Some 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
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: http://www.santamartharescue.org/ - 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!
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