Sanctuary is located just 30 miles from Belize City. Ask your lodgings host to arrange a formal tour that includes transport to and from the site, or you can rent a car to make the 30 mile drive. With an estimated 1500 howlers roaming the 20 square mile epicenter of the CBS, you’ll probably hear them before you see them!
Best way to experience the Community Baboon Sanctuary
In addition to seeing the sanctuary and its comical, loud inhabitants, stop at the visitor’s center at Bermudian Landing for more information and make it a point to hike trails groomed by villagers in the communities that are part of the effort to keep the largest monkeys in the Americas from becoming endangered. Do take the formal 45-minute guided nature walk to learn about the animals, medicinal plants within the reserve and the community’s efforts to keep the monkeys from extinction. Alternately, buy a map and roam on your own. Stay overnight if you want to be fully immersed so you have time to see house mounds that stand as reminders of Belize’s 17th to 19th century lumber trade.