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FreeWildlifeBrazil Celine


FreeWildlifeBrazil Celine was founded by the couple Martine Schmid-Fiorini and Pedro Schmid, both Swiss veterinarians, who worried about the fate of the wild animals coming from the illegal traffic and seized by local authorities. In an improvised installation at their residence in Iporanga, they began to care for wild animals, enabling their return to nature. Their activities attracted attention and gained recognition in the region by the local population, as well as by environmental authorities. Thus, familiar with the necessary care and the requirements for the release of wild animals, they founded FreeWildlife Brazil Celine in the Atlantic Forest.

The Release Center, with a management area of 4 hectares, is situated on the Betary Reserve in the municipality of Iporanga. It will primarily focus on the release of native birds and will monitor their progress after reintroduction.


Estrada Iporanga - Apiai km 6


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As my stay at the Betary Reserve was the first time I've ever travelled by myself (I just graduated from high school) I expected myself in eventually feeling clueless, but as soon as I took my first step out of the bus at the Betary Reserve I had to change my mind. The volunteer coordinators as well as some other volunteers welcomed me warmly and I immediatly started loving the whole atmosphere that stayed awesome throughout my whole 12 weeks at the Betary Reserve.

In my luck I arrived right before the Brazilian Independence Day which meant that I did not have to work on my first days, but got to enjoy the Brazilian holiday atmosphere as well as some trips to waterfalls and beautiful Cananéia, but even when work started it did not feel like work. It was fun, especially because most of the time all volunteers worked together, sometimes playing music in the background and making a lot of jokes. Usually the staff also takes part and is always open for questions. They may don't speak English, but understand it pretty well and answer in slow, understandable Portuguese.

Eventhough I applied as an Eco Volunteer I got to work at the Amphibian Research Program. I didn't know frogs and tadpoles were so cute! It was really fun to work with both, but especially the tree frogs called Boana Faber grabbed my heart. You really feel like a proud mother when you can watch the tadpoles becoming frogs.
But obviously I also enjoyed all the other projects I got to work on.

Next to work we also did a lot of weekend activities, organized with the help of the volunteer coordinators. We hiked to beautiful waterfalls, caves or just enjoyed Caipirinhas on the beach of Cananéia. In Iporanga, the small town next to the Reserve are also a lot of small, a little bit old looking bars where you can easily meet the locals who were also super friendly. Very easily I became friends with the bus driver of the school bus who from then always took me back to the Reserve after I went grocery shopping.

Adding everything together my trip to the Betary Reserve was the perfect choice for my first travel and I recommend it to everyone else who wants to experience the true Brazil with all its beautiful and also weird aspects!

PS: If you want to do trips to other places in Brazil like Rio de Janeiro or Iguacu, you can easily take a few days off.

Yes, I recommend this program
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One of my goals in volunteering at the Betary Reserve was to gain life experience, develop life skills, and mature as a person. In this regard, volunteering at the Betary Reserve has been invaluable. Living on my own without the safety net of my parents forced me to learn how to cook and take care of myself. Being forced out of my comfort zone led to much personal growth and has resulting in me leading a more adventurous lifestyle.

My second goal in volunteering at the reserve was to figure out whether I want to pursue a career in the environmental science field, and what career in that field appeals to me. I went into the experience expecting more interaction with the scientists and more data analysis than I got, though it must be noted that that was a misunderstanding on my part in addition to something that the reserve should probably make clearer. The purpose of the Betary Reserve is to gather scientific data which is sent to partner universities for analysis and use in research. Due to the nature of this relationship, as a volunteer I did very little analysis, which was a bit disappointing since I wanted to get a wider range of experience at different parts of the process. While the reserve’s staff includes a handful of biologists, we didn’t interact with them in our duties. The one scientist we worked with was an amazing and knowledgeable post-graduate who specialized in mushrooms. An environmental technician is the career most closely matching the data collection focused volunteer work we did, and while the projects were interesting and enjoyable, I can’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I wanted to be involved with the research applying the collected data, and without that involvement, I found it hard to be engaged with certain projects. This was a sentiment shared by some of my fellow volunteers. The volunteer coordinator was a volunteer turned staff member, and not being a scientist, wasn’t able to answer many in depth questions regarding the application of the data.

In addition to my role as an eco-volunteer, I did photography for the reserve, taking nature shots and candid photos of my fellow volunteers for use in promotional material. Taking pictures for the reserve was very enjoyable and gave me access to thousands of great photo-ops. After two months of taking pictures at the reserve and in town, I still have a long list of places and things I want to photograph.

A review of my experience would be incomplete without mentioning my fellow volunteers. I believe that the people who spend their time and money to help the world are good people, and the volunteers I met on the reserve reinforced that belief. Every volunteer I met was from a different country and their ages ranged from an 18-year-old to a 32-year-old, and yet we all got along and formed a strong group dynamic that supported each other and made the experience very enjoyable. In the evenings we would play card games or go to a nearby hostel to relax and eat a buffet dinner, and on weekends we hiked to caves or waterfalls, up rivers, or into the nearby town. The weekend often involved drinking games, but there was never any peer pressure directed at those like myself who didn’t drink alcohol, and we were included in the games. I have certainly made lifelong friends during this adventure.

