Trip Start Apr 03, 2003
16Trip End Oct 01, 2003
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We turned up to this small village and were given a tour of the entire park before they allocated a job for us. Along with many kinds of monkeys, they also looked after birds, weasels, tejons, pumas, jaguars, ocelots among others. I had already met and fallen in love with a titi monkey in the quarantine area and had my fingers crossed to get that job, and luckily they did! I had finally got myself a monkey
So now I was the chief caretaker of Shula, the titi monkey and was also there to help out the other quarantine guy, Iain with the other 14 monkeys in the quarantine area, the area of the park that all monkeys had to spend at least a month in before being released into the general monkey park with the other monkeys.
My day consisted of letting the monkeys out of their sleeping cages, feeding them, giving them some good old fashioned monkey lovinī and of course being shat and pissed on at least 5 times a day (although my record was 15 times in one day - niiiiice). As the monkeys in our care werent allowed to roam around as much as the other ones we had to make sure that we spent lots of time with them keeping them occupied, which basically meant cuddling them, feeding them bananas, letting them hang off ourselves and occasionally bite the shit out of various parts of our bodies (I am covered in monkey bites!)
One of the spider monkeys there, Ava, had had a miscarriage and was very ill, so I had to spend hours with her lying in the shade, with her cuddled up on my lap as you would with a sick child. It was heartbreaking as not only was she ill, but she was depressed from losing her baby, so she wouldnt do anything other than mope and constantly cling onto me for cuddles
My Shula was the best monkey in the whole park and everybody loved her. She was only tiny and the other cappuchin monkeys would pick on her so I carried her everywhere on my neck. We also had another baby cappuchin monkey, Ramon, who was very clingy and would sit clinging onto my forearm for hours. He was also a vicious little beast when it came to bed time and would climb up onto my neck and dig his little paws in and bite the back of my neck so I couldnt pull him off me. One day he got me so bad I actually cried!
Along with all the cool monkeys in the park we were able to walk the pumas in the jungle. I spent one day with Roy, an 8 month old puma, who was just amazing. He wasnt tame so I had to keep my distance and only had one scrape when he lunged at my leg and bit my calf, only gently but enough to give me the shits! When he decided that he wanted to have a laydown on the trail instead of walking I was made to act as live bait to get him moving, which basically involved me walking ahead of him and Renata (the handler), making lots of noise then stopping to look back at them as if I was being hunted, which resulted in him stalking me through the bushes and occasionally making a run for me! Luckily Renata had a good hold of his leash so he couldnt reach me, but I have to say it was rather unnerving to be bait for a puma which could have eaten me if he had wanted to
Not only were the animals cool, but we met some amazing people too. I shared a room with an Israeli guy, Yuval, who was brilliant and we ended up having lots of drunken nights out with him and his mates, and our room ended up being the party room. Me and a few of the other kiwis staying there also put on a pub quiz night to raise money for some new monkey cages which also resulted in a drunken party. As Im sure you can imagine, getting up at 7am to deal with monkey shit every morning after partying till 4am isnt easy, but of course it had to be done and it was all good fun.
It was so hard to leave and the last 2 weeks have definitely been one of the highlights of my trip so far. I miss my monkeys already and hope to go back one day to see how they are all doing. Ive attached some pics for you to look at!