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Life in the jungle with Octavio the monkey, Balu the bear and Marley the puma.

Life in the jungle with Octavio the monkey, Balu the bear and Marley the puma.

Spider monkeys are the "spoiled animals" of the center where Cristina collaborated

When Cristina is asked what she has done this vacation, she says “a smile from ear to ear”. He has spent three weeks in a wildlife protection center in Bolivia, at the foot of the jungle. She was in charge of caring for rescued spider monkeys that live “almost in their natural habitat, far from civilization.” He has learned so much about these primates that he gets the impression that "instead of helping, it was me who was lucky enough to be able to share their day-to-day life with them."

Why did you choose the Bolivia project with wildlife?

This year I wanted to spend my vacation doing something different. I started looking for solidarity trips and I found Tumaini. First I thought about collaborating with boys and girls, but I didn't quite see what I could contribute. And it was seeing that I could be in a park with rescued animals, and I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I have always loved animals. When I was little I thought I would be a vet. 😊

After talking with Tumaini, I saw that the Bolivian project was the one that allowed me not to be disconnected from the people. First trip alone… I didn't want to totally disconnect.

Christina in the project.

How do spider monkeys live in the project?

If there are no females in heat, the day is usually calm. They play with each other, groom themselves, forage for food in trees, and sleep.. If there are females in heat, the males disappear in turns into the jungle. They coordinate seamlessly. Rainy days get more nervous, there are more fights.

volunteer people we could only touch or play with the females who were once pets. The free-born do not, so as not to change their habitat. Males can be more aggressive and, even if they have been pets, it is better not to look at them in case they get angry.

For a few minutes a day, we would let these females come and sit on top. We groomed them a bit and continued with our chores so as not to pamper them too much. We could also groom the two males that were in runners (a kind of harness to which some monkeys are attached). One of them, Octavio, just let the volunteers approach you.. Boys don't like her that much. I loved going to bring him food because, as soon as he saw me, he would greet me wrinkling his nose and making his mouth as if he were pronouncing the letter U. I loved Octavio!

What surprised you about these animals?

Blacks are the fastest monkeys in the trees. When we took them for a walk, we saw that the ones that were free (all but four) they moved through the trees as if they were walking on a road, without obstacles!

They know how to greet and recognize you. They make themselves understood and have memory. Some of them showed you areas of their body where they had suffered an injury, which was no longer visible, but they showed it to you so that you could caress them there because once it hurt there. They are very funny!

In the park there were 22 spider monkeys. Did you get to know them all? 

In the end yes. It is almost essential to know who each one is. The males, because you have to know who is the alpha or the most aggressive if you are around. The females, because you must know who you can touch and who you can't.

It is not difficult to get used to them. Every day they see you, you feed them and you respect their space. They end up seeing that you are not bad for them. As long as you still think they're monkeys and wild animals I think it's easy to be with them.

Octavio was the most difficult, but only because he needs time to get to know you. He is in runner and depends on the 100% volunteers. Every day I was getting closer and he saw me, until I alone went to see him and already asked him to scratch his back.

Cristina goes to the aviary during her day off.

What animals were in the project other than spider monkeys? Did you interact with them?

I interacted with the birds for a few hours. The aviary is a bit of a sad area. Pet birds have their wings broken so they don't escape, it's very bad to see what they've done to them! In addition, there are some that remove their feathers due to stress and it is not easy for them to recover.

The resources of the project are limited, but even seeing that it is not an optimal space, there are birds that are a love. Besides,I laughed a lot when I heard the sounds they make to imitate humans!

On my day off, I went through all the zones. Capuchins, coatis, Balú bear, Marley the puma and the kinkajou.

How did you live for almost a month in the middle of nature?

The park is next to a road, so you don't lose touch with civilization. But I was very lucky to be with the Negros (monkeys) and have to go up every day to see them in the middle of the jungle. The road is tiring and more so with the weight you carry on your back. But when you get up and you see that they are there almost as if they were free, it is a luxury. A wonderful place. They are the pampered of the park, the freest.

Also in this area I could see all kinds of free animals: capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, coatis, woodpeckers, snakes, lizards, frogs and hundreds of different insects every day. For me it is a luxury!

Any advice for people who are thinking of participating in the project?

You have to be aware that you are in the jungle, it is not a hotel. Every day you see different insects in the bathrooms, this may not be for everyone. It seemed curious to me, even one day I showered with a firefly. He was hallucinating while he was emitting lights.

It must also be clear that the insects will leave bites all over your body and also that there is not going to caress bugs. Surely you can, but it is not at all one of the preconceived ideas that you have to take before going.

The objective of the project is for the monkeys to live in the best conditions.

What activity/time of the day did you like the most and why?

I loved walking with them. Of the four monkeys that were in the runner, we took three with us and the rest followed us. It was amazing to see what a good time they had looking for food in the trees, playing, jumping. It was like seeing monkeys free, as if they had never been pets and their habitat since they were little had been the jungle.

I also loved feeding them because they made little happy noises that make you fall in love with them.

Did you meet other volunteers in the project? How about your relationship with them?

Yes. I first met David. I had already spoken with him before leaving Barcelona. He is a very nice guy, he gives everything there with the coatis. He loves animals! The last few days, I also coincided with Meriyou and Octavio (the human 😛). A very funny and very friendly couple. I got along great with everyone and I'm still in touch with them.

Apart from your collaboration, did you take the opportunity to go sightseeing? 

I had a week to sightsee. I was in the Uyuni Salt Flat. An incredible place, as if you were on another planet. A diversity of landscapes and animals that I loved.

I was also in Sucre and Santa Cruz. Sucre is a very pretty city and Santa Cruz, well, it's where I had to catch the plane, but I didn't like it that much. Likewise, after spending almost a month in the jungle, then the desert, many animals and incredible areas… going to a city seemed dull to me!

Although yes: I have eaten so well! All delicious.

Would you do a solidarity trip again? Because?

Of course I would go back. It was a unique experience. I've had such a good time in the jungle that I don't feel like I've "worked for the animals" but rather they have given me the opportunity to share their life with me.

When I explain to friends and family what I've been up to this holiday, I'm beaming from ear to ear. How can I not repeat!


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