Anne continues to tell us about her adventures as a volunteer at the monkey sanctuary in Ecuador.
This project is like a dream come true. Everywhere you look is a monkey of some description, both those who are permanent residents here, as well as those that live in the wild and come here to play (and make mischief). I have never seen so many different types of primate in one place before – tamarins, woolly monkeys, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchins… the list seems to go on forever! It is wonderful to have them all watching over you as you work – especially the mother and babies. Quite often they will reach out to you when you walk past, wanting to say hello.
Our days start early here, with a yummy breakfast at about 8am. We don’t hang around and get straight to preparing the food for the monkeys once we have eaten. This involves cutting up lots of fruit and vegetables for them and putting them in different trays, as each enclosure needs different foods for the different monkeys. This can take a while, and is good fun with the other volunteers. We then head out to feed the monkeys, and you get to know them all as you go around the monkey sanctuary – some are really cheeky, some very playful, and some just look at you with their huge innocent eyes. It makes you wonder how anyone could have hurt these creatures in a past life.
The morning is also the time for bringing the accommodation back into shape! With volunteers and animals living side by side (with some of the humanised primates popping into the accommodation at times to say hello!), it can take some cleaning. The kitchen, dining room, toilets and hallways get a good cleaning from the volunteers each day, followed by feeding of the other animals that call this place home such as the rodents, the snakes, the tortoises, the forest cats and more.
Lunch is always well appreciated after a morning of being out and about. Volunteers use the ingredients provided to rustle up delicacies for themselves and other volunteers. I was lucky enough to try French, Israeli, Canadian, Ecuadorian and British fare whilst I was there. It is great fun to cook dishes from your home country for other people to try, especially when you see their grateful smiles!
The afternoons tend to involve some more feeding, but also very importantly cleaning the enclosures. These cheeky creatures can make quite a mess as they eat, and so their feeding areas need the attention of a broom and detergent. Again, this is great fun as the monkeys often come to say hello. Other afternoon tasks that we got involved with were clearing of vegetation, replanting plants to improve greenery at the sanctuary, building tunnels for the primates to run through, improving enclosures and monitoring the animals.
There is never a dull moment here, but you do have to be proactive and get stuck in. I found that my poor Spanish really came in handy as it meant that I could chat with the staff and really be able to help them out.
Our evenings were usually spent chilling out at the accommodation chatting, reading, playing cards or watching a film. A couple of volunteers again work together to make the evening meal. We did one evening go out for some food in the local town, which was lovely – it made a nice change from cooking too!
All in all, I really enjoyed working on this project. It had its challenges at times, as all such volunteer projects do and should have, but I know that we all worked through them together as a team and bonded well together because of it. My advice to future volunteers would be to learn some Spanish, be proactive and just throw yourself in to life at the monkey sanctuary.
To find out more about volunteering at the monkey sanctuary in Ecuador, check out our monkey volunteering webpage.