This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Conservation through ecotourism. Monkeys everywhere in the Serere Reserve of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest
A troop of about 50 of these yellow squirrel monkeys visited the Casa Grande at Serere on our second day there.  For such small primates, they sure made a lot of noise as they come crashing through the canopy, leaping great distances between branches. They’re amazing to watch.

Serere Reserve:  Most Bio Diverse Place on Earth

My son Riley was volunteering last month at the Serere Reserve, a rainforest conservation project in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin.  Serere is part of the Madidi Mosaic, the largest and most bio-diverse protected area in the world.  Kendall (my other son) and I joined Riley for a week and although our “mission” was to learn about rainforest conservation, I have to say the highlight of our trip was living with Serere’s monkeys.

Spider Monkey with Riley | Volunteering at Serere | Conservation through Ecotourism
The best part of volunteering at Serere?  I think Riley might say it was getting to know the orphaned monkeys, tapirs and capybaras. Serere functions as a sanctuary for rescued wildlife, some of whose mothers have been shot and eaten by illegal loggers.

Monkeys Everywhere

Globally half of all primates face imminent extinction, as they face threats from loggers, hunters and smugglers.  But Serere is different and here monkeys abound. That’s thanks to the efforts of owner/operator of Serere, legendary environmental activist Rosamaria Ruiz.  Clearly, humans aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed her painstaking work in restoring the natural flora and fauna to the reserve.  Monkeys are everywhere!  During our short stay, we saw 5 different species of monkeys in the wild.  We also had the privilege of getting to know the resident spider monkeys.  After losing family members to illegal loggers these monkeys have found a safe sanctuary at Serere.  The area is constantly patrolled to protect wildlife and habitat– an activity that volunteers and guests often participate in.  It’s part of a “conservation through ecotourism” strategy.

Diego caring for an orphaned spider monkey | Conservation through ecotourism
Diego is the hospitality manager at Serere but his duties occasionally include giving a little TLC to orphaned spider monkeys. I’m guessing he never had to do that at the Club Med resorts he’s managed!

Serere’s Monkey Species

Here’s a run down on the types of monkeys we saw at Serere along with a few fun facts I learned on LiveScience:

  • Yellow squirrel monkeys (Saimiri) mate for life. We watched them grooming each other, intertwining their tails, holding hands, cuddling, and kissing.
  • Spider monkeys (Ateles) are named for their long tails and lengthy spidery limbs. They’re amazingly agile and can quickly walk on two legs across a tree branch.
  • Red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) When a troop of howler monkeys yell, they can be heard for up to three miles.  We woke up to their calls every morning. Great alarm clock!
  • Capuchin monkeys (Cebus) use tools. They can smash nuts with rocks, insert branches into crevices to capture ants for food, and use large branches to club snakes.
  • Nocturnal Owl Monkeys (Aotus) spend most of their time foraging and sleeping in the high canopy, above ten meters. They sleep in tree holes or thickets of dense foliage which may be shared with other nocturnal animals like bats.
Conservation through ecotourism at Madidi Travel in the Bolivian Amazon
Madidi Travel has posted many professional videos about their work with monkeys and rainforest conservation including several done in association with National Geographic magazine.

Voluntourism Helps Protect the Monkey Kingdom

Students, have you ever thought of taking a gap year to volunteer in conservation-related work?  Young professionals, maybe you’ve considered spending your vacation “voluntouring”? Families, are you looking to teach your children that they can change the world?  Teachers & guidance counselors, do you have students interested in primates or rainforest conservation? Researchers and primatologists, are you studying one of the monkeys listed above?

If so, consider supporting, visiting and/or volunteering at Madidi Travel’s Serere Reserve.  Here you’ll find a wonderful group of dedicated environmentalists using ecotourism to fund rainforest conservation.  Volunteer and guest programs are tailored to meet your needs and interests.  Check out the Madidi Travel website, follow Madidi on Facebook & Twitter and watch these videos about their work.  Then contact Rosamaria Ruiz to join the many scientists, artists, photographers and film makers from all over the world, who have volunteered their time and talent to conserve the wonders of the Serere rainforest reserve.

Rosa Maria Ruiz | Madidi Travel | Serere | Conservation through Ecotourism
Rosamaria Ruiz of Madidi Travel, owner and operator of the Serere rainforest reserve in the Bolivian Amazon basin.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Capuchin Monkeys Helping Special Needs People
David Yellen, journalist for USA WEEKEND tells the story of Ned Sullivan who is paralyzed with a brain injury.  Kasey, a capuchin monkey trained by Helping Hands in Boston,  helps with everyday tasks like turning lights on and off and turning the pages of a book.

Usually I write about fine furniture or Vermont artisans or our environmental mission at Vermont Woods Studios.  But I just read an article about capuchin monkeys in USA Today and had to pass it on.  These clever little guys are being raised by the non-profit, Helping Hands, to be companions and assist people with special needs.  The primates go to Monkey College and learn such tasks as putting on glasses, operating TVs and DVD players, turning lights on and off and getting a glass of water.

I remember meeting a tribe of capuchins on a trip to Costa Rica when the boys were little.  We were hiking in Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.  It was a lucky day– we saw howler monkeys and spider monkeys hanging out in the rainforest canopy.  But no chapuchins until we finished our hike and stopped at a seaside hacienda to meet with a local naturalist.  The capuchins had invaded the guide’s open air kitchen and were stealing nuts and bananas.  It was obvious– this was not the first offense.  After watching them at work in a kitchen (opening cabinets and drawers and using pics to crack nuts) I can see where capuchins would be skilled at tending to small motor skills for people who don’t have that ability.

I’m sure having a monkey in your house isn’t for every family with special needs but if you’re interested and want to learn more, visit Helping Hands.  On their website you can find out who they serve (emphasis is on veterans and people with spinal cord injuries), apply for a monkey and donate to a great cause.

These capuchin monkeys at Helping Hands are raised in captivity but if you’re interested in conservation of the species, check out the work our friend Kevin Peterson is doing at the Eco Preservation Society in Costa Rica and Central America.  He is always looking for donors and student volunteers to help conserve the rainforest and it’s inhabitants.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.