Gay Bryson's Volunteer Blog

Gay Bryson participated in GivingWay’s charity raffle, and won an all inclusive 2 week volunteering trip to Belize! She’s volunteering with Wildtracks taking care of Etti, a baby howler monkey. This is her journey:

June 14,2021

As the first days of the rainy season come to Northern Belize, my time here at Wildtracks is winding down and I’ll be headed home in just a few days. The days have passed so quickly but I feel that much has been accomplished and many memories made.

Etti has made great strides and though the road ahead for her is long with much yet to accomplish, she is stronger, more inquisitive, and far more mobile and coordinated in her movements. She remains the sweet happy little baby who grabs my finger when I hold her and purrs softly.

Lil guy, now known as Quigley, has blossomed. No longer the shy depressed little baby who huddled as far away as he could get, who would not make eye contact with us, he has become the playful, confident, happy little monkey he should be. Soon now, he will join his new friends, Flo and Lenin in their larger enclosure to become a troop of three, a rollicking group for sure that will progress together through the stages necessary for their successful release into the forest as adults.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to once again visit this most incredible facility at Wildtracks, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of endangered species such as my beloved Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys, Manatees and actually any other animal that finds its way here. Every time I leave here, a piece of me stays behind ensuring that I will return once again.

These videos show Quigley being a rambunctious little monkey and a cuddle time play date with Etti, Flo and Lenin.

June 06, 2021

Baby Etti continues to grow stronger and more deliberate in her movements. Several times a day I bring her in to visit with Flo and Lenin, two 8 month old Howler juveniles currently living in the upstairs nursery.

These daily integrations will help Etti to eventually join Flo and Lenin in a family troop of their own. Flo is always happy to see Etti when I bring her in and will spend the time gently loving and cuddling with her. Lenin is not as interested in interacting with the little one but will come down occasionally to check out what’s going on.

May 31, 2021

Well, Mama coati and her babies have moved out. This afternoon a new tenant moved in. Clearly this property is in high demand.

May 29, 2021

Working with little Etti is so rewarding as she is gaining strength and mobility daily. We are working on strengthening her core muscles so she can sit up unsupported ( not there yet) and she’s now able to hang by her arms, legs and tail by gripping my fingers! While not ready yet for a climbing wall , she is developing those monkey skills so necessary for her survival.

May 29, 2021

Current view. A long day has ended and all the animals in our care are down for the night. Volunteers gather to share stories, count bug bites and wait for dinner while the moon makes magic over the lagoon. Tomorrow we will get to do it all again.

All the nursery babies are given milk several times a day plus chopped fresh fruit and and an assortment of browse. On the menu this morning are fig leaves. As you can see, Lil Guy really likes his browse!

May 24, 2021

Many things happen here at Wildtracks besides rescuing and releasing monkeys and manatees! Take, for example, these two baby peccaries. Their mother was set upon on by dogs so they are now being cared for here by an assigned volunteer. Several times a day they are taken for walks across the lawn and yes, this is ridiculously adorable. They too will eventually be released into the forest.

And now may I introduce you to “Lil guy “. He hasn’t got a proper name yet, we are still working on it. Names are taken very seriously here. Lil guy was handed over to Wildtracks by a veterinarian who confiscated him from his owners. Pet trading in Belize is illegal and yet… He has been in quarantine for several weeks now and has been very shy and depressed. I go in and sit with him three or four times a day hoping he will gradually accept me. Today was the first time he approached to inspect my bracelets. I am hoping that soon he will feel comfortable enough with me to sit on my shoulder or jump on my head. I think we are making progress!

May 23, 2021

So, ever since I arrived here at Wildtracks and set up in my cabana, I have heard a fairly loud rustling in the roof at all hours of the day and night. All along I have assumed it was an iguana. But when I climbed up to take a look, It was a mama coati and her babies who had built a nest over the porch. #cutestroomiesever

Meet baby Howler Etti. She is a preemie born here at Wildtracks. Because of Etti’s health issues, her mother was unable to care for her so we are carefully raising her until she is capable of joining other monkeys her age and ultimately being released into the forest. Currently we are employing passive resistance exercises to strengthen her muscles, improve her coordination and generally help her grow stronger. She loves her multiple milk feedings, is a sound little sleeper and a world class snuggler!

May 19, 2021

Early morning cup of coffee by the lagoon waiting to go up and get baby Etti. It was a bit of a slog getting here as severe thunderstorms in Houston kept us grounded for hours. Finally made it very early the next morning and it’s all good now. So wonderful to be back. Thank you all again so much. Adorable monkey pictures will be coming soon.

May 10, 2021

Well, a week from today I will be back in Belize, back at Wildtracks doing what I love to do, caring for a baby Howler monkey . It always amazes me how the stars can occasionally align, even serendipitously, and what you least expect or even hope for, drops in your lap like a gift from the cosmos or in this case, from “GivingWay”, an awesome organization that supports many grass roots non profits worldwide by assisting in publicizing these facilities and in the placement of volunteers etc. So, I won a raffle that allows me to return to my beloved Wildtracks , back to that very special little corner in northern Belize that I have come to love as much as my home here in San Francisco.I am so grateful to those who will step in to cover my life and love Smudgy and LeBron while I’m gone. As usual, adorable pictures of me with baby monkeys will soon find their way onto Facebook. I will be back in a month.

May 3, 2021

It is so serendipitous that notice of my winning came just as Wildtracks was reaching out to me because they needed care for a special very fragile baby howler monkey. Her name is Etti. It’s what I love to do the most and have spent many months at Wildtracks caring for a baby. The fact that I won this is a gift beyond measure because I hadn’t felt I could afford another trip down there this year and then this happened. I guess it’s true that everything happens for a reason.


Do you want to volunteer abroad? Find amazing volunteering opportunities all over the world with GivingWay.


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