conservation volunteer gap years

Sofie Wiik Westberg

Wild Animal Project , Ecuador


Wild Animal Project, Ecuador

conservation volunteer gap years

If you love animals, this is the place! You will have the opportunity to work very close to wild animals, learn about them and you will have the opportunity to do something good for the animals that didn’t have the opportunity to live in the wild.

When I first came to Ecuador, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t expect that I would fall completely in love with the place, the simple life in a cabaña or the animals.

The animal rescue center has everything from small monkeys such as Pygmy Marmosets and Tamarins, to bigger monkeys like Wooly Monkeys, Spider monkeys, Capuchins. Other animals include Caimans, Capybara, Margay, Turtles, Kinkajous, Tayra, Coatì, Ocelot, Fishes, Guatusas and Guatines. There are a lot of different birds and parrots, in every size and color you can imagine.

The main concept is to give a home to animals recovered from illegal trafficking, or that have lived with a family, or animals that are in bad condition, a home as similar to their natural habitat as possible. Also to give them a healthy diet, the best care and a possibility of a life back in the wild. It’s a long and difficult process to release any animal, and to teach it hunt for itself, find a safe place to live, mix with its own species and survive in the wild. But the animal center is working towards this. They have bought a chunk of primary forest – where through biological studies and species counts they understand the biodiversity and natural habitat. Through this they focus on the release of animals back into the forest.

image003Releasing of animals.

The volunteers are very important for the center to be able to do the work they are doing for the animals. There are a lot of animals and it is a big center, so to make everything work they need all the help they can get. As a volunteer it’s a wonderful experience to be able to work with the animals and help. The work is hard, it’s not a holiday! It makes me happy to see the animals happy!

So, what do we do?
Basically, the work we do is cleaning and feeding, making sure that the animals are healthy and have a good cage with everything it needs. We start in the morning with preparing the food for the animals. Every animal has a diet that we follow with food that they like and that’s healthy for them.

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After we have prepared the food, we start the round – feeding, cleaning, making sure they are okay, have water and that everything is in order.

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Some of the animals enjoying their favorite food.

After the round, we do extra work such as cleaning the kitchen, raking garden areas, cleaning a cage with chlorine, catching worms for animals, enrichment, and so on. At the moment we are building a new enclosure for the Spider monkeys and the Capuchins. I’m looking forward to see them finished and to see the monkeys in the bigger new enclosures.

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Extra work – Making the fish pond bigger. Taking down the old Spider monkey house.

At 12 we have break and lunch for 2 and a half hours and we can catch up with sleep, use the internet, read or swim in the pool if it’s sunny. Then we all do different jobs. Clean the volunteers toilets, feed the animals boiled eggs, sugar cane, healthy cookies, catch fish, snails or grasshoppers for the animals, observations and other things that needs to be done.

image011Some of the animals enjoying cookies, sugar cane and egg.

A lot of work is routine but we rotate every day so that we are always doing something different. One day at the wild animal project is never the same as the next. We also try out different types of treats, such as frozen fruit. If someone has an idea for something new to try, we try.

We get 3 meals. Breakfast at 7.30 to 8.00, it’s cereal, bread, jam, milk, tea and so on. Lunch at 1.00, is soup and a Ecuadorian meal – Rice, beans, corn, some meat. And Dinner around 8.00 in the evenings that volunteers help prepare, it can be anything the volunteers ask for or if someone wants to make a traditional meal from their country. You will need some money for snacks between the meals, as it’s a long time between lunch and dinner.

The weather is warm, so even if it’s raining it’s rarely cold. You will need proper rain clothes!

The nearest town, Puyo 3 km away, is a very small town and has the most basic necessities. The supermarket doesn’t have a lot of food, and you will probably miss a lot from home! You will have to use your imagination, but you will survive just fine. At the weekends you can travel to Baños, Tena or other close towns to shop, eat, do activities and have fun.

You will be taken good care of by Monika Montes, who is the Volunteer Coordinator. Ecuadorian people are very friendly and will take you in to their family like one of their own. The Spanish lessons are intense but you will learn a lot and it’s worth it!

I really love, adore and appreciate this place and the work they do for the animals. I really believe the animals are happy here. And I hope that many, many others can come here and have the same experience as I have here right now. I have seen so many animals I have never seen before, I’ve got to bond with animals I had never thought possible, I have learned so much about the wild life and how important it is to work against the illegal trafficking of wild animals, and try to give the animals that were not so lucky a good home and life in captivity.