Guest post by Amanda! Who is Amanda?
Amanda is a completing a Masters degree in Sustainable Development and is completing a thesis about red uakaris in Peruvian Amazon. When she finishes, she would like to work as a communicative link between nature – and the unheard voices of nature, animals and children – and public, maybe even decision makers. She adores travelling and hopes that one day she will get paid to do so (a girl can dream eh!) and own a house in Northern Sweden with her own little wildlife reserve caring for injured or abandoned hedgehogs, birds and rabbits.
Volunteering with rescued animals in the Amazon
In August 2015, I travelled to Peru to do an Internship for my MA in Sustainable Development… well, I sort of used my internship to have an excuse to live out my lifelong dream to go to volunteer in the Amazon and work with wild animals at Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm.
I travelled to Iquitos and ended up with my massive backpack standing on a sand sack that was stuck in the ground to make it easier for people to walk through the muddy sand after rain. I balanced and changed from my sneakers into navy blue foam crocs. Little did I know I was going to live in these shoes for four months, with pride!
I was rather unsure if this was the right place since there is another butterfly house, mariposario, that is close to the real Pilpintuwasi and pays boat drivers and guides to bring people there instead. Luckily a big yellow butterfly showed me the way down the correct path.
When I finally arrived, there were five volunteers, seven local full-time workers, and about a hundred animals that have all been confiscated from human-related, often fatal, fates. Pilpintuwasi has nine monkeys running freely on the property – one howler monkey Ali and eight red uakaris (one male (Felix) and seven females). Uacaris only dwell in the Amazon and are very vulnerable to habitat loss and bush meat hunting. It is rather rare to see, let alone interact, with them!
All week between 09:30-16:00 – except Mondays – Pilpintuwasi opens up its doors to the public, so tourists from all around the world can come hear the stories about the animals kept there. One of the biggest tasks you have as a volunteer is to hold these tours in English or in Spanish, maybe both, to increase awareness about the dangers of animal trafficking. While animal pet trade is illegal in Iquitos it is still a huge market and is the reason why many babies are stolen from their mothers, to be sold. Sadly many of these animals later get abandoned when they grow up and their undomesticated, natural wild instincts kick in.
The founder, Gudrun Sperrer owns approximately 17 hectares of land and Pilpintuwasi is just a part of it. The rest is used as conservational area, sometimes even educational for school children to come and see how an untouched rainforest looks like. Education is crucial when it comes to awareness of the importance of forest maintenance and animal protection.
At the moment, Pilpintuwasi is in need of volunteers who can come and help. The minimum time commitment for a volunteer is one month, but the longer you stay the better! They are able to use a wide range of skills to help in unique ways – if you are a good writer, fan sewer, fisherman, a PhD student or just a person in need of a challenge, I say go to Pilpintuwasi and donate your time! Help will be appreciated.
Volunteering in the Amazon with Pilpintuwasi is free of charge to be there and you only pay for accommodation and food, which is not much. You can live with one of the workers five minutes from the farm or you can live in a bungalow together with fellow volunteers (you get a nice little life over there with a volleyball field and a pool!). Another option is to stay in Iquitos where WiFi is available and a lot of “gringo” places with food is provided. I personally loved the green curry at Kharma Café near Malacon, but I also could not stay away from the rather questionable ceviche on the street!
I want to learn more about volunteering in the Amazon with Pilpintuwasi!
Pilpintuwasi started out as a butterfly farm. Gudrun, the owner, came from Austria to teach English but ended up staying and started collecting butterfly eggs to see what they turned into. In 1995, Pilpintuwasi (that means butterfly home in Quecha) opened up to the public. In 2001, Gudrun received a cardboard box with a little jaguar cub on her doorstep and this was the starting point for Pilpintuwasi to become an animal orphanage as well as a butterfly house and forest conservation NGO. Since 2005, they have been a great tourist attraction and educational centre. Pilpituwasi is always in need of passionate individuals that can give at least one month, preferably at least two months, to really become a part of their work.
Have you volunteered? We would love to hear from you!
If you have volunteered with a small, community-based organisation that upholds the values of responsible volunteering, we would love to hear from you! This wonderful post from Amanda is part of our monthly volunteering guest post series. If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!