Saturday, September 10, 2005

Welcome to the Jungle

We have left the high altitudes and have run the gauntlet of the Coca dealer blockades and made our way down low to the village of Villa Tunari in the jungle. Here Eduardo and I have shrugged off our tourist lives to volunteer for a month at the wildlife refuge Inti Wara Yassi.

So we arrive and wander over to a volunteer briefing for all us fresh faced newbies. We are taken on a quick tour of the park by a young American man who is sporting a very large bandage on one ear (how did you get that Cameron? Oh a monkey tried to take my ear off in my first week here) which basically involved a guide to the animals such as "whatever you do don't touch that monkey over there, that is a bad monkey" to "these animals are Coatis, there are extremely agressive, don't touch them" and so on, my mind swelled with the amount of animals I have to remember not to go near or maybe I will risk an ear. After the tour we were sat down to discuss who will take what animals.

First the guys, Ed and two other guys were given the tantilising choice of A: the mirador, a kind of psych ward for "troubled" monkeys - a couple of whom are women haters and biters......hmmm. Choice B: Roy, a rather large, energetic Puma who needs at least three guys to take him walking or more likely running through the jungle for hours on end. Ed choose Roy only to learn that the last guy has had to give up cause his knees have given out. Apparently Roy likes to jump all over his keepers, and when Ed asked the guy whether he should wear shorts or pants the guys said "oh long trousers, he'll definately try and take a piece out of you."

So there I am thinking, how sexist, the boys get all the tough jobs us girls will probably get given a bird to play with. Suddenly the adminstrator turns her eyes to me and another girl and says "Okay girls, we have a jaguar, he is very large, very dangerous, he doesnt like men. You will be alone in the jungle, you have to put your arm inside his cage and attach him to a running device. If you don't catch him the first time he may try and bite do you want to do it?" Half of me wanted to say yes and the wimpier half of me was quaking in her boots imagining being all alone in the jungle with an angry jaguar armed with nothing but a long stick. I pass, and a much braver girl said she would "try". I shouldn't have breathed out too soon as I am then assigned Rico, an Ocelot who also needs to be walked in the jungle. Great an Ocelot sounds a lot more managable. The downside? An Ocelot is much smaller than a Puma and only needs one person to take it for walks so I will be alone, in the jungle all day with nothing but an Ocelot who likes running around catching snakes for company.....I have one days training with his previous keeper tomorrow after that I'm on my own. Apparently after that they might give me a walkie talkie in case Rico and I get lost in the jungle.......I just hope we get on.


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