Santa Martha Animal Rescue Centre

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May 18th 2009
Published: June 9th 2009
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Some of the Santa Martha CrewSome of the Santa Martha CrewSome of the Santa Martha Crew

The picture was taken while waiting for the torist train in Aluasi. From left to right:Jasmina, Ashly, Amy, Becci, Erin, Krysha, Ann, Gordon, Lindsay & Simon
After spending so long in the jungles and pampas and of course not having worked for nearly 5 months we decided that maybe seeing some of these animals up close would be a good idea! So after getting a confirmation email from Dalma at the Santa Marta Animal Rescue Centre we hastily booked a flight (flights really, there were three of them!) from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Quito in Ecuador. The best deal we could get meant travelling overnight and get into Quito at 3am......well thankfuly the arrival lounge chairs were pretty comfortable! We did however eventually arrive at the rescue centre at about 6am and were pretty happy when Dalma suggested we kip for a few hours!

The work for the next two weeks involved a variety of tasks in relation to the animals. There was feeding, cleaning, repairing and building cages, assisting the vet with specific animal needs and other tasks necessay to ensure the well-being of the animals.... but quite frankly there was a heavy emphasis on cleaning! We are now experts on many types of animal poo. The work is labour intensive and after the first few days we were both pretty shattered! However it is rewarding. When you have to help hold down a sloth (harder than it sounds) so the vet can force feed it, when you have to unwrap a woolley monkey´s long arms and legs from whatever it can get its fingers and toes just to move it, or when you have to hand feed a baby owl......all the hard work is just made worthwhile.

The long list of residents include:

Lions (8 of them! Not what you´d expect in South America but circuses make it global - included 2 blind and one old with arthritis... affectionately known as Barbosa. He liked a nice stroke - either that or he was sizing me up for dinner)
Jaguar - BRENDA...V angry and hating of humans. Someone always had to act as bait to draw he away from where the other person tried to pour in the water or give food....she´d much rather just eat you.
Puma - 2 former pets and one wild. Again loved a nice stroke and purred just like a pet cat.
Osolotes - 2 adults (well really there are 3 but one escaped and is happily living wild around the center although noone can catch him) and a cute baby (LEA - former pet and favourite of most volunteers given her cut cat likeness and the fact you could play with her and only get a few major scratches)
Cappuchin Monkeys - mischieveous and potentially dangerous (Including the General (cool dude who would hopefully go back to the wild at some point) and Gladys (Drama Queen who spent her day hidden under an old TShirt)).
Squirrel Monkeys - small and soo cute. You couldn´t interact with them but the climb all over you so you stand as a tree and just enjoy it.
Woolley Monkey - sooo cute but for some reason hated Gordon
Tamarind Monkey - tiny!
Sloth - sleepy and cute but scarily strong with big long claws and fangs.
Andean Bear - habituated but hopefully being taken to a forest so far from humans he can live happily. Likes a stroke but will try and swipe your feet given the chance.
Coaties - cute and love sticking their nose wherever possible including down the back of your trousers!
Maccaws - quite a few (common pet) including EVIL Bird who loved Gordon but hated everyone else!
Toucan - cheeky monkey who liked to peck your boots.
All sort of parrots - some who wolf whistled at you and shouted "Courie Courie" (translation = run run) all day long (obviously pets of male football fans).
Pheasants - not for dinner - go figure!
Guinea Fowl -again not for dinner - what a waste
Trumpet Bird - sooo cool! called so because he makes the sound of a trumpet!
Kites (A type of hawk) - babies who will hopefully learn to fend for themselves and can then be released.
Owl - broken wing, hand fed very calmly until the day he decided to go for Ann and try to make his escape.
Hawky thing (they weren´t quite sure what one)
Eagle - only one wing bless him.
Donkey - PERCY eats grass well but makes an inordinate amount of poo that stinks!
Rabbits (emergeny food! v sad)

Of course there was always time to play (with those animals friendly enough to play with that is). Some animals have been habituated to humans and contact is pretty safe and also allowed (not a good idea to habituate an animal they hope to send back to the wild). Friendly animals included some of the monkeys, the pumas (just a big softy cat), the baby ocelot (a not so big softy cat), the galapagos turtles, coaties and some of the birds. "Play" or interaction didn´t necessarily mean you would get in the cage with the animals. In the case of the Capuchans and Pumas it meant stroking them from the safety of the outside. Generally this was because though habituated they remain strong wild animals and sometimes in play they can hurt (think how much it hurts when pet pussy cat decides to use a claw....). It is special though to get a high 5 from a Capucchin every day on your way to work.......even more heart breaking though to see the look of despair on his face when you actually have to stop playing and actually go to work.

