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La Senda Verde

About

La Senda Verde wildlife refuge offers several short and long term low-cost volunteering opportunities. As a short term volunteer you'll work in the rotational program taking care of a wide variety of birds, monkeys, turtles, bears and cats. As a longer term volunteer you can choose to become part of the baby monkey surrogate program or to become deeply involved with working with the Andean bears.

La Senda Verde is also an Ecolodge offering tours and accommodation. This gives you the option to visit and see what we have to offer before making a volunteering commitment.

Founded
2003

Reviews

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Ann
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

La Sende Verde

it was a great 2 weeks at la Sende verde and I left there with an appreciation of animal rights and environmental issues. It was the highlight of my trip to South America. Marcelo, Vicky and the staff have a real passion for giving these animals a second chance and it was amazing to encounter these creatures.
Food was good and the facilities there were good as well.
http:/wp.me/p3tQCT-1y

What would you improve about this program?
Everyone wants to be on monkeys and not turtles-:). Poor old turtles! It can cause some discontent among volunteers over who gets assigned to different tasks. Better teamwork needs to be encouraged to ensure that everyone gets a chance to do all animals.
Read my full story
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Mel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience in our 1 year world tour !

Planned to stay 2 weeks but ended there 4 weeks ! That how amazing it is ! It is really dirty and hard work, no day off, lots of insects, not the best food but is still one of our best experience during our 1 year touring around the world.
The staff, volunteers and animals make it all worth it ! Would live to go back again ! I miss the spider monkeys so much (especially they cuddles). The refuge keeps getting bigger and better but unfortunately it is never enough as more and more animals needs help in Bolivia !

Don't hesitate to go there and give the animal the love and care they desperate need !

What would you improve about this program?
Food - sorry but Bolivian food is not the most gourmet and it was quite repetitive.

The dormitory - were full as the refuge is really popular with volunteers. However, some extension were being planned.
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Sarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Excellent opportunity to work with wild animals

I came to volunteer in La Senda Verde for the first time in February 2012. My plan was to stay there for two weeks and I ended up being there for 3 months... Careful, this happens regularly in this place! ;-)

The first two weeks I spent on the normal volunteer rosta caring for birds, tortoises, turtles and dogs. The main tasks for the shortterm volunteers are cleaning the cages, feeding the animals and also do as much enrichment for these creatures as possible. It's physical work you do by any kind of weather and you shouldn't be afraid of getting wet and dirty - but honestly, I didn't care at all and never was as happy!
In my free time, I was often up in the monkey area to get to know all the different monkeys and often listening to all the interesting monkey stories of Marcelo.

Afterwards, I had the unique chance to become a surrogate mother for two howler monkey babies. It is a beautiful, but also demanding job to care for these little, sensitive animals. As a surrogate mother, you feed and clean the babies, sleep with them if necessary and accompany their introduction to the existing monkey group. This is the most important, but also most interesting part of your work as a monkey mum and you get to know all the monkeys, their characters and their role in the existing monkey troop really well.

I was devastated when I had to leave my beloved monkeys, the funny staff and especially Vicky and Marcelo, but La Senda Verde has become a part of me, never left me and I knew I would come back one day.

And that's what I did in December 2013 and I'm writing this little report from Carla's Bar (which all Ex-Volunteers do know *g*).

La Senda Verde changed a lot in the last two years. It got a lot bigger, caring for over 400 animals by now. But the groove is still the same and I looove being back here!

I spent the first month as a surrogate mother for two howler monkey babies again, but honestly, this time I haven't had the patience to do it for any longer, which lead me to another unique opportunity - to work with the two Andean spectacled bears called Aruma and Tipnis.

Working with the bears is a total different story than working with the monkeys, as you obviously don't have direct interaction with these huge animals. The bear programm include cleaning and feeding the bears or distract them while another volunteer is doing so, check the electrical fence regularly and working on enrichment. Right now, we do a lot of enrichment with different smells of herbs, making frozen fruit ice creams or hiding food. Another really interesting part is the clicker training to teach the bears to stand up and open their mouth on command, so we can give them medicine, if it should be necessary one day.
I really enjoy working with those precious, endangered animals and it's beautiful to see, how they get to know you and start trusting you - obviously this also happens the other way around.

I'm also helping out with organising the volunteers and do a lot of tours for day guests and the daily bikers coming down the Death Road. This is also a really rewarding part of my work and it feels nice to share my knowledge with other people and spread the word about the problem of the illegal animal traffic and the good work, which is done in La Senda Verde.

