I wanted to do some sort of volunteer work in South America but have no Spanish. I was going to go to Inti Wari Yassi. Their parks are hard to get to from La Paz. Someone told me about La Senda Verde. It’s easy to get to from La Paz.
Ann Geoghegan volunteered with La Senda Verde for 2 weeks in June 2013. She works in IT and her 2 weeks in La Senda Verde taught her a lot about nature and the environmental issues.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with La Senda Verde in Bolivia?
Ten years from now, what’s the one thing you think you’ll remember from the trip?
When doing the feeding rounds of the monkeys with Kyle, 2 little capuchin monkeys, Willi and Martin stopped and embraced each other like old friends. It’s amazing to see the animals enjoying their new world.
Tell me about one person you met.
There were a number of staff and volunteers there that were good. Marcelo Levy was very knowledgeable about the monkeys. He was very interesting to listen to.
Vicky Ossio was only there once but explained to us how the center got started and how the ever-increasing pet trafficking trade that was making their life harder. The center does not receive any government funding.
She mentioned how animal rescue centers like those receive criticism as they don’t contribute to the ecosystem. That said, the center does give volunteers a greater environmental awareness. Her son would provide the evening entertainment with his guitar.
Adriana, Ivan and Karin had a real passion for all animals and tried to improve work practices at the center. It was difficult for them to implement good work practices with so many short term volunteers.
How did the experience impact you?
Before going there I was someone who enjoyed seaworld and other animal shows. The experience of watching animals re-discover their natural environment changed that. I also remember the traumatized animals who never will recover after years in captivity.
There was a French group there doing a thesis on how they could use renewable energy at the center. I also began to question the practice of shark culling in Australia and other locations worldwide. It is good to see that measures are been taken to stop shark culling and make people aware that sharks are not as threatening as imagined.
The use of palm oil products and deforestation has not helped the orangutan habitat in Indonesia or Borneo or the wildlife in the Amazon. Some companies have stopped using palm oil products. I think we need to educate ourselves more on what we can do about deforestation.
The demand for wild animals seems to be driven from countries outside of Bolivia. It would be good if these countries put a ban on the keeping of wild animals. The need for communities in South America, Asia and Africa to be able to make a sustainable living planning food crops and not just cacao. I also read more about Jane Goodall. Her work in this area is very good.
Any tips for someone considering this trip in the future?
Keep an open mind and learn to appreciate all the animals there.