Issue - July 2008

July 2008

In this month's issue Hanna Redknap interview a volunteer teaching Children rights at school as well she visited Inti Wara Yassi Community; Perry King put in the picture Eva Biard's work at Ciudadela SEDEGES; finally Walter Sánchez with Family more...

July 2008

Inti Wara Yassi Community Parque Machia - Villa Tunari

Little miracles happen everyday but a full rehabilitation happens after only months or even years... as a volunteer you will be able to see the outcome of your work

Hanna Redknap
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Ripley - United Kingdom

When visiting Villa Tunari everyone will tell you to visit Parque Machia, a sanctuary for monkeys, birds, pumas and many other wild animals. It is situated in beautiful surroundings and many of the monkeys are quite tame and have no problems climbing up your legs or sitting on your lap. It is a wonderful place to visit; unfortunately, the history of these animals is not so wonderful. Some have been kept as pets, some sold to circuses, others just sold to whomever wants them no matter what they will do to them or where they will keep them. It does seem amusing at first when you are warned that the monkeys may try and pick pocket you or steal the sunglasses off your head, but their behaviour is only a result of their mistreatment. They have been taught to steal, so it is quite a sad tale. Once these animals are taken to the sanctuary though, they are treated as they should be and most are rehabilitated back into the wild.

The sanctuary was founded in 1996 by Juan Carlos Antezana and Tania Balthazar (Nena), who are the President and Park Manager, respectively. Juan Carlos had already founded the Inti Wara Yassi Community in 1992, an organization that teaches orphan children a trade, so they are able to support themselves and their families. One day he took the children on an outing along an Incan Trail, and it was along this trail that the organisation’s environmental interest was stemmed. They witnessed first hand the destructive impact of man on nature; hundreds of trees had been burnt down and one child went inside a peasant’s house and found a wild bird unable to fly as it had had its wings clipped.

It was then, in 1993, that Juan Carlos combined forces with Nena, who worked with him whilst helping the poor children of El Alto; together they created the first Inti Wara Yassi Sanctuary in La Paz and in 1996 the shelter moved to Parque Machia in Villa Tunari.

In the beginning, the sanctuary was very basic; there was only one room for the monkeys to sleep in whilst Nena and Juan Carlos slept in sleeping bags outside. The aim was, wherever possible, to house and rehabilitate these wild, tropical creatures. They both realised that it had become increasingly fashionable to own wild animals and somebody needed to rescue them. Smuggling tropical creatures is now the third most profitable smuggling trade in the world, surpassed only by arms and drugs because the sale of these creatures can make great profits.

Bolivia is full of black markets that sell animals to hotels, private homes and circuses. The animals are usually obtained by hunting down the parents or group leaders and then taking their babies to be sold; but whatever the situation and history of these animals is, they have not been able to enjoy the freedom that wild animals are entitled to.

An example of this mistreatment is Loco, a Capuchin Monkey, who was snatched from her mother when she was just weeks old. She was sold in a market in La Paz to a family that kept her in a tiny cage which was hardly ever cleaned.

She developed skin infections, matted fur and was weakened by the lack of fresh air that she was able to breathe. She was depressed, and when her mood swings worsened, along with her infection, the family tried to release her back into the wild. But Loco had never even seen another wild animal before so she became frightened and clung to the family, hid in their clothes and wailed until they took her back. Eventually a neighbour rescued her and took her to Parque Machía, where her illnesses were treated; now she is gradually being reintroduced back into the wild despite originally avoiding all contact with other monkeys.

It is not unusual for the animals, which are often endangered, to be kept in small cages with little or no protection from the elements; many are malnourished and abused. Watson, a Macaw, one of the most hunted birds in the Amazon Basin, due to the fact they can be sold for around US$5000 in western markets, lived with a family in La Paz until he started to break furniture with his powerful beak. When he was rescued and bought to the sanctuary his wings were so broken the vets realised he would never be able to fly again. However, he can roam around the park as he wishes, under the watchful eyes of the volunteers, and he has now found a mate, who he spends most of his time with as Macaws mate for life.

The stories like these are endless, but due to the commitment of the permanent staff and the hard work from all the volunteers, the Inti Wara Yassi Community has had such a positive impact on all the creatures’ lives. Even if they are not able to reenter the rainforest fully, they are able to live out their days in a comfortable, safe environment, which is their natural environment.

In 1998 the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) recognised Nena´s hard work with an award of recognition; she was the youngest woman ever to receive such an award and the foundation believed it was:
“...In recognition of the fact that [Nena] runs a wildlife reserve with almost no means. Only her exceptional courage, unflagging devotion and steadfastness enable this young woman to work between sixteen and seventeen hours a day, seven days a week.”

Nena herself is thrilled with the ecological conscience that Inti Wara Yassi has provoked in locals, which is just as important as any other aspect of the park. Now, there is less poaching and the killing of wild or stray animals is frequently reported; in the past Nena was even been tipped off about a stray baby bear that was being sold in a nearby town.

Parque Machia employs dozens of local residence in maintenance and construction as well as contracting the services of quite a few butchers and fruit sellers in the town,to keep the animals fed each day, so it really has had a positive impact on the whole community; it is a laudable and replicable model for local development based on ecotourism.

The volunteers who work in the park should also not be forgotten. Every year about 150 volunteers rotate through the reserve working for between one and six months, dedicating immeasurable time and energy to the cause. They have one day off every two weeks and work from 7am to 6pm. Four to six hours a day is spent on animal care, the volunteers usually have one animal to care for, washing it, feeding it and taking it for walks; then a few hours a day is spent on improving the facilities. As the organisations website reads:
“Little miracles happen everyday but a full rehabilitation happens after only months or even years…. as a volunteer you will be able to see the outcome of your work.”

The volunteer workforce is vital, as is their financial contribution which is needed for food, water, veterinary care and maintenance. Expenses are growing though, and without any funding from the government, it is a struggle; new animals arrive constantly and the help of more permanent trained staff is very much needed as well as money for new medicines and quarantine areas.

However, this has not stopped the organization from buying another park: Parque Ambue Ari. Growth is clearly one of the best pieces of evidence for the Inti Wara Yassi’s success; it is a large tract of land, more remote and slightly wider than Villa Tunari. It is about 350km North West of Santa Cruz on the road to Trinidad and many volunteers are already hard at work there.

As well as running animal sanctuaries, the Inti Wara Yassi Community also run a youth lead activist movement who intend to defend the lives of animals, plants, trees and even humans. For the first time brigades of young volunteers cleaned rivers, lakes and parks; they also marched in protest to the illegal logging by timber companies. They aim to get maximum coverage by the media in the hope that others will begin to care for their environment. Eventually Juan Carlos hopes to have 70% of Bolivia’s youth mobilized to defend the environment and themselves. Jane Goodall, praises him on Animal Planets ´Meet the Heroes´ page:
“The children Juan Carlos originally sought out to help are still heavily involved with the organization. They take care of the animals, but also are learning leadership skills, expanding their environmental knowledge and following a path away from drugs and gangs. Inti Wara Yasi’s membership continues to grow and has become a national organization.”

Family Portraits - Retratos de Familia

La documentación escrita no es particularmente bondadosa con aquellas esferas que hacen al conocimiento de la vida cotidiana de una sociedad. Cosa contraria sucede con la fotografía que, al guardar momentos especiales de la vida de la gente, permite acceder a aspectos desconocidos y cotidianos de los individuos o de una colectividad. El retrato de familia es, en este sentido, una fuente importante ya que permite ver dimensiones de la vida privada de una familia...

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