Most of the animals at Santa Martha have a story behind them. Some are abused circus animals, others animals seized from animal traffickers and other from people who thought that keeping them as pets would be a good idea (yep there are people who had pumas and bears confiscated!). We´ve tried to tell some of these stories in the pictures we´ve posted. If you are interested in volunteering, or keeping track on some of the animals we managed to meet, the website is: - we stayed at the Tambillo site.

We´ve also put on the site pics of our trip to Rio Bamba with some of the people working at Santa Martha. All in all a good weekend. The highlight of whcih was the Devil Nose railway....though to be perfectly honest its not really a railway, but actually a bus on train tracks and because of an accident you are no longer allowed to ricde on the roof......this of course hasn´t stopped Ecuadorean tourism from promoting both of these falsities!

Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 26


The TamarindThe Tamarind
The Tamarind

face like a dog, body like a monkey this is Paris Hilton monkey model! It had the pleasure of sharing its cage with the sloth and risked life andlimb to steal carrots out of its mouth!
You and me baby aint nothing but mammals......You and me baby aint nothing but mammals......
You and me baby aint nothing but mammals......

The male lion has had a vacectomy, but that didn´t stop him constantly humping the female lions who were in heat
The slothThe sloth
The sloth

Looks are deceiving.....with long sharp claws and amazingly sharp teeth you just don´t mess with this guy.
The Baby OwlThe Baby Owl
The Baby Owl

Baby? Basically the poor thing can´t fly and doesn´t know how to hunt so it has to be hand fed twice a day. Although it did manage a flight escape past Ann as she fed it!
The Squirrel MonkeysThe Squirrel Monkeys
The Squirrel Monkeys

These guys are going to be rehabbed andreturned to the jungle. Hence everytime we had to go in with them if they jumped on us the instruction was to act like a tree!
The Blue and Yellow MacawThe Blue and Yellow Macaw
The Blue and Yellow Macaw

one of the many birds at Santa Martha who has been rescued from illegal capitivity and animal smugglers.
Some of the dirtier jobsSome of the dirtier jobs
Some of the dirtier jobs

Basically Ann and I have given up eating chicken
Pumas are just big silly cats!Pumas are just big silly cats!
Pumas are just big silly cats!

This guy, "Leo" was actually kept as a pet and is friendly as a housecat. Problem is he is a little bit bigger, a whole lot stronger and has really sharp claws....he loves to play though!
Ha....lions are just big silly cats too!Ha....lions are just big silly cats too!
Ha....lions are just big silly cats too!

The lions are all circus lions. They will spend the rest of their lives in Santa Martha unless an alternative home can be found.
Ann´s friend BarbosaAnn´s friend Barbosa
Ann´s friend Barbosa

with his arthritis he very was sympathetic at how sore I was after having to crouch down all day cleaning
Gordon´s foe....Brenda the JaguarGordon´s foe....Brenda the Jaguar
Gordon´s foe....Brenda the Jaguar

Brenda the Jaguar was a circus exhibition animal which meant that she spent her day being prodded and poked so that she would roar for the crowd.....the result she hates everyone!
Brenda biting the CageBrenda biting the Cage
Brenda biting the Cage

Basically Brenda was that nasty and keen to get at you that she would bit the wire of her cage.
Houdini...the andean bearHoudini...the andean bear
Houdini...the andean bear

Another animal raised as a pet until he grew too big. He is a clever bear escaping a number of times from his former home (Baños zoo) and working out how to open the hatch door while you´re in his cage!! His story should have a appy ending though as he is expeced to be released...well away from people!
I never knew Tortoises liked their necks rubbed!I never knew Tortoises liked their necks rubbed!
I never knew Tortoises liked their necks rubbed!

maybe it´s just the giant galapagos type

9th June 2009

Hey there, you look so at home with all the animals; looks like you had fun.
9th June 2009

Cuba Libre night... on at the Central del Mundo hostel in Quito on Mon, Wed and Fridays :) Say hi to all from leo and katrin! I must say - I am this tiny eeny weeny bit envious reading all your blogs, sounds like you're having a fab time. Need to pick your brains regarding Africa btw...
23rd March 2011

information please
Hello, I ve just read your article about your experience in Santa Martha Rescue Animal and I d like to have the same kind of experience.. But the internet web site doesn t work... How can i have more information about this voluntary project ? Thank you very Much !
3rd May 2012

Unfortunately Santa Marta closed down. I don't have the full story, though there were rumours flying around that the animals were being exploited etc. From our experience it was wonderfully run by committed people and committed volunteers and is a crying shame!

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