11 min read

Scared Baby Monkey Emerges From Earthquake Rubble In Ecuador

<p>Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)<span></span></p>

Veterinarian Maria Cristina Cely heard the monkey before she saw her. The tiny animal howled as firefighters carried her into the veterinary clinic, and handed her over to Cely. Still crying, the monkey gazed at Cely with big, frightened eyes.

Cely had arrived in Pedernales, Ecuador, the day after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the area - an earthquake so bad it turned a once-vibrant beach town into rubble. Over 600 people have lost their lives, and more than 27,000 have been injured.

People haven't been the only victims of this natural disaster. Cely has been working with a number of animal rescue groups, including Darwin Animal Doctors and Accion Animal Ecuador, to save as many animal lives as possible. Cely and the other rescue workers managed to set up a temporary veterinary clinic in Pedernales Stadium - the same place where brigades and rescue groups are currently helping human victims.

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

From the moment they set up the clinic, a constant stream of dogs, cats, ducks, chickens and rabbits have trickled in. But one animal Cely never expected to see was a monkey.

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

The howling monkey was identified (quite appropriately) as a howler monkey, a species that lives in the humid forests of Central and South America. But this baby monkey wasn't rescued from the forest. When firefighters went to investigate a farmhouse on the verge of collapse, they found the monkey locked inside a cage. "She was abandoned," Cely tells The Dodo. "She probably hadn't been fed in a while. And she had no water."

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

The firefighters couldn't possibly leave the monkey behind, so they delivered her to Cely at the animal clinic."My first reaction when I saw her was my heart dropped to the floor because of the state of her fear," Cely says. "She was so scared - probably terrified after the earthquake. She would hold onto you, and just cry. It was very overwhelming."

Cely was also shocked that somebody had kept the monkey as a pet. It's actually illegal to keep wildlife as pets in Ecuador, although there's a thriving black market for wildlife trade. While Cely didn't know exactly how this monkey came to be in captivity, she imagined the monkey was stolen from her mother in a nearby forest.

"The baby monkey was definitely was in shock, petrified and stressed," Cely says. "She should be holding onto her mom, but she didn't have her mom. So she grabbed onto her cage and screamed for attention. And she wanted to be handled all the time."

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

The rescue workers took turns carrying the baby monkey around to comfort her. If they had to put her down - even for a minute - she'd become hysterical. "She just held onto you - your hair or your clothes - and just didn't want to let go," Cely says. "It was heartbreaking to see."

This baby clearly needed cuddles, but anyone holding her had to be careful - the monkey's skin was covered in contagious fungal infections that could make people very sick. The monkey was also really dehydrated. Her tail had been injured - probably from falling rubble - and ended up having to be amputated.

The poor monkey may not have her mother, but she got the best possible care from Cely and the other rescue workers. They gave her shots to help her body fight the infections, and hydrated her with Gatorade and hydration salts. As soon as the monkey was stable that day, they transported her to the Universidad San Francisco Quito (USFW) so she could get the best long-term medical treatment. Cely has been visiting the monkey at USFW whenever she's in Quito.

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

While Cely and the rescue team expect the monkey to make a full recovery, it's not clear when she will be released back into the wild, especially since she hasn't learned necessary survival skills. "The mom would have taught her how to eat and everything else a monkey needs to learn," Cely explains, "but she doesn't have a mom." That said, the rescue team will try everything in their power to make sure the baby monkey can be re-released into the wild. "We're going to introduce her to other young monkeys, who will hopefully teach her how to be a monkey again," Cely says.

Cely remains in Pedernales where she continues to care for animals in the disaster zone. In addition to providing immediate medical care to injured animals, the rescue workers are having to find temporary homes for displaced animals.

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

"People don't have their jobs anymore," Cely tells The Dodo. "Many people have had to move out to other cities where family members have offered them homes, in Guayaquil or Manta or other bigger cities. And many people have had to give up their pets to do so. They have come to us and said, 'Listen, I don't have a place to live anymore. I don't have a job anymore. I can't even feed my children. I have to move away. I cannot take my doggie with me because my cousin or my aunt is taking me into their house, but I cannot bring my pets with me.' So they have given up their pets with tears in their eyes."

Shady Heredia at USFQ (Univ San Francisco Quito)

So far, Cely and the other rescue workers have treated approximately 500 animals, including dogs, cats, chickens, parrots, rabbits, tortoises - and of course, monkeys. (After the arrival of the baby monkey, two more howler monkeys arrived at the clinic for care.) Cely says the number of animals in their care increases every day.

To help animals in the aftermath of the Ecuadorian earthquake, you can donate to Darwin Animal Doctors' campaign to raise funds for animal rescue in the disaster zone. Financial aid will also help fund an animal vaccination campaign, which is crucial in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

"With this increased diseased environment with animals dying all over, and the stagnant water everywhere, you will have an increase of rats," Cely explains. "So we really want to do preventative medicine, and start vaccinating. Any financial aid coming in would be to help these animals and the human families."