The canoe berthed longitudinally to the shore. We said goodbye, thanked the canoe driver and disembarked one after another left.

Two male volunteers made their way up to the volunteers’ house. I followed a girl – the third volunteer with whom I arrived. Her friends greeted her cheerfully and she started speaking in French and Spanish with them. I stood there clueless about what I supposed to do.

“Should I… go somewhere?” I asked the girl. I didn’t want to interrupt her conversation, but on the other hand, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

“Yes. We will go upstairs for the introduction first” she turned to me with a kind smile on her face. She spoke softly and appeared to be a friendly person. I smiled back.

“Can I dumb it somewhere before we go? I don’t want to carry this around… if possible…” I twisted a little to show my backpack hanging on my shoulder. Then I looked at her in silence trying to dig her name out of my memory. Although she introduced herself when we met at the bus terminal, I forgot all the names right after hearing them. The truth was that I didn’t even try to memorize the names.

I felt very awkward asking her again, so I promised myself to pay more attention to things like people’s names.

“I’m sorry. I forgot your name…” I murmured smiling apologetically.

“That’s okay. Jasmine” she touched her chest as she spoke her name. “You can go up there” she pointed on one of two wooden houses connected with a little bridge. “Climb the stairs and go to the right.” She instructed me. I started walking slowly. “You’ll be sharing a room with another girl. I’ll show you.” She followed me up and joined me in a shared room.

The common room wasn’t significant. There’re a low table and two benches, one in front of the table, another – against the wall opposite the entrance door. In between these benches was a shelving unit with some random stuff on it. Above the second bench, the one facing the main door was a bookshelf with various books in English, Spanish, German and French, and some dictionaries.

In the house were also three bedrooms and stairs leading up to a hanging laundry area and two other rooms.

All of the rooms were occupied. The first bedroom on the first floor (there were also two rooms accessible from the ground level) was a single one who belonged to a guy – a vet intern, second was mine and some other girl, and third – a long-term volunteer. I put my stuff on a free bed in the new-place-to-sleep-in and followed my guide outside.

We climbed a dozen flights of stairs up to the office where Jasmine gave me a brief presentation about the center and its rules.

A few days later I’ve received another introduction from a biologist working in the center. I learned as well as many valuable things during my stay.

The mission, rules, and dreams

amaZOOnico is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which means in brief that the primary source of income is donations. The organization, however, is allowed to charge visitors an entrance fee (in my opinion too small as one tour can take up to 1,5h which means that the volunteer who guides the tour cannot work in this particular moment, plus the center really need money as they do wonderful things and could do more if had more possibilities) because of being a (ideally temporary) shelter for animals brought by literally everyone.

“Our dream is that we, and other rescue centers like ours, won’t exist,” said the biologists of the center. I chuckled but understood the idea. If people comprehend how important it is to let the wild animals remain in their natural habitats living there freely, fulfilling their mission, doing the important job assigned to them by nature, the existence of rescue centers will be redundant.

Meanwhile, the mission of amaZOOnico is to release as many animals as possible to ecological or environmental areas of their kind. In the case of animals successfully rehabilitated although not qualified to be released to their natural habitats, they get a chance to start new lives in a protected area called “Selva Viva”. Unreleasable animals stay in the rescue center living their life in maxim comfort and dignity that can be provided.

Another important goal is to educate people. That’s why tourists are allowed in the center where can gain the knowledge about harmful effects of animals trafficking, keeping animals in captivity, using them as tourist attractions or even making souvenirs out of them, impact on the ecosystem, as well as learn about different kinds of animals and hear their stories.

In general, it’s straightforward. Let’s take a free-living monkey as an example…

A monkey wanders in the jungle jumping from one tree to another. From time to time the monkey eats fruits, throw them at other animals for fun (just kidding), defecate, spread seeds, fertilize the soil, plant trees, trees grow, produce oxygen, give live… we can breathe.

To be continued


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