This selection of photos was taken during my stint of volunteering at Santa Martha Animal Refuge in Ecuador. The rubbish ones are mine; the nicely-framed, well-lit and/or in focus ones belong to either Mel and Mark, or Toby Cannon. Enjoy!
Feeding time for one of our adorable Andean Spectacled Bear cubs.
Dinner time was eagerly anticipated by all the residents – especially Garfield, our slightly overweight Puma!
Meldrew, a Giant Galapagos Turtle, ate mostly fruit. And anyone sat too close would end up wearing whatever he didn’t like!
Some of the residents were more grateful than others for their food. The Jaguar was way beyond nice manners – when the jungle’s top predator gets hungry it’s generally best not to get in the way. Or fall over on your way out of the enclosure…
Helping us puny volunteers to feed, clean and otherwise look after the animals was Ecuador’s answer to Clint Eastwood: Jimmy! I came to the conclusion that he was born with a machete in his hand.
Mark was one of those volunteers. As a vet, he had a lot of skills to offer, and developed a particularly close relationship with Osita, our largest Andean Spectacled Bear.
Mark also performed the surgery to save the life of this small crocodile (A Caiman). All I had to do was hold her still… and then catch her twice a day for her shots. Which meant I got to experience pure, unadulterated terror – twice a day.
Someone remind me – what did curiosity do to the cat?
Can ya tell what it is yet? Why yes, you’re right! It IS a three-toed Sloth. However did you guess? What’s that? Oh right, you read the title of the photo. Good call.
And as for this fella – ain’t he gorgeous? He’s a Coatamundi. Really. They’re closely related to the Wombles. Alas, this poor critter is blind. I called him Snotty.
Also high up in the cuteness stakes was Andy (pictured). His name is short for – you guessed it – Andean Spectacled Bear. His twin brother we christened Sid. Why? Because he was vicious! Their mother was shot by poachers.
And who could resist this little lady? A Pygmy Marmoset, the smallest monkey in the world. She was carried as a comforter by a young girl we met on a trip to the Amazon. There we released a lot of the animals we’d rescued from captivity.
So having released all the animals that could be released (some were too tame or too injured to survive in the wild, so they stayed with us), we went with the Ecuadorian police to rescue some more! Like this Capucin Monkey – chained to a tree in a concrete back yard. He had a cat collar around his waist which he’d outgrown, causing him constant pain. I caught him and our Ecuadorian vet removed it.
This parrot, with a grossly deformed beak, was being kept as part of a circus freak show. Which is evil. You may not want to know this, if you’re squeamish, but we ground down his beak with an angle grinder! And later, he bit right through my finger. Revenge, presumably.
This is Tame. She’s an Ocelot, and my personal favourite of the six-strong pack we were looking after. She was far too friendly to survive in the jungle, which was a little sad for her, but meant we got to say hello from time to time. She was always pretty happy to see us!
Not just surgery, but dentistry was sometimes necessary – and for that we simply recruited a dentist from Quito, the capital city. He’d never done animals before. So he was understandably nervous when asked to put his hands in the mouth of this sleeping beauty…!
In between the death-or-glory stuff, we built cages. Many, many cages. Our equipment was… rustic, to be polite. By way of example, this ladder – which I believe may be the biggest health and safety violation in existence – is actually three ladders built of logs and sticks, which have been tied together with wire in order to reach the top of the new parrot enclosure…
All I want is a hug! I’m a kinkajou!
Me, in the middle of making the River Walk.
And on the seventh day, we rested… Well, except for Machita – a dog I rescued from a market as a tiny puppy. She rested whenever – and wherever – she could get away with it! I didn’t have the heart to disturb her.
Tame was raised as a house cat, so he loved all the attention he could get!
A gorgeous Amazonas parrot. Who has escaped, the little bugger!
Checking on the animals on the release trip – if you look carefully, you can see where the volunteers were sitting!
In just three months at Santa Martha, I personally removed all these chains from different animals – mostly moneys.
Osita, getting all close and personal.
I know I already have pics of the bear cubs up on here, but who could resist this bear behind??
“Should that bear be in that tree?”
“Um… no, no it shouldn’t be…”
The wild boar – doing what he loved to do most!
“Oh, this is YOUR bag?”
The land around Santa martha was simply stunning – in between rainstorms!
Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed these pictures. Please feel free to
let me know what you think!
And if you haven’t yet read ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’, the story behind all these images, you can
check it out here.