So, yes. I have just returned from South America and thought I’d put the recommendations out there for the reserves I visited.
First i spent 6 weeks at Merazonia in Ecuador. Awesome is all I have to say. The reserve is really geared towards trying to release animals, but those that won’t be released have pretty awesome cages and we spent loads of time trying to enrich their space. The animals are all awesome, there’s a huge aviary of parrots, a troop of capuchin monkeys who are all really clever, kinkajous, tamarin and howler monkeys, and as of when I left, a puma! The accommodation there is awesome- its a dorm but its huge and there’s loads of room, and no bunk beds. The food was also fantastic, you cook your own breakfast and lunch and cook communally for dinner- there’s always loads of fresh fruit and veg. The work at Merazonia consists of cleaning and feeding the animals twice a day, with the rest of the day spent doing construction, or enrichment for the animals in cages.
I also spent 5 weeks at Ambue Ari, in Bolivia. The animals here are awesome, I worked in quarantine with monkeys and birds, and later worked with a jaguar. Some of the animals have pretty pants cages, though there is a list and work is slowly being done to improve them. The accommodation here wasn’t great, loads of bunk beds crammed into tiny rooms with leaky roofs. We stayed in ‘the clinic’- an area away from the main camp and with no form of water or bathrooms, but it had far fewer rats and cockroaches! I mean the accommodation isn’t shiny and beautiful, but it is adequate and it does the job. The food wasn’t bad, lunch was by the far the best meal of the day- my favourite being chicken pizza! Breakfast consisted of two small bread rolls- often stale and occasionally moldy! So take some porridge and jam and things to spruce it up! There were times when we ran out of food, so its handy to have snacks ready just in case! Ambue Ari is a lot bigger than Merazonia, there were 70 people there this summer, and it got to the point where we couldn’t all fit in the dining room and you had to stand in the doorway trying to eat. Having said all this, I did enjoy Ambue Ari, I’m just not sure I would stay any longer. I know we were there to care for the animals, but having hundreds of ticks biting me everyday, standing to eat for every meal and occasionally not getting fed because you were last in the queue- it does take its toll eventually and you get annoyed. Most of the people there were great, but there was a degree of hypocrasy that drove me nuts. You have to be able to focus on why you’re there, and ignore all the annoying little things. The reserve is doing a really good thing, they’re just lacking slightly in organisation sometimes.
Both reserves I believe my money was going to the animals and not elsewhere. And I truly believe both reserves are trying to make a difference. I kind of wished we had visited them in the opposite order, because I went to Merazonia first I think was expecting things that weren’t at Ambue Ari- and that annoyed me, whereas had I gone there first I wouldn’t have noticed!
If you’re thinking of volunteering in South America, then both these reserves could do with help!
You can read a blog of everything I did at http://oozamaflips.net if you want more information or want to see pictures of the reserves.
Any questions, go.
Great review thanks.
Would you say that the centre at Merizonia put more emphasis on releasing animals back into the wild, compared to Ambue Ari?
Were any animals actually released while you were at Ambue Ari?
Yeah Merazonia put massive effort into trying to release animals- it was the reason a lot of the animals were there in the first place (having come from other reserves). In 6 weeks I saw 3 tamarin monkeys and two parakeets released.
Ambue Ari consists largely of big cats, which can’t be released (Bolivian law, and there isn’t anywhere safe to release them). Also the land they’re on is surrounded by farmland, and although there is a wealth of wildlife there for every animal they release locally they’re pushing something out into the farmers fields- so even for monkeys and birds they’re massively constrained.
Who’s in charge at Merazonia these days?
In charge of Merazonia is a bloke called Frank.