Tuesday, March 13, 2012

La Senda Verde Animal Refuge

La Senda Verde is one of Bolivia's biggest privately owned animal refuges that takes in animals that were abused as pets, on the black market to be sold as pets or unwanted pets. There's a law in Bolivia that says you cannot re-release animals into the wild so when LSV gets these animals they are there to stay and they try to give them the best life they can. It's an amazing place and I'm so glad there are people out there like Vicky and Marcello the owners who dedicate their lives to taking care of all the animals. There are around 70 monkeys (capuchins, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, nocturnal owl monkeys and a lion titi monkey) many birds mostly parrots, 2 toucans, 2 spectacle bears, 2 boas, a nocturnal kinkajou, a coati, a tayra which is like a big weasel that can climb trees so fast, a margay (nocturnal wildcat), many turtles and tortoises, some gunea fowl that just showed up on their own one day and never left and 8 million sand flies that bite you anywhere they can.

They get their money from tours that come in daily or guests that stay overnight but mostly they get it from volunteers, which Nick and I decided to be! We were debating between going here or the with Inta Wara Yassi the other animal refuge but decided that this one was a better price, closer, had food, hot water and electricity and was less known. We're very glad we chose this place as well since we got to work with a variety of animals and hang out with monkeys during our free time. When we arrived we were put on birds which is feeding and cleaning. Most of the birds are either free or let out of their cages during the day and put back in at night since some can't fly and would be easy prey. Once we got the hang of birds we were very efficient and were able to make suggestions about moving birds, make toys and change their diet (they were wasting so much food so we made adjustments). Some of the birds were so sweet but most were just grumpy and bitey in normal bird fashion. There are two who we dubbed the old ladies because they would 'talk' back and forth to each other like a pair of old ladies gossiping. They would also whistle together and yell HUEVO (egg). I'm pretty sure they were a mating pair though because if they were on the ground they would attack you if you went into their territory. The toucans had to be fed three times a day instead of lunch and dinner and they ate fruit and chicken. They were pretty scary to feed because they liked to bite and once they got a hold of something they would shake their head like a dog! The birds would get a variety of fruit and veg for breakfast and a bird 'cake' at night with seeds and pasta in it that nick became an expert at making.

Next we switched and nick was working on miscellaneous and I went to quarantine. Quarantine has a variety of animals that have just been rescued and need to be watched to make sure they're ok and not sick before taking them to the main part (it's down the road from lsv). There were some turtles and tortoises, many birds, four monkeys, a snake and the kinkajou who used to be a pet (he's so cute). That took a little more work because you're feeding a variety of animals and cleaning out horribly designed bird cages. Many of the birds are ready to be moved down to the main part but there is no space at the moment. Amazon parrots are the main birds because people want them as pets because they talk but people don't realize how noisy or messy or destructive they can be so they give them up. Many of them come in saying hola. There was one bird over there, a blue headed parrot, that was so sweet and I really liked and when one volunteer was cleaning her cage something fell and startled her and she flew away. That was sad :(

Miscellaneous is feeding and cleaning the turtles, feeding the dogs that live there and feeding the two bears.One bear is a 6 year old male named Aruma who was rescued from the black market as a cub. He's really chilled out and has a great enclosure surrounded by an electric fence. It's really amazing feeding a bear a few feet away with just an electric fence between you. These guys are the only bears in south America and are very endangered due to habitat loss. The other bear is a year old female cub named Tipnis who is very cute but way more hyper and unpredictable than Aruma. To feed Aruma one volunteer goes up a path next to his cage and throws peanuts to him in order to bring him away from his eating area. He loves peanuts and will sit down and pick them up with his mouth, place them on his arm and open the shell with his mouth. Meanwhile another volunteer or Vicky goes into the cage and cleans out his eating area, puts food in his bowl, and throws half a watermelon and papaya into the woods for him to search out later. With Tipnis it's a bit different because her cage is smaller for the time being and usually only Vicky or her son cleans out her cage and feeds her but the volunteer can feed her peanuts to distract her. She knows to climb up her tree and we give her the peanuts up there while the other person cleans. Sometimes she goes down the tree with the person still in there and they have to quickly get out. I don't think she would want to be aggressive or anything, probably she just wants to play but those claws are big!!

Last we got put on monkeys which is taking care of the capuchins. They are smart little guys and very sexist. Men can work with them with little to no problem but for women we have to be very careful with some and no one can go near the alpha male without the free roaming monkeys attacking. If I a monkey was on a guys shoulder that he really liked and I went near to him the monkey might scratch or try to bite me because he's protecting him. The main reason I couldn't go near some is because they were abused by women. One even had her eye poked out by her previous owner because she bit her so only guys can feed and clean her area. Many of the capuchins are tied up with tethers because they will either go after women, are danger to other monkeys or will run away. They can be very aggressive toward each other and while we were there one attacked another and bit parts of two of his fingers off! But they can also be very sweet. Some were just babies that wanted to cuddle and others just wanted attention and play. One that was in quarantine named Martin III was so shy he wouldlnt' look anyone in the eyes and would cover his head when you went near him, he may have been beaten previously, but he loved nick and was so playful and happy to see him. One time I was standing by him and he was looking at the ground and picking at spots on my pant legs when nick came to visit and he went nuts yelling and was so happy, it was really cute.
Monkey care was feeding them three times a day, changing water and cleaning their houses but we could also hang by the pool and gazebo and just chill with the spider and howler monkeys. It was such a great experience and we didnt' want to leave but we had to consider our budget unfortunately :(
hoping to go back one day!


Me and a newly arrived capuchin

walk from quarantine to lsv

Aruma eating a tangerine

owl monkey baby that we babysat for one night. He's nocturnal so sleep was not easy especially when he peed on your head

Lunch time!

Our house

Spider monkey juggling


the old ladies

toucan feeding time. out of the 20 species of toucans this is the rarest

other toucan

scruffy the macaw that lived outside the restaurant. he loved to be scratched on the neck and under the wings

baby howler monkey named Canola. Loved nick. so cute

nap times


1 comment:

  1. This was a really interesting post. I didn't realize people paid to be a volunteer! Pretty cool. Thanks and love, dad