Today, I noticed a sole howler monkey on the roof of the tool shed of the Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC). It was just sitting there, looking over the edge and making soft noises that I cannot describe. Besides that it had distanced itself from its group , the big bump on its cheek was quite noticeable. And it looked horrible. To me it seemed a cancer. I didn’t know what to do except making some pictures and showing them to the veterinarian. I considered bringing the monkey to the clinic, but I never handled one so I thought better safe than sorry. The day before I had heard some stories about monkey bites. They hurt.
Later during the morning, I showed the pictures to the veterinarian and while we talked about them, another volunteer came in with the monkey on her head. Apparently, it had been asking for attention a couple of days and apparently, it was at ease with humans. My supervisor happened to walk into the clinic as well, and as soon as she saw the monkey, she said ‘Botworm’. I guessed that was good news for the howler, since it wasn’t cancer.
The veterinarian agreed that it was botworm and as soon as they had decided to treat the monkey, it escaped from the volunteer’s hold. Two people chased it through the clinic, caught it, wrapped it in a blanket and put it on the stainless steel table. The vet grabbed a pair of pliers and went to work. Which is when I turned away and went back to my own work. I really cannot see blood or pain.
Later, my supervisor came to fetch me to show me the botworms. One had not survived the extraction, but the other had. It is difficult to see, but the thing on the picture is about as big as the top digit of my thumb. The poor monkey had two of them in her cheek, but after the treatment, it was doing well.
At home, I looked it up. The botworm is the larva of the botfly. When these larvae come into contact with the skin of a mammal (yes, humans too, depending on the species of botfly), they dig themselves in and start growing. While eating the surrounding flesh of the host. Initially, it looks like a mosquito bite. According to my supervisor, the larvae release a kind of antibiotic to disinfect the wound. Eventually, the larva will pop out and the host in principle lives on. Still, it must be pretty painful. Good that the monkey knew where to go. Even better, I now know where to go too.