Thanks this time to Aaron – AKA Mohawk Bro
Arriving in Ambue Ari was one of the most nervous experiences of my life but exciting at the same time. For the past three weeks of the trip, everyone on the trip had been discussing which animals we wanted to work with and which animals we might get. Once we arrived in Ambue Ari we got ourselves settled in to our dorms and got our tour of the park. Each and everyone of us tried to contain our excitement about being given our new animal partners for the next three weeks.
After the tour, we found out that we would have to wait until the morning until we would be told which animal we would be working with be working with! We headed in for dinner and had some delicious cake, which was made in honor of Christian, one of the long term volunteers, who was leaving the next day. After dinner we all headed to bed, filled with excitement about what would be revealed the next day. We awoke bright and early for 7am and headed of to meet Chris and Karen in the office, two by two, thus prolonging the wait even more. Of course I was made to wait until the very end and was so nervous that I wasn’t going to get to work with a puma. However, when it finally came round to my turn, I was partnered with… WAYRA!! She is known as the park princess and she is the most stunningly beautiful puma! I was absolutely delighted that I was working with a puma and I could not wait until I got to work with her.
Before we got to work with our cats, we had to go through orientation with Gill, the park coordinator. During this session she explained the history of the park, what we would be doing during our stay and all the nitty gritty of the rules and regulations. Then we got to read our cats files which were packed full of information. The more and more I read about Wayra, the more nervous I got that she was going to be a difficult cat to work with but I trusted that Karen wouldn’t have partnered me with a cat that I couldn’t handle. As I was reading Wayras file, Gill approached me and said that Sean, the guy who was training me wanted me to go out with him to Wayra ASAP! I read as much as I could in the next hour and went out to meet Wayra, along with my new cat partner, Virginia. As I walked out to her I was so nervous, wondering how she would react to me. When I first saw her I was absolutely amazed. She was sitting on her top platform in her cage, paws crossed and making a very low growling noise, which was apparently completely normal for her. Then she jumped down in the most silent and agile fashion and brushed up against her cage looking for some affection. We obliged and as soon as I started to stroke her she began to purr which was so cool! The rest of the day was spent learning as much as I could from Sean and Virginia while we were taking wayra for a walk.
She almost swam with us too after both Sean and I got in her Lagoon. I decided that, because she hadn’t swam for almost a year, I was going to make it my personal goal to get her swimming again before I left. Even after the first day was all done and dusted, I knew that I was going to absolutely love it here! Fortunately´for me, because Wayra was an early morning cat, I was left out of the weekly and daily tasks! This meant I never had to clean the toilets and showers or brush the patios, which was such an advantage!
For the first few days, I tried both morning and afternoon to get Wayra to swim with me, Unfortunately I was unsuccessful but there were some very close calls! Then, exactly one week after I started working with her it happened… I swam with a puma! I cannot describe how amazing it felt to be swimming with her, It has been the best experience of my life without a doubt! We even got praised at the following mornings announcements for our hard work in getting her to swim.
Saturdays in the park were very, very good days. In the morning we would be given a task that would take a couple of hours to complete, such as clearing out the drains or clean the cafe after the amazing friday night parties! Then we would feed our cats and we would have the rest of the afternoon off! This meant that it was time for the Laguna! Here we would spend the day diving, having a few beers and sharing a few laughs. The best part? No mosquitoes! We would then have a barbecue for dinner. Overall, Saturdays provided us with a well deserved rest after such a hard weeks work.
On one of the Friday nights we had an auction for Rupi, one of the Jaguars in the park, We raised so much money for his new cage by auctioning off ourselves as slaves for the day, ownership of our hair and even the chance to meet Ru. I was one of those lucky people! Ru is a caged Jaguar that lives on the park and he is a phenomenal creature! He has loads of personality and is so friendly and has incredible strength. It was definitely worth winning the auction to meet him. Over the three weeks that I was there, despite it feeling like three days, I completely fell in love with Wayra and the way of life out here. I have met some amazing people, had incredible experiences and made some great friends that I hope to meet again some day! I was made to feel right at home in the park and had an amazing time. I have already made the decision that I want to return next year for a longer period of time so that I can strengthen my relationship with Wayra and maybe even work with more of the cats! I personally found leaving the park hard to do and I would have loved to stay for a lot longer but for now, it’s adios Parque Ambue Ari.