Monkey business - a brutal Amazonian trade in Owl Monkeys
13th March, 2008
Peter Bunyard on the battle against malaria, a fallen hero of the Colombian medical establishment and the mysterious fate of thousands of unique primates.
Leticia, nestling beside the Amazon river, is Colombia’s southernmost border town. It has a reputation for being a laid-back, peaceful sort of place, where you can walk casually from one end to the other, and even into Brazil – that is if you can tolerate the heat and high humidity. Increasingly it is becoming a tourist centre for Colombians as well as people from overseas, some of whom arrive by river from Brazil or Peru.
One attraction is the Amacayacu National Park, some 70km upstream, which covers half a million hectares of rainforest. There you can stay and rub shoulders with local indigenous communities, in particular the ubiquitous Tikuna and Yagua. There, if you are patient and prepared to walk away from the river and into the forest, you may see wildlife, including monkeys, the three-toed sloth and a host of birds, all supposedly protected from hunting and the illegal trade in fauna and flora.
In Leticia, in recent years, they have built a new hotel, somewhat luxurious for all its Amazon setting, with an excellent view of the vast, mile-wide river making its inexorable way, several thousand miles downstream, to its sprawling 300-mile-wide mouth in Eastern Brazil. Few, if any, of the...
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