Feeding Wildlife in Belize

Heading into the jungles of Central America can mean coming face to face with danger at every turn. Think apocalyptic thunderstorms and basketball-sized hail. Think Central American drug lords and their cronies. Think jaguars, piranhas, and man-eating crocodiles.

We did all of that, except the thunderstorms were replaced by sunshine. And the drug lords turned out to be friendly tour guides with adorable families. And instead of running from jaguars, we hand-fed bananas to terrifyingly cute kinkajous and howler monkeys.

It was super dangerous.

Actually, the howler monkeys did have a knack for making loud, threatening, screeching sounds in our direction from the treetops (one might say they were howling), but they made no aggressive movements. They usually howled while one of their own enjoyed eating bananas directly out of our hands. In an unexpected twist of cuteness, they would reach out and pull your hands closer to them while they ate the bananas. Maybe (and that’s a big maybe) this was their way of making sure you didn’t leave until they got all the banana, but I think it’s more likely they just wanted to hold hands with us.

The kinkajous, on the other hand, were shy. They preferred to grab their piece of banana, then climb out of arm’s reach before eating it. They also only come out at night, so getting a photo of one is difficult (photo from National Geographic below). Interestingly, the kinkajous ate as many bananas as we had every night, but didn’t touch the assortment of other fruit that DuPlooy’s Lodge staff left outside for the many nearby creatures. I never found out why.

It was pretty awesome to interact with wild animals so frequently, and I’d love to do it again (as long as we’re talking about monkeys and not jaguars).

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