(get ready, this is actually only a small fraction of the photos I took of these animals)
For two weeks in September I volunteered at La Senda Verde animal refuge in Bolivia. Immersed in nature and surrounded by wildlife, the routine was just what I’d been yearning for. There was no internet to email, facebook, blog or travel plan. There was only cleaning up after the animals and making sure they were fed well and on time. And playing, lots of observing and playing.
LSV has a well run volunteer program. You pay for the experience, but this should be expected with lodging and food provided and all those animal mouths to feed! The areas were split into birds, miscellaneous (turtles and endangered andean bears), quarantine and monkeys. Over two weeks I was able to rotate between all these groups and get the full experience. The amount of interaction was truly special, especially for only volunteering for two weeks – one day I might be feeding a baby Capuchin monkey a milk bottle, the next chasing after an escaped tayra (I affectionately named ‘little devil’) and the next being fed sticks and leaves by a sweet adult Capuchin, Wilson.
It was especially rewarding to work with new monkeys in quarantine, where one objective was to ween some off human interaction to socialize with other monkeys. Chango was my favorite little Capuchin. When I started in quarantine he’d fly to my shoulder and grip my neck for dear life or take naps in my lap. A mere few days later he was climbing to the top of smal trees to sun bathe and wrestling with adolescent Capuchins. The days were nearly completely filled with
playing working and the nights were considered free time. There were plenty of other volunteers to hang out with or to make an outing to the nearby town of Coroico with.
One tidbit I learned about Bolivia while there is that it’s illegal to release rescued wildlife back into the wild. Occasionally it’s possible, but not without an incredible amount of paperwork and money. Therefore, most of LSV’s animals will live out their days there.
La Senda Verde is a unique place in that they rescue and care for so many types of animals, while also running an ecotourism retreat. If you don’t have time to volunteer, consider stopping by through Gravity’s Death Road bike ride or stay the night in one of LSV’s tree house or cabanas. Or being that it is the holiday season, consider donating to help care for these animals and build new enclosures. Check out their website for donation details: La Senda Verde.