La Sende Verde: First thoughts

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A crash echo’s across the clearing as the three tops shake and the nearby birds shriek in unison. A black spider monkey drops down from amongst the trees and starts walking slowly towards me. Welcome to La Sende Verde animal rescue centre on the edge of the Amazon jungle in Bolivia.  Rescued animals all find a final home here at the park that houses birds, turtles, monkeys, dogs and two Andean bears. This is also my new home for the next month and I will be volunteering here with the animals. I instantly felt at home when I arrived and had a tour around the park to hear the animals stories about how they came to be here and also the learn more about what I will be doing.

Another volunteer arrived at the same time as I did and it was nice to have another person experiencing everything together for the first time. I am living over at the volunteer dormitory that is back across the river and five minute walk back down the road.

Each morning at around 6.30am we are woken up to a rattling and banging noise as Wara one of the spider monkeys tries to break into our room.

The day starts at 8am when we all meet at the restaurant and find out the area we are working in. Then the animal’s areas need to be cleaned and then they need to be fed before it is time for our breakfast at 9.30. After that until lunch time we work on special projects, do some more cleaning or create enrichment for the animals. After lunch is more of the same until it is time to re clean and feed the animals.

So far I have been working in the bird section and it is really nice to see that even after three days I have been able to forge a relationship with the birds. The Macaus in particular are normally quite territorial but I have discovered they love enrichment and bamboo and since then they have been a lot calmer and one today was even playing with me and chasing the rake as I tried to clean out the cages. It is really relaxing to just sit and watch the birds interact with each other and some of the birds were trained to talk by their previous guardians and sometimes they will shout hola at your or whistle.

All of the animals have been rescued from the black market animal trade or from homes and many come with psychological issues after being abused and mistreated. Under Bolivian law no animal that has been taken from the wild can be reintroduced without government permission, which means that most of the animals that come here will never leave.

La Sende Verde is nestled across a raging river a twenty minute drive from the small town of Coroico at the end of the infamous ‘death road’. You need to cross a river along a small bridge to reach the park and when you first enter you might see spider monkeys swinging through the trees or brilliantly blue Macau’s gently flying past. You can visit the park for a day, stay the night at one of the eco lodges or stay and volunteer like I have.

For now as I sit in the hammock on the veranda looking out over the forest listening to the birds whistling and the water from the nearby river rush past, I feel at home and I feel really content. Even if I do smell like bird poo.

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