This center (Sacha Yacu) is located in an isolated area of the Ecuadorian rainforest. The center was established in 2006 and works in rescuing, rehabilitating and when possible releasing animals back to their natural environment.
The center works in partnership with the Ecuadorian Environmental Police (UPMA) and the Ministry of Environment in the fight against trafficking, abuse, capture and hunting of wild animals. Animal welfare is not often a high priority for many Ecuadorians and many do not understand the problems associated with keeping wild animals as domestic pets as they often become depressed/aggressive and as a result are neglected and abused and many of the animals arriving at the center have been mistreated with either physical and/or psychological injuries.
The rescue center covers an area of over 75 hectares on the land of the Alvarez Guatactuca family. This is a Quichua family whose ancestral line over this land and area stems back hundreds of years. As a family-run rescue center, they have a great understanding of the local community, their culture and the plight of their native wild animals.
What started as a small center for monkeys has expanded to a center that at the request of the government now takes in all types of wild animals. This is a great opportunity to work not only with monkeys but with a variety of exotic animals. There are currently over 60 animals at the center which include: primates (squirrel, titi and capuchin monkeys) mammals (peccaries, coati, tayra, kinkajou, and margay), reptiles (tortoises) and birds (turkey, parrots and macaws). Also there are free roaming troops of monkeys in and around the center.
The center is dedicated to helping the local community in many ways, not only in contracting their local services to help the local economy, but also in educational programs working closely with the local school to teach children the importance of environmental issues.
Volunteers are needed to help in the following activities:
- Day to day care of the animals
- Cutting up fruit, preparation of diets, feeding the animals
- Helping new arrivals adjust to the center
- General maintenance and cleaning
- Construction work; repairing and building new enclosures
- Daily hikes to pick fruits and catch insects for the animals and also to harvest yucca, corn, sugar cane or cocoa.
The center is dedicated to finding ways to provide the chance of a good life to the animals in their care (this includes basic things such as providing them with a suitable diet which in so many cases they never had during their time in captivity) and where possible run effective, science based rehabilitation programs to help in the process of returning them to their natural environment. As a volunteer, you will also be able to help with these observation and enrichment projects. For example, as most animals living in the wild spend a big part of their day searching in order to find food or refuge, these are the types of behaviors that have to be encouraged so that animals at the center do not loose these skills. Volunteers can help by using their imagination to build a toy or game for the animal and then observe how it uses it and in what way it benefits the animal. This work is invaluable to the animals to relieve the boredom of their captivity and to maintain their natural predatory instincts.
In addition to animal welfare, if you wish you can also be involved in the local Environmental Education Program, where you can help prepare lessons twice a month dedicated to a specific environment issue. The sessions take place at the Juan León Mera School, based just in front of the center. The children are aged between 6 and 12 years and in these classes the idea is to make the younger generation understand the importance of ecosystems as a whole (including all the living beings who are part of them) and the role of natural resources (the ones we need to survive and at the same time we devastate because of bad or nonexistent management).
You will work Monday to Friday from 8am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 5pm. On Saturdays the volunteers work for a couple of hours to clean the volunteer house and kitchen, and feed the animals (ending around 10:30 am) then they are free for the weekend.
This project is located close to Arajuno, approximately 1 hour from the nearest town of Puyo, in an isolated area. Travelling by bus from Quito it will take you approximately 6 hours to reach the center.