The 36-hectare refuge was founded by Juan Carlos, who is a role model in conservation to many underprivileged children in Bolivia. Juan Carlos was recently named as one of The Planet’s Heroes by Jane Goodall for his work with animals, the environment and children.
IWY rescues birds, monkeys, wild cats, and other small animals from markets, circuses, private homes, and other abusive situations and brings them to the refuge for rehabilitation and possible release back into the wild.
The refuge is run by Tania Baltazar, several permanent Bolivian volunteers, and with the help of other volunteers who are there for 2 weeks to several months at a time. There is a vet’s office on site, with a veterinarian and a couple of interns as well. The cafe (below) serves food just for the volunteers, and they serve only vegetarian food! :)
I spent two weeks volunteering there exactly two years ago, and my mind has been wandering back there very often this week. I spent that time entirely in the monkey quarantine, which had 40 monkeys at the time - capuchins, and a few spider monkeys and squirrel monkeys as well.
It was my first time doing something like this, and was very educational and interesting. So I thought a post about them would be the best way to celebrate this anniversary!
Capuchin monkeys were the most numerous in the quarantine area, and they each had their own individual personality. I could tell them apart within a couple of days!
Cola was the sweetest one - pretty and happy, she loved people. Would smile wide and ask to be picked up as soon as anyone came near. Very hard to resist that!
Miel was the most intelligent one. She could untie ropes and shoelaces, wash clothes and learn all kinds of things really quickly.
Cici was the baby - her mother had died and since volunteers typically stayed 2 weeks, she had to keep readjusting to a new "mother" every two weeks. Poor little thing. I heard that a baby had died in the quarantine area after I left, and I try not to think about it because that could be Cici.
Aley was the mother-figure to several younger monkeys, but a mother who would steal everyone else's food!
Claudio came down to the rain forest from cold cold La Paz, and slept a lot at the beginning.
Bimba was new too, and a little apprehensive. Licking calmed him down!
Aturo was very inquisitive and loved to run away and be found - it was a game!
Baska was a silly girl - she fell in love with one of the male volunteers and got really jealous and coquettish! It was hilarious. Here she is, smiling at him and flirting.
The quarantine had three spider monkeys, and Patricio here was the most needy one. He had diarrhea the whole time and was really smelly, but loved to cuddle, so it was a tough one!
The little squirrel monkeys were so cute! They liked to nibble grass, and all you had to do was pluck some out and hand it to them and they would stay occupied for a while.
I miss these little ones quite a bit, and wonder often about what's happened to them since I left. Since very little news can be obtained, it makes it harder ... but the experience was definitely one to cherish!
While I was there, I saw truckloads of felled trees going out of the rain forest. Habitat for these precious monkeys is disappearing rapidly. Even small, under-funded refuges like this one are crammed with rescued monkeys, pumas, jaguars, exotic birds and more. Unless deforestation is stopped, there will soon be nowhere to release them after rehabilitation.