Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Sun, Moon and Stars

Exactly two years ago, we were introduced to Inti Wara Yassi (translated the Sun, Stars and Moon, respectively). This small animal refuge in Bolivia is located in Villa Tunari, a little town in the Chapare region, along the Cochabamba - Santa Cruz highway.

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.


Chris' Shady Grove said...

It must have been so hard to leave those wonderful creatures. You are so lucky to have shared time with those monkeys

megha punater said...

must have been quite an experience.thanks for sharing :)

Blu said...

what brilliant pictures and what a lovely blog!!!

bindu said...

Chris - it was hard. Especially to walk away from little Cici who would want to cling.

Megha - it was an incredible experience.

Blu - thank you, and welcome!

Sydney said...

What an amazing experience you had. I'm jealous! I am wondering how you came to find this place and volunteer, get down there for two weeks, etc. I can imagine how much you got out of it but how glad they must be to have had you!

Sydney said...

Back to look again. Can't get over that smiling one!!!!!! Are the arms/legs in the pictures yours?

bindu said...

:) Glad you liked them, Sydney! Was it Cola who charmed you? That smile was so irresistible. Those are my limbs there - the monkeys looked better than I did in those pictures - they were so cute. When we went to Bolivia, I was on a break between jobs, so thought it would be a good time to volunteer - something I've wanted to do for a while. So we found this place on the internet. I am glad I did it!

Karine said...

What a cool experience. Monkeys have always creeped me out a little, for some reason, but you've shown me a different side to them. I have never encountered one outside of a zoo. Zoos are creepy as it is!