Having a gift for getting on with all creatures great and small I thought it was high time to explain some of the zen healing philosophies I have been implementing during my stay here at Inti Yara Wasi. Actually it seems most of the 40 or so volunteers are more concerned about saving their own lives than that of the animals. I for one know that the highlight of each day is shutting that cage door. So what´s it all about this working with dangerous animals thing?
Aside from accumulating breathtaking dinner party anecdotes, it´s about getting to know animals you could probably only throw a banana at in the zoo. Most of the animals here have been maltreated in some way or another. Leoncio the puma I´m working with was kept in a house as a baby and as he got to be about 6 months old and started jumping his owners they decided to break both his legs. His cries were heard by neighbours who called the police and they called our animal refuge. That was about 15 months ago and Leoncio is now walking and in fact he´s the best swimmer out of all the pumas. The other day he swam with me for 40 minutes. He will probably develop arthritis one day but now he has a reasonable life for a caged animal. It´s a lot better than the zoo but not quite the wild. If he was released he wouldn´t survive despite the fact that he thinks he´s a great hunter of baby chicks...He caught another two today. There are 7 pumas here, 4 ocelots ( Kate is working with one called Rico), one jaguar called Sama who is very dangerous but very beautiful, about 25 spider monkeys, 230 capuchin monkeys, 2 boa constrictors, 2 honey bears, 3 funny looking pigs, 2 howler monkeys, a couple of sloths, 5 toucans, 3 birds of prey and wide variety of loud and mostly flightless birds and a stream of western volunteers who breeze in and out. There is also a puma and ocelot out there who escaped.... mmm hope I don´t run into them on one of the trails.
The park is getting more animals all the time and the main problem now is getting enough volunteers to work with the animals and pay for their upkeep. For the tourists it´s an unprecedented opportunity to work with no expereince with an exotic animal. The minimun time to volunteer is 2 weeks and if you want to work with a cat you need to be able to commit 4 weeks at least. There are always 2 volunteers working with the pumas which makes it a lot safer...when they attack you the other person can pull him off. So far I havent heard of anything really dangerous happenning here. Apparently a few years ago one guy had a puma at his throat but he managed to get it off. Other than that there has been lots of minor bites, scratches with those sharp claws and bruises. Often it´s the muddy trails which pose the greatest danger. So now we only have one more week to go and though I face each day with a little bit of dread, I do love my cat and I hope he knows I am here to help him... and get some good photos of course. He´s only jumped me three times out of 14 days so far and only once badly.... but not too badly that he didn´t come for a pat afterwards.
And of course working with monkeys can be just as dangerous.... last month a Bolivian tourist came into the park with 3000 US dollars, which quickly became 1200 US dollars after the monkeys got to it... Apparently he looked like the cocaine drug dealer type so it wasnt such a problem. Speaking of coaine drug dealing types, the DEA are flying overhead most days looking for coca plantations, nosy americans that they like to be. Was extremely funny when I was emptying the monkey cage of hay into the river from a huge sack....They circled me aout 8 times wondering what tehe hell I was doing.... so like all good backpackers I gave them finger. When in Bolivia