This past spring saw an unusual amount of flooding along the Amazon River. Although animals of all sorts (including people) know to expect rising river levels during the rainy seasons, the deluge this year came as a surprise.

As a result, our friends with Fundación Maikuchiga were left in a bit of a bind. The high water levels destroyed their Animals’ House, a facility for rescued monkeys at the Amacayacu National Park in Colombia.

Flooded monkey house

An unusually severe rainy season along the Amazon flooded Maikuchiga’s elevated Animals’ House this past spring.

But we at IPPL were happy to help our old friends once again.

We were first introduced to the work of Dr. Sara Bennett and her then-husband, the primatologist Dr. Thomas Defler, over two decades ago, not long after they first started living in the depths of the Colombian Amazon, surrounded by monkeys. Some of these monkeys were rescues, some were their wild neighbors, and sometimes the rescues were even able to reintegrate with wild monkey troops. Both Sara and Tom were trained in zoology, and Tom still continues his field research on Colombia’s wild native monkeys, with an appointment at the National University of Colombia.

House at low-water

Normally, The Animals’ House sits well above flood stage, as the monkeys well know.

After being obliged to leave their original site due to activities by the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), Sara continued her work elsewhere. She is committed to protecting monkeys and other wildlife from exploitation, while collaborating with local people to create sustainable economies. In fact, the local residents have decided not to hunt endangered species any more. She has been operating Fundación Maikuchiga, 30 miles upriver from the southern Colombian city of Leticia, since 2005. Maikuchiga translates as “The Monkeys’ Story” in Tikuna, the indigenous language.

Sara with helpers

Sara and her local helpers rehabilitate rescued monkeys and reintegrate them with wild populations.

Sara receives orphan primates from local government agencies, which confiscate the animals from private individuals. The monkeys are raised free-ranging in the national park, so that as adults they will know how to climb and search for food. She has even begun to reintroduce rescued woolly monkeys and other primates into the forest.

According to Tom, Sara is known as the “mother of the monkeys” in the Colombian Amazon, since she has provided a second chance for animals who otherwise would have died.

Sara´s Tikuna helper

Sara’s principal helper is a member of the local Tikuna people.

This past May we sent funds to enable Sara and her team to rebuild The Animals’ House (which is mostly made of traditional palm materials). Sara runs her project on a shoestring budget, and she was very grateful for the emergency assistance.

Earlier today we got a report from the field that “the house construction is going very well.” They plan to finish the work by the end of this fall. Before the next big rainy season.