Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Parque Ambue Ari

I´ve spent the last 2 months volunteering at an animal refuge in Bolivia called Ambue Ari. Ambue Ari is one of three parks in Bolivia run by the non-profit Inti Wara Yassi. At the park dozens of hard working volunteers work with Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots, Monkeys, and other animals native to Bolivia in an effort to rehabilitate or recreate as natural a life is as possible for the animals. The animals come to the park for a number of reasons, some are orphaned, some were house pets, and others were injured and now rely veterinary care.

I worked with an amazing Jaguar named Katie. Not much is know about Katies past, but she was donated to the park and likely lived as the house pet of a Bolivian family until she grew too big. I would spend my days taking Katie on walks, feeding, and playing with her. Walking Katie was somewhat similar to walking a dog, she was attached by her collar to lead which wrapped around my waist. Katie was amazingly well behaved and affectionate. She was extremely calm and spent her hours walking through the jungle or sleeping in a patch of grass.

During my time at the park Katie went on heat and a wild jaguar came to visit her on a regular basis. We could tell that he would sleep next to her cage because he made a bed directly opposite hers. I was really lucky one day and after Katie began stalking, we ran into the jaguar and were about 5 or 6 meters away from him. After a brief standoff he ran away into the jungle. It was an memorable and rare encounter with a wild jaguar.

The wild jaguar spotted on Katies trail.


The routine at Ambue Ari meant waking up a 6:30am every morning to begin tasks, eating breakfast at 8am, and spending the rest of the day with your animals until returning to camp at 4pm for lunch. The park has no electricity and uses a generator to pump water from a well. The park relies on volunteers for both labor and financial survival. When I was there the number of volunteers flucuated greatly but for the most part we around 50 or so people. During the wet season numbers are dwindle to as low as 10. The animals are amazing but the people really made the experience special. The park is full of hard working eccentrics and interesting characters that I will not soon forget.

This is Leo, a Puma that I worked with for a week.

The park has an aviary with macaws, toucans, and parrots.

This is Herbie, a loveable and gentle Tapir.

My time at Ambue Ari was fantastic and I´d recommend it to anyone who loves animals and is willing to spend a month or two working in the jungle.

Here is the website of the organization I volunteered with check out: http://www.intiwarayassi.org/articles/volunteer_animal_refuge/home.html

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