La Senda Verde is a unique opportunity to work closely with wild animals, who have been victims of the illegal animal traffic or have been held as pets. Obviously it is a shame, that those animals can't be re-released into the wild because of the Bolivian law, but LSV tries as hard as possible to give them the most natural home as possible.
Please be aware, that working as a volunteer in LSV is hard work, starting early in the morning and sometimes finishing late. You get wet and dirty (but being pooed on brings good luck!) and it's physical work, but the more effort you put in, the more you get back!

What would you improve about this program?
If I could change one thing about La Senda Verde, I would make it government funded, because the lack of money is a huge issue in La Senda Verde. If this place would get funded by the government, projects like the planned bird aviary or new cages for the capuchins could be realized much faster, which would be a huge benefit for all the animals living in La Senda Verde.
Read my full story
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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful.

I discovered La Senda Verde in October 2012 while doing that quintessential South American backpacking trip, and I was hooked from the moment I first walked over the bridge at the entrance. I ended up spending 3 weeks there, and when I left, I promised to return, which I did, in January 2013. I stayed for 4 months! I am planning to return in July, 2014 (and would have been there for Xmas 2013, had I not overstayed my visa earlier that year!)

The wonderful thing about LSV is the opportunity to work so closely with animals, and to be a member of such a warm and tight community. Even as a short term volunteer, I felt like a real member of the family, and after my longer stint, it was sad to say goodbye to everyone at LSV, not just the animals, but the kitchen staff and other workers.

Working with animals and working outdoors is just so rewarding and LSV gives you a real sense of personal regeneration; you feel like you are physically and spiritually improving with all the different work that you do (and I am not a spiritual person!)

But it is what you make of it. While I personally found all aspects rewarding - cleaning all the bird poop and cages, feeding the animals while trying to avoid being pecked by a looming, angry macaw, even helping to lug those bloody heavy poles, or raking the rocky pathways - some people complained, especially if they were looking after the birds for 5 days. But honestly, if you are not genuinely interested in improving the daily lives of all animals, including the "less interesting", but just as intelligent creatures, then don't bother! There was an overemphasis on working with and hanging out with the monkeys, and potential volunteers need to be aware that there are a lot of other animals at LSV who need just as much attention.

Volunteers were from a whole range of backgrounds, and being there for a longer amount of time allowed me see how it moved in waves. The commonality was a desire to spend time with animals, and for the most part, volunteers worked well together. In the evenings most volunteers hung out in the social room, having a beer, playing pool and watching films. It was a very social place, and Vicky's son, Poche, and his Aussie wife, Lori, were always there to hang out and be part of the group.

The location is fantastic, the lifestyle is good, I loved the food (admittedly, I have simple tastes!) And there was always Coroico, if you felt you needed to go out and have a nice meal (best pizza I've ever had was in the Coroico square, and if you fancy German or French food, oddly, there are several places to go.)

I continue to feel a real sense of loss since leaving, as LSV has a tendency to anchor itself in an unusual way. The several returning volunteers is evidence of this!

What would you improve about this program?
LSV are in a difficult place in terms of their position in animal rehabilitation and conservation. In Bolivia, the procedures involved in releasing animals is extraordinarily complicated (and in some cases illegal, depending on who you talk to), so for the most part, LSV aims to give animals a comfortable, happy life. However, the LSV animals' growing reliance and dependence on humans jars with me, as does the promoted attitude that people can spend all day "playing" with the animals. I personally would like to see LSV work on developing a program that minimises the animals' contact and reliance on humans - especially volunteers - starting with a strict policy of no touching or talking to the animals, but this is not a realistic expectation at LSV, given the way it is set up. And many animals at LSV, especially tethered capuchins, need enrichment and attention that they can now only get from humans. But I can't really fault Marcelo and Vicky; they are doing something they love, and doing it with the best resources at their disposal.
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Nicolas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

La Senda Verde rocks!

This volunteer program is one of the best things I've done in my life.
It's fun, rewarding, relaxing, and these cuddling monkeys are just soooo cute!

We feed the animals and clean their enclosure 3-4 times a day. The rest is spent in a perfect jungle environment, just having fun with other volunteers or cuddling with monkeys.

The facilities are simple yet perfect to spend a relaxing and purposeful time. The food is great. And the staff is very friendly.and enthusiastic.

The owners are a pleasure to get to know!

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly? Nothing!

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Ann Geoghegan

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Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with La Senda Verde in Bolivia?

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.

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.