Rumskys Redo Honduras (and Miami)! travel blog

Have you hugged your sloth today?

Family photo at the Roatan Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary

I made sure to take off my glasses before meeting this cheeky...

This monkey is right at home on Fran!

Check out the parrotheads channeling Jimmy Buffet!

To hug or not to hug? Our Indy chums told us that they wanted to go interact with the animals at Daniel Johnson's Monkey and Sloth Hangout. The weather was lousy, and I was a bit hesitant. Are these animals indigenous to the island? Were they brought here just as a tourist gimmick? After being so vocal about not feeding the fish, I needed to do more research to feel good about patronizing this place. And now, I can honestly say that I am happy to have done it!

The "hangout" began when Daniel Johnson, whose family was originally from Great Britain and has lived on the island for several generations, wound up with a monkey who was discarded as an exotic pet. He took in the spider monkey, giving it a good home, and as word got out, he began receiving other animals whose owners no longer wanted them. As the sanctuary expanded, his family pitched in to help take care of the animals, so that all of today's guides and workers live nearby and are extended members of Daniel's family. They take as good care of these animals as possible, in my humble opinion (and based on our experience volunteering at Communidad Inti Wari Yassi in Bolivia, an organization that houses and rehabilitates indigenous animals in Bolivia). For example, they had two raccoons (male and female) that some idiot brought down from the States as pets. S/he was going to just set them free if this organization did not exist. Could you imagine the damage they would have done to the ecosystem here? Yikes!

Visitors are only allowed to interact with the animals in which the experience would be positive (e.g., is not stressful to the animal nor are they in danger of biting the visitors). The monkeys and birds receive treats during the short visits and photo opps, and are quite accustomed to the visits. Most of the animals are indigenous to Honduras, and in fact, the sloths and at least one monkey roams free in the area. That said, I read that a sloth's heart rate increases when it is being held so it could be stressful to the sloth. However, the workers encouraged people to remain still just like a tree, not petting or putting pressure on the animals. When they tried to take the sloth off me, he held on tightly. I could feel those three little claws digging into my back! So I don't know, maybe it did stress the sloth although maybe it's used to it. But then again, my job certainly increased my heart rate regularly but I had to do it to make enough to live on! This is how the organization makes money to support the animals. It certainly got us to take two buses up there. So, overall, I'm happy that I visited this organization and saw for myself how the $10pp we spent benefited the animals, the island, and the people who make this place home.

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