It's a huge undertaking to get captured primates back to the 'wild' and the programmes that exist are mainly carried out in private reserves owned by organisations or individuals.
First former captives have to be nursed back to health, tested for diseases that may not exist in wild populations, integrated into strong social groups and provided with predator avoidance training. Any such programme has to be linked to education and anti-poaching activity as well as habitat protection work.
When the Monkey Sanctuary, a small UK charity, was assessing its woolly monkey troop (New World monkeys like capuchins) for release in the 1990s the cost would have been in the hundreds of thousands. Cost apart, though, a major factor that led to the decision not to go ahead was identifying one of them as a carrier of hepatitis. The woollies by then were third generation in relation to the original monkeys rescued from the pet trade. It meant they didn't have the psychological damage the former pets had, but the discovery highlighted the potential problems of disease transfer between the captive-born and wild-born animals. Also, there are land tenure complications in Latin America that mean protection of an area can't be guaranteed in the long term, and the government-run programmes generally don't allow the release of animals born outside the country.
For the capuchins, all former pets, it's even harder because they've all suffered mental trauma, which manifests itself in abnormal behaviours and can flare up in times of stress. The one in my story pulled out his fur and rocked. Then, they've all been denied a natural upbringing and have no knowledge of primate hierarchy and social skills. Many have been castrated or had their teeth or nails removed, which would affect their social standing and ability to survive in the wild. Most have had inadequate diets and some are in the early stages of diabetes, so would not survive.
As Liz Tyson of Wild Futures (the new name for the Monkey Sanctuary) says, "The act of taking a monkey from its natural environment and keeping it as a pet in the first place generally seals the monkey's fate in that it cannot be returned."
This was what the young hotel workers in my story, who were desperate to get Pepito out of the garden and swinging through trees, hadn't bargained for. More tomorrow, including an extract from the story.