Published: April 1st 2010April 1st 2010
By far this has been one of my best experiences to speak of, as all of my volunteer projects have been, but working in a refuge has been on my dream list for many years. So it feels so good to have finally had the opportunity to do it. For this I must send a little appreciation to my dad for helping make this happen financially.
The refuge itself is ran by Frank and Jennifer who are doing an amazing job. You can really see that Frank, as well as the other long term volunteers, such as Louisa our vet (might I add the ONLY vet to be in a refuge in Ecuador...crazy, you´d think all would have one!) really care about these animals from the bottom of their hearts and are giving them the best chance of a normal life that they can now have, after having their real chance taken away from them. After seeing and hearing how other refuges are ran, I must say that this refuge, despite being still in what you could call the early stages, is an example to how all should be run and an inspiration to anyone who feels their cause is
important. They encourage very little contact with the animals as their ultimate goal is to keep the animals as animals and the best case scenario is to rehabilitate them into the wild.
Speaking of rehabilitation, they have successfully released a snake whilst I´ve been here and 3 tamarins. This has created the great job of ´tamarin watch´. Basically we sit in the jungle, looking out for them and taking notes on their behaviour. I´ve had some memorable times, sat there looking out for them. Including some of the tame ones stealing my snacks and desperately trying to scare off the wild ones from our tamarins food, looking like a crazy lady banging trees, screaming and throwing small objects near them. Despite my best efforts though, they´re so persistent!! I love monkeys, but they are awfully gutsy and cheeky!
What has made my experience here one that will live with me forever is being given the rare chance to help raise a baby wooley monkey here. Like I said earlier, contact with the animals is minimal, just how I feel it should be but obviously the babies need constant care and I was lucky enough to be asked to
help fulfil this role. His name is Samson and he´s amazing! Just as playful and fun as you would imagine a baby monkey to be. We go for long walks in the jungle finding new spots to climb and it´s unreal just being in the jungle everyday, never mind with a baby monkey on your arm. However, it may sound like all laughs and giggles, but it´s actually pretty hard work trying to raise him. After all, I´m not a monkey! Despite my best efforts at climbing in trees to try and teach him, I´m definately not the ideal monkey mama! He really should have his own mother. Keeping him off the ground is particularly hard, although I´ve found throwing water at him seems to scare him enough into going back into the trees where he belongs! :P
As well as this I help feed the other animals, (of which there are 8 very angry kinkajous, 4 tamarin monkeys, 4 capuchin monkeys, 1 guatin and many many beautiful birds!) and of course, the construction of new cages, trails, signs and even bridges after ours decided to collapse. Now that was eventful, having to walk across a bridge with no
sides and barely any bottom with around 50kg of shopping on my back and a rapid river underneath! Talk about a near panic attack...
Obviously it´s not all work though and we get to take advantage of the amazing setting we´re in. That is, we´re a 5 minute walk away from a beautiful (but VERY cold) waterfall and we can take walks up into the jungle. It´s just so beautiful here. Especially at night where the moon is often so bright you don´t need your torch and stars fill the sky. You see so much wildlife too. Many plants, birds, animals, etc that never cease to amaze me! Just the other day I found an amazing cocoon disguised as a leaf... and of course... Samson spotted it in my hands and ate it... the poor caterpillar.
All in all, my experience here has been full of both amazing and hard times and I wouldn´t change one minute of my 6 weeks (so far) here and I totally recommend anyone who is in Ecuador to at least pass by and give 2 weeks of your time to this amazing cause and in return be given some great memories!
There are more photos below