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!