A review of volunteering with the Betary Reserve would also be incomplete without mentioning the staggering abundance of nature found in the buffer zone. I really like Brazil, and specifically like the local town -- a 10-minute drive from the reserve -- Iporanga. Although it is a poor area of an economically disadvantaged nation, everybody in the town is extremely friendly and hospitable. The reserve itself is an enjoyable environment to work in, and every night I would go out to the ponds or greenhouse to look for and photograph tree frogs, aquatic spiders, and metamorphosing dragonflies. Although I did this almost every evening for two months, it never stopped being amazing. At the ponds are bioluminescent mosquito larvae which turn the pond into a wonderland of lights, mosquitoes in the water, and fireflies above. Above the fireflies are the stars. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. The reserve really is out in the middle of nowhere, which is evident when you look up and see no air pollution or light pollution. While certain features of the climate (mosquitoes and high humidity) are undesirable, they are overshadowed by the abundance of life that results from the climate and geography of the area.
This place truly is amazing, and no review can entirely capture how valuable and enjoyable the experience was for me. I am considering returning to volunteer here in the future but focusing on photography as a media-volunteer. I have done a lot of traveling, and this is one of the places I want to go back to, to photograph like crazy, and to explore. I feel a connection to this place.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Being a Photographer by profession, coming to the Betary Reserve was the best move I could have made. There are so many incredible animals living in the Atlantic Forest – nevermind the gorgeous landscapes. Every step you take, every way you look, you’re going to see a beautiful picture. You can find anything from Toucans and Hummingbirds, to large snakes, monkeys and Armadillos to glowing mushrooms and colourful flowers in every season.
But even aside from that, it was an incredible experience. There are so many things to see in the area, from waterfalls to caves and forest trails. You can go down tubing on the river, go on a day trip to the sea and swim with dolphins, or just spend some time in Iporanga, going to town parties or dinner.
While I had the advantage of speaking some Portuguese, it’s really not necessary. The people here are some of the friendliest I have ever come across, and I have watched with amusement as English speaking Volunteers managed to have full on conversations with Brazilian people speaking Portuguese and somehow still managed to make themselves understood.
I have fallen in love with Brazil, and the Atlantic Forest in particular in the three months I spent here, which made my decision to return for a full year all the easier. I want to see Iporanga and the Betary Reserve throughout all seasons and be a part of the wonderful mission of uncovering nature’s secrets in order to preserve it and try to show the rest of the world that it is something worth protecting through my photographs.

Yes, I recommend this program
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I somehow stumbled across volunteering at the reserve online whilst looking for a fun/productive way to spend my summer and I am so thankful that I did! I’m a Geography and SD major from the UK so I was drawn to the programme because of the range of activities available across trees, mammals, birds, mushrooms and amphibians, all set within the Atlantic Forest.

I have loved waking up knowing that my work would be different each day with some projects more relaxed than others and some work being weather dependent (i.e. fish inventory typically on sunny days). My favourite projects have been those that mean I can go into the forest such as tree, mushroom and bird inventories. Celine is the partner project to IPBio so a lot of project work is done over there including gardening and bird inventory. The centre has only recently opened so there is not a constant flow of animals to be released but the project work is important so that the centre can receive wildlife for the future!

Every time I go into the forest I see something amazing- whether that is a giant toad, cool mushroom or for those lucky enough- monkeys!! I would highly recommend volunteering at the reserve to anyone with an interest in the environment- you don’t have to be a scientist- just someone who can appreciate the natural world around them.

Outside of project work, I have loved getting to know the other volunteers from around the world and the amazing staff, who go above and beyond to make your time here as enjoyable as possible. Spending my evenings and weekends with the other volunteers here has been the highlight of my trip with many incredible visits to the caves around Iporanga, a trip to Cananeia to see the dolphins, group cooking sessions, meals out and so much laughter. I have enjoyed every second and want to say a massive thank you to everyone who I have met here for making my experience one that I will never forget!


How can this program be improved?
The only thing I can think of is that I would have loved to spend a little bit of time in the lab- just to experience the more scientific aspect of the research here. Having said that, I was out in the Atlantic Forest every day collecting a large variety of data for the different projects- which unlike working in a lab, is not something very accessible from the UK!
Yes, I recommend this program
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As long as I call myself an environmentalist, the Betary Reserve was the best place for me to spend my summer break. I’ve stayed here a month, but I wish I had more time to spend in this beautiful place. The first thing that you notice is the endless green that surrounds you in the road from Apiai to the Reserve and, even if you think that nothing can be better than that, it’s just the beginning. Animals of every specie and size, plants of every colour and shape, bioluminescent mushrooms, stars as bright as the daylight, amazing people from all over the world that share with you their aim to help the Atlantic forest to mantain its biodiversity, which is threatened by human activities. Every day a different topic, a new discovery, a new thing that you didn’t know and becomes part of your personal formation. And not far from this natural paradise, there’s a little village full of culture and traditions, which are divulged by the people that live there (wonderful people that are happy to chat and have fun with you, and even if they don’t speak English they make their best to express themselves). The Atlantic forest is the best place I’ve ever been and, in my opinion, the best way to live it is choosing the Betary Reserve: you can enjoy it while you help it, learning new things and new people, without loosing anything of its indescribable beauty.

How can this program be improved?
I think that, even if we collaborated in order to give value to this association, we haven't seen enough animals to feel really envolved. We know how important is our job there, but seeing our goals, somehow, could stimulate us even more.
Yes, I recommend this program


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