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They are all Animals!

BOLIVIA | Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Views [2266] | Comments [2]

After a few days following Che to his final resting place on a mortuary slab in a Hospital in the small town of Vallagrande we took a bus to Villa Tunari a small town on route Cochabamba. Our plan was to check out the Animal sanctuary Inti Yara Wassi and then pop to Cochabamba for a couple of days before returning to volunteer. However after waiting five hours in the cafeteria to be shown round and discuss possible jobs, whilst current volunteers covered in insect bites and some times animal bites drifted in and out, we some how got persuaded to stay for a month by the long term volunteer Wendy?

Monkeys and VolunteersSo our time at Inti Yara Wassi began, before I new it I was getting up at seven working through to six with no days off. My days consisted of carry heavy bags of food along poor wet tracks through the jungle to the Mirador, where I would spend a lot of the day cleaning the dirt and monkey crap from cages whilst constantly being bittern by hundreds of sand flies and mosquitoes. I had hoped to be walking a Puma but as the only one available was Rory a fast and powerful cat who a caused various injuries too many volunteers I had decided against this and instead was assigned the Mirador Monkeys.

This consisted of a group of caged monkeys which may be released into the wild in the future; various monkeys on ropes, which also could be released; a group of free Monkeys who permanently stayed around the mirador to protect the caged monkeys at night and were fed as a reward; and my favorites, a few certainly temperamental and some what viscous monkeys who could never be released.

PeeThe monkeys in the Mirador were all capuchins and due to their dislike of women mostly men worked there. However whilst I did my time, the mirador was managed by a tough long term lady volunteer from New Zealand called Pee who seemed to have a way with Monkeys and even had a look of a Capuchin. The other volunteers consisted of two cocky young lads from Belgium who had spent three weeks running pumas and a rather annoying dread locked hippy from New Zealand who was fortunately reassigned the next day to construction. I found that I not only had to find my place within the monkey groups but also the human groups who were a little weary of a 37 year old long haired, bearded, It manager from England, who arrived with a bicycle and chosen not to run a puma!

For the first week I certainly found Inti Yara Wassi strange and awkward and I felt maybe I had made a mistake. When the big man in charge asked us all to hold hands and chant " Inti Yara Wassi, Inti Yara Wassi " at the first volunteer meeting I certainly wondered if I had walked into some sort of cult. Also the craziness of working everyday with no days off and drinking every night made it seem I had volunteered into some sort of war zone rather than a tranquil reserve, in a peaceful jungle, in the heart of Bolivia. Certainly to some of the eco warriors at the reserve animal welfare was and is a war!

After a couple of weeks my feelings were to alter and my tales of adventures in the mountains on a bicycle meeting rebels with machine guns in Northern Laos, chasing my tent down the Andes mountains in Northern Peru were to win over the Belgium boys and even dedicated Pee. I also found the job was not all cleaning shit and carrying food; you also had the opportunity to get close to the monkeys. I was able to play with the free monkeys, take the roped monkeys for walks so they could get used to the jungle and my favorite dig for worms with the viscous guys. Unfortunately to my peril I found I was a little good at using a stick to dig for worms and made the Congo, a large hairy temperamental brown capuchin, rather jealous which resulted in him nastily sticking his teeth into my left hand. The pain reminding me that I was working with wild and not domestic animals!

CongoThe hand was to recover along with my opinion of the reserve which although a little disorganized, relying heavily on over tired long term volunteers, was doing a service not often found any where else in the world let alone the developing world. I also began to understand and find respect for the long term volunteers whose arrogance and lack of person skills had at first shocked me. How could I judge people who were willing to offer some times a couple of years of their short lives to such a worthy cause? Also where else would an ageing IT Manager in between jobs with no previous experience get such an amazing opportunity to work so closely with such beautiful animals?

I would certainly recommend, if you have a few weeks to spare and are in Bolivia, you volunteer at Inti Yara Wassi. The people may be strange but the animals are worth all the effort. Don’t always believe what you read in the papers and if that the Internet!

I recently heard that the park was to close and the owners were hunting for land to relocate the animals to. I really hope especially for the animals and also possible future volunteers, who will miss out on such an amazing experience, that the hunt, as I’m sure will be, is a total success. 

Tags: inti yara wassi



Hi Steeve,

I have volunteered several times at CIWY and I have to say, your journal account was spot on. I am glad someone who was initially doubtful about the organisation stayed long enough to come to the realisation that those long term volunteers (although at first glance, a little arrogant) are, as you put it, fighting a war. My first experience was similar but I have returned twice since then, as this organisation needs as much international help as they can get.
Thanks for your honesty!!!!

  Ryan Dec 7, 2009 1:35 PM


Good to read a personal account. I'm planning to volunteer in October and have heard some great reviews, it's nice to finally read one that sounds authentic. Volunteering is not all sunshine and roses but it's always worth it in the end if you believe in the cause!

  Hana Jul 26, 2013 6:45 AM

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