THE tiny night monkey is with Martha Silva 24 hours a day, nestled in a wool pouch inside her coat or beside her while she sleeps. Eight times a day, she feeds milk to the five-inch baby like an attentive mother.

The long hours of monkey mothering don’t bother the 54-year-old Colombian woman, she said, because she already raised two children.

“To me there is no difference. You have to look after each the same. When you give them the bottle, you have to make sure they don’t choke,” said Silva, who works with the neonatal unit of Bogota’s Wildlife Reception Centre, part of the capital’s environment ministry.

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Silva, who has children aged 20 and 30, began working at the centre west of Bogota in 2000. She has nurtured species ranging from birds to turtles to primates.

Her husband and daughter help her with the household chores and cooking while she is occupied with a baby animal.

They sleep together and Silva takes the monkey to work each day on her bicycle, the baby snug in the wool bag.

Every three hours, the monkey must be fed delactosed milk with vitamins added, Cardenas said. In the wild, adult night monkeys eat leaves, insects and small lizards and frogs.

When he grows up, the monkey will weigh 800 to 900 grams (1.75 to 2 pounds) and stand about 34 centimetres (13.4 inches), Cardenas said, adding that he will look like “a medium-sized teddy bear.”

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Silva says she has raised two other baby monkeys and both of those were freed in different parts of the country. She hasn’t heard anything about them since.

“It is like with a child. You are at peace because they are going to be in their natural habitat,” she said.


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