I arrived last night, and after some quick sight seeing with Jeff, I went to bed early to get caught up on sleep. This morning Erika Guimurães and Lysandre Ribeiro, both with Conservation International in Brazil, met us at the hotel and escorted us to the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wild Animals (CRAS). These two women will be our translators, guides and local ecology experts for the next two days.
We met Vinicíus Lopes at the Center – he is one of the biologists that cares for and
||"We are shown quite a variety of animals - virtually all of which were former pets."|
rehabilitates the many different animals there. They have received approximately 12,000 animals since the Center opened eight years ago. After an animal is nursed back to health, a committee reviews the case, and decides whether placing the animal in a zoo or releasing it back in the wild will be the best option for the creature.
Parrots, including macaws, are the most numerous animal coming to the Center; Most of these birds arrive as newly hatched chicks confiscated from poachers trying to smuggle them out of the state. And believe it our not, tortoises are the second most numerous wards of the Center – most of these were also discovered in the illegal pet trade, although Vinicíus pointed out individuals injured in a fire and hit by a car.
ARTICLE: Read about parrot conservation efforts in nearby Colombia
We are shown quite a variety of animals: two peccaries, four cougar cubs whose mothers had been killed, and primates from tamarins to howler monkeys – virtually all of which were former pets. Once primates are raised with people, they cannot be released back into the wild – not having a fear of humans sets up a dangerous situation for animals and people. The one exception the staff has discovered is that releases are possible with the tamarins.
The three veterinarians and two biologists, along with additional researchers who are lucky enough to receive funding, not only treat, rehab, and release these thousands of animals, they also work to educate the communities and "fazendas" (family farms) where the animals are initially released. On top of that, some animals are radio-collared to keep track of how well they are doing. Even some not tracked electronically can, and will be checked on, if they remain in the release area.
Also at the Center today, we saw a few snakes, quite a few toco toucans, hyacinth macaws, rheas, and even a bush-dog! In the past, staff have cared for maned wolves, jaguars, giant otters, and Jeff's favorite – tapirs.
||"The two animals we really wanted to see however, still eluded us"|
We get a special treat today – the release of a variety of rehabilitated birds
, reptiles, and mammals
, onto a nearby 4,000 hectare private reserve called the "Refugio da Ilha" (Island Refuge). This farm was purchased ten years ago as a cattle ranch, but four years ago they opened a house to visitors, and today only the guesthouse is operated – as a tourist adventure
destination including canoe and motorboat rides through a vast river network on the property. During the rainy season – which is now – the river is flooded and the seemingly unending wetlands support an amazing amount of animal and plant diversity.
ACT: Add your name to the pledge to help stop species extinctions
Jeff and I take advantage of the canoes right after lunch and spend a peaceful hour paddling on the water. We are even observed by a curious family of capuchins out to see who was passing through. I secretly suspect they were watching our less-than-coordinated canoeing efforts.
After the excursion, we are able to participate in the release. We let a variety of parrots, a kestrel, a toucan, ten tortoises, a boa constrictor, three possums and an impressive anaconda go on the property. It's amazing and rewarding to see them run, walk, fly and slither into the bush.
Following the releases, we go back on the river this time in a motorboat with Marisio and Carol, the owners of the Refugo, as our guides. We went a bit faster than Jeff's and my paddle speed, and were able to cover quite a bit more of the property, and consequently, saw an incredible number of species: birds flew overhead as if they were in endless supply, and we even caught site of a caiman or two. The two animals we really wanted to see however, still eluded us: Jeff's "anta" (tapir) and my "tamamduá bandeira" (giant anteater).
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