The Global Vets South America team volunteered at a wild animal refuge called La Senda Verde (LSV) in a town near Coroico, Bolivia. Here they met amazing animals and picked up a few stories to share with all you Earth Rangers.
There are many unique animals that exist in the Amazon Rainforest, and all around Bolivia. Unfortunately there is a great deal of animal trafficking that occurs here, which puts these animals at risk. Animal trafficking is when an animal is taken out of the wild when they are young, and sold in markets both in Bolivia and in other countries. Although trafficking is illegal, it is sadly still very common. It may seem like wild monkeys, birds, or other animals might make really cool pets but they are often dangerous, especially when they get older. They can also develop very severe health conditions, as taking care of wild animals is extremely difficult. Pet owners cannot provide the same type of suitable habitats, food, or companionship that they would find living in the wild.
Organizations such as La Senda Verde take in trafficked animals that have been rescued, and aim to provide them with appropriate care and shelter. Since many animals were taken at such a young age, it can be very difficult, or even impossible to release them back into the wild. La Senda Verde is an amazing space, home to many cool and wonderful animals, with veterinarians on site who care for their nutritional and medical needs.
We’d like to take this time to introduce you to some of the animals at LSV.
Tipnis and Aruma The Spectacled Bears
Tipnis is a young female bear, and Aruma is an older male. Both bears enjoy their solitude, so they are housed separately but side by side and boy are they ever incredible! Tipnis enjoys tipping her bear-sized water bucket, especially right after we’ve refilled it. They both enjoy chomping down watermelons and playing with their food, putting on quite the show for the lucky volunteers in charge of feeding them. These guys have razor sharp claws, and an enormous bite though, so although they look cuddly, and can be fun to watch from a distance, they are definitely not pets. Aruma already has a nice big enclosure, and a great territory to explore and play in. You can often see him balancing on tree trunks in the distance, making his own toys out of whatever the forest provides. Tipnis is a new addition, however, so as they build her enclosure, we needed to think up creative ways to make her temporary space as interesting and playful as possible.
An important part of running an animal refuge is performing routine checks of the animals, to ensure that there are no disease outbreaks occurring. Routine checks can also be very useful when diets or conditions are not necessarily always ideal for the animal. For example, tortoises at LSV live at a slightly different climate here than they would naturally. This means that it is a bit cooler and damper most of the time, which can lead to health problems such as fungus growth. During our time at LSV, we did health checks on every tortoise on the property, recording important information such as weights, shell health, signs of outward injuries, and any signs of fungus. All of the animals, including the many tortoises, each have their own medical file so that it is easy to see what problems are occurring and what treatments have worked in the past. We also injected the tortoises with multivitamins and antiparasitic drugs. The multivitamins help maintain their diet, and the antiparasitic drugs were given because we found one individual who had worms (gross!). Parasites like worms are fairly common in tortoises, and this little guy was first diagnosed when a volunteer noticed that he was not eating as much as the others. Just another reason that the volunteers are so important – their watchful eyes and their knowledge of the individual animals can help the busy veterinarians catch problems as soon as they begin to occur. LSV is definitely not short on amazing volunteers and vets alike, and we were very impressed with their ability to maintain such healthy animals, even when the animal diversity is so huge!
Cacao the Spider Monkey
Spider monkeys are sleek, black, long limbed monkeys that are built for swinging on trees. Unlike other monkeys, they do not have thumbs, presumably to help with the swinging motion! These are one of the gentler souls at LSV, and you can often see them spying on you while you walk around the property, lounging in hammocks, or sunbathing out by their pool.
Sometimes monkeys will get in fights with one another, trying to show how tough or dominant they are. Cacao, being a bit of a tease, ended up getting bit on his tail by another monkey. Since the bite was quite deep, we needed to sedate Cacao and suture his tail. Spider monkeys really need their tail for swinging and for balance, so it was important that it was looked after before any infection could set in. To sedate Cacao, we used a blow dart, which is a neat instrument that takes a lot of practice. Blow darts are important because you can sedate animals from a distance, and eliminate the need of chasing and catching them, which can be very stressful. Once repaired, we put Cacao back in his enclosure, and monitored him closely to make sure everything healed up nicely.
We very much enjoyed our time here, and learned an incredible amount from the veterinarians at LSV. We hope that this has sparked your interest in wildlife, and encourage you to ask more questions about wild animals, both in Canada and all over the world.