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Jan 23, 2002

Monkey River gears up for tourists

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Since Hurricane Iris ravaged parts of the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts in October, News 5′s teams have headed south on numerous occasions, first to assess the damage and later to monitor the recovery. on Tuesday, Reporter Jacqueline Woods and cameraman George Tillett once again headed south…and have returned with the following report.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

When hurricane Iris swept over Monkey River Village, it not only destroyed most of the community’s buildings, but the storm devastated the region’s two main source of income; fishing and tourism. The village’s forest, home for a variety of wildlife including the Black Howler Monkey, was completely wrecked as the storm’s heavy winds knocked down trees and stripped the ground of vegetation. The debris covered three of the community’s jungle trails, cutting off tourists to one of the area’s most popular attractions.

Since the trails have been closed, the Monkey River Tour Guide Association estimates its members have lost over thirty thousand dollars in revenue and that’s why they’ve been working hard to regain their livelihood. Labouring vigorously with machetes and chainsaws, the men removed tons of logs and branches from the paths.

Alfonso Zuniga, Chairman, Monkey River Tour Guide Assoc.

“We actually felt it was something we could not have completed at the time. But, we had strong willpower and strong mind and a lot of energy. The morale of seventeen personnel just came out and put it all and gave us a wonderful outcome.”

Jacqueline Woods

“I’m presently walking through Jack Trail. It is one of the main trails that have just been cleared. It is expected that once it is reopened to the general public, the trail will be teeming with tourists, bringing some much needed income to the village.”

The Jack, Coe and Luz trails, are situated along the Monkey River bank. The only way to access them is by boat, which turns the journey into an exciting adventure. During the fifteen minute boat ride, visitors are almost guaranteed to see a display of wildlife including birds, iguanas…and of course the fascinating black howler monkey.

According to tour guide, Ian Cuevas, the animals are returning home after the monkeys were displaced by the massive storm.

Ian Cuevas, Tour Guide, Monkey River Village

“They start getting back together now in troops, because they hang out in troops and are territorial. They’ve start finding back their troops and their territory.”

It is not known just how many of the monkeys may have died during the hurricane, but we did pass the remains of one along the trail. The association believes it was injured in the storm and died sometime later. But tour guide association chairman, Alfonso Zuniga says from what they have seen, he believes a healthy population remains in the area.

Alfonso Zuniga

“The largest troop that we saw within the area itself, was eight members. Just before the hurricane, we had troops of up to about fifteen. Within this area, we have about eight different troops, just within this small portion along the river. They are actually regrouping and the vegetation is pretty good, I’d say excellent to the day of the hurricane.”

Because the jungle’s canopy is no longer present, it was not difficult spotting the monkeys on our walk. While it will take some time for the forest to grow back, three months after Iris, there is already a lot of greenery visible in the area.

Ian Cuevas

“The wildlife is still around, you can still see whatever you used to see, there’s nothing that you don’t see anymore. Right now, you could see more because you have a much wider view of the jungle.”

In the village itself, rebuilding work continues. Fourteen of the homes have been rebuilt, while five remain under construction. Some of the restaurants have been reopened and one hotel is already in operation. Some tourists have visited the village, but not as many as usual for this time of the year. Today, the fishermen who lost most of their equipment in the storm are gradually getting back to work, but the men say it has not been easy.

Barry Garbutt, Fisherman, Monkey River Village

“This is what hurricane Iris did to us. Messed up our boats and the government has not helped us with the boat so we have to struggle and get back.”

Village chairwoman, Eleanor Sandlin says because both their fishing and tourism activities were severely affected, there is not much the villagers can do at this time to make money…but she is asking for some help from the necessary authorities.

Eleanor Sandlin, Chairwoman, Monkey River Village

“The lobster, the fishing is very slim for the people because they have lost a lot. I’m still hoping to get some help through the co-operatives for them to rebuild their lobster pots for the next season, their fishing lines, rods and all of this that goes along with tourism.”

Despite the setback caused by Iris, most villagers believe that in time all the inhabitants of Monkey River will recover and prosper. Jacqueline Woods reporting for News 5.

Today marked the official opening of the visitor trails at Monkey River.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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