The Sanctuary was established in 1985 to protect one of the few remaining healthy populations of black howler monkeys in Central America. The monkeys are referred to as “baboons” because, when African people were first kidnapped for slavery, they had not encountered anything similar before. They assumed that the monkeys had to be baboons as those were the only comparably loud primates that they knew of.
When it was first established, the sanctuary was the only wildlife management project that was completely voluntary, and dependent on co-operation from local land-owners. Eight villages and dozens of land owners make up the participants.
Rural Villagers participating in the sanctuary have a respect for the monkeys which are abundant in their area. Landowners responded quickly responded to the need to preserve the monkeys’ land. Nearly all the land-owners on the 46km^2 sanctuary have signed a voluntary conservation pledge, committing themselves to make sure that their practices with their land work in unison with the needs of the wildlife. Each landowner follows their own individualised conservation plan to protect the monkeys’ habitat.
Individual plans include protecting forests along riverbanks, leaving feeding trees when clearing land, and maintaining forest corridors around farmed areas, so howler monkeys can still travel freely. Management practices benefit landowners by reducing erosion, preventing river situation and allowing for more rapid forest regrowth under slash-and-burn farming. Land owners can continue their normal agricultural methods, while locals show visitors around on guided tours, and provide information on things like the Creole language. Tour routes wind around each other. A museum at the main center allows visitors to learn about the area’s culture and history,
The black howler monkeys are one of six species of howler monkey present in Central and South America. It can be heard over a mile away. They normally live in small groups and travel between trees to feed. They have similar facial expressions to humans.