25.10.2010 - 07.11.2010 25 °C
I had already been in touch with Merazonia www.merazonia.org before and from all the animal centres that I had found, it seemed to be the most serious one about animal rehabilitation. The center does not accept tourist, which was one of the things that I had set as a criteria. Also I had ran into some of the volunteers in our hostel in Baños and they seemed to love it.
I got there late in the evening and was a bit overwhelmed by everything. To start with there were already 10 other volunteers there, in addition to the owner and a coordinator that already had their way of talking, acting etc. In addition, there where rules for absolutely everything, even 4-5 rules how to go to toilet (it was a eco one), which made you a bit paranoia about screwing up something (like throwing sawdust where you pee). Too be honest, the first two days or so, I felt like I had made a misstake coming here, however, I was to learn that this was a place that really grows on you.
The two first days we were doing the feeding routines with the Dutch owner, Frank. The animals were getting amazing food served with great care and consideration (too much in my opinión). Each animal had a specific menu, and this menu would even change every meal. We would have different feeding schedules and basically read what animals were in this schedule and what each of this animal would eat on this specific day. The fruit would even be cut differently for each animal. I´ll tell you, these animals were pretty spoiled when it came to food, I felt like eating the food myself. Still once you know the background of the animals and how they were treated before, and how malnutrition they had been, you where happy to just see them eat and fatten up a bit.
We would feed the animals twice per day. However, before that we would clean the cage. Again, I think cleaning the cages twice per day, was a bit exaggerating, but it made me think of the last animal center, where we cleaned the cages that they had, once during two weeks. Some of the animals would make quite a mess in their cage. The kinkajous (half monkey half squirral type of animals) where the worst, and we would normally fill one whole 20 liter bucket with poo and a bit of leftover food, per day. Messy but very cute fellas.
Basically the day would be get up 7am, small breakfast, start feeding and cleaning at 7.30, have breakfast afterwards around 9.30. After breakfast we would do our cleaning task of the day (based on a cleaning schedule), which could also include catching grasshopers with our hands to give as snack to the tamarine monkeys, and then between 11am to 13pm we would do some other random task around the camp. This could be building cages, painting the roof, building walking paths, chopping down a tree and similar stuff. At 13pm we would have lunch, which usually ended up being so long, that we would have to go and start the afternoon feeding and cleaning directly at 15pm. Sometimes we would do some work after the afternoon feeding or the day would finish at around 17pm.
The days were pretty much layed out with this routine. However, during two weeks we also did observation of how some soon-to-be released tamarine monkeys interacted with the wild ones. We had basically placed a cage with two tamarines in the jungle where there were wild tamarins hanging around, and we would sit there and write down any observation on their behaviour. Usually the wild ones did not show up and I ended up studying spanish for an hour. Still it was always nice just to sit by yourself in the middle of the jungle, listening to sounds and relaxing.
The tasks were in no way as fun as in the last animal center. However, you did really feel like you were volunteering and helping the animals here. I really missed having the close contact to the animals which I´ve had in the last center (where monkeys would jump up on you even), as in this center all animals were in cages and we were trying to minimise all human contact so that they could be released back into the wild again. I realised more and more how poorly run all the other animal centers are and how un-serious they are about releasing animals. I mean how do they even expect to rehabilitate and release animals when they allow hordes of daily visitors to touch them.
After a few days in the center, all the rules and regulations started to make a lot of sense and after a while I did not even think about them. You could also see that the owner Frank is really serious and passionate about the animals wellfare. There was information explaining in detail explaining animal behaviour such as how you can mess up the monkeys natural hierarchy by touching them (this being seen as grooming which is done to the higher ranked monkeys). In the center there were Cappucin and Tamarine monkeys. There were Kinkajouws, loads of birds and a cat, sort of like a small tiger. I´ve never been much for birds, but some of the birds, especially the blueheads, were great fun. After a while you started to see the personalities of the blueheads. There was one appropiately called “Slutty”, would get up close to you and preform some mating ritual.
In addition, I really started to like the other volunteers. Everyone was superfriendly and it felt like we were a big happy family. We would all eat dinner together every night, taking turns to cook. As there was no electricity, hence no fridge, the food would be vegetarian except twice a week when they went food shopping. I definately have never eaten so much veggi food in my life and would crave for meat some days. Still even though I got a bit fed up off tuna and avacado sandwiches for lunch, the food was great. For some reason, people ended up baking loads, so we had cookies and cakes almost every day, which was amazing luxury being in the jungle and all.
With no electricity we would only have candle light in the evening which was definately contributed to the cozy factor. Though I noticed that it also made us go to sleep earlier. Most of us being in bed some time after 9pm on most of the nights. A funny, but quite crazy French guy (who told us he had masterbated a few birds for reproducting purposes) was scaring the shit out of everyone with scary stories about some dead little girl walking around. Occacianly he would hide under someones bed and jump out. Once he even lit candles around one of the girl´s bed and wrote “Die bitch, die” using variuos items. The setting in the jungle was scary enough in the night and with this guy around, most people chose never to go to the toilet in the night.
Some of us go out on some mini adventure by the end of the day. We went two really cool waterfalls where you could swim. The last one we went to was amazing, the pool below the waterfall was so deep that you could jump from the top of the waterfall down into the pool. We also went to a gigant tree, where we were playing Tarzan and swinging in the lianas. Great fun!
There was not really crazy stuff happening in Merazonia. It was mainly just a really good vibe around the place. I would definately recommend Merazonia for anyone truly interested in animal rehabilitation. However, remember that you will not get much of an animal experience as you would in the other centers. The best place and most famous is Amazoonica www.amazoonico.org but then you´ll have to book a place months in advance. Otherwise, www.yanacocharescue.com is a decent place. They have much more vararity of animals then Merazonia, but do accept visitors and as such are less serious about rehabilitating and releasing animals.