QUEST BLOG EPISODE 2 – PAMPAS & AMBUE ARI
(Edited by Ewen, with interjections from Will, Dan and Beth)
Dan ‘Black Kaimaan’ Stewart
Dean ‘Danger’ Walker
Callum ‘Wanker of the day’ Ray
William ‘dem ma buddafly’ Page
Beth ‘Porridge’ Ecroyd
Emma ‘Thongs’ Mulrooney
Ewen ‘Yuka’ Trafford
Pedro ‘Peaches’ Coates
From Jacj Cuisi we moved out to Rurrenabaque, and then onto the Pampas tour. We pulled up at the riverbank and went by boat to the lodges. The conditions were comparatively luxurious compared to what we’d experienced; big clean roomsand real matresses (Will: “and Disney duvets!”). We went out on the river to see the local wildlife, including Cayman (Dan: “Black Kaimaan”), Pink River Dolphins and Squirrel Monkeys (Will: “mono flaco!”).
We then began a second long bus journey to Parque Ambue Ari. While not as arduous as the first journey, it still took us a while, but we made it to Ambue on Saturday 21st. Arriving in the dark, we couldn’t see much of the camp at first, but we got the morning tour. The atmosphere was quite different from JC, far more people and more animals around the camp (Beth: “I felt like Dr. Doolittle!”). We all got assigned to our animals and began working the next day.
Beth: Vanesso (Ocelot)
When people in the park started asking me which cat I would be working with, they laughed at me because he was apparently crazy. How wrong they could be about Vanesso, A.K.A. The Little Prince who is a male Ocelot. I’m not going to lie he does have his moments and a few tantrums but he is an amazing cat to work with. Vanesso is beautiful and has little man syndrome but has an absolutely amazing personality. No day with the little man is ever the same and he certainly keeps me on my toes but he is a pleasure to work with.
In the evenings I get the pleasure of spending an hour with the parks night monkeys. All of them have such unique personalities but they are all so chilled out. They sit on your head and come for kisses; they are so adorable.
Will: Mariano (Jeffrey’s Cat) and Juancho (Jaguar)
Arrived in Ambue late at night, after a short (in terms of Bolivian) bus journey. We said goodbye to Crispo but hello to Devin. Originally I got put on quarantine but I was ‘that guy’ and asked Gill if I could change. I then got put onto Mariano the adorable Jeffrey’s cat. A cat with a big heart and an even bigger ego, he will take on things even the bravest jag/puma would never dream of. Mariano enjoys giving affection in his own…special way and eating regurgitated reptiles/amphibians. He has an amazing character and I am so pleased I got assigned to him!
Juancho chancho the jag! He is almost the opposite to Mariano. He lives in a large enclosure but doesn’t get walked. He is not used to guys so at the moment he isn’t loving my company! He does come over for affection but he also loves his pacing. In the zoo he got rescued from when he got paint in his eye, so twice a week I need to squirt him in the eye with purple medication. This will make him love me even more! He is a real beauty and I hope he feels more comfortable with me…or it will continue to be a love/hate relationship. The park is such a friendly place, I really can understand why people come back/extend their stay. It has been a once in a life time experience.
Emma: Elsa (puma), OB (ocelot)
In my last 2 weeks at Ambue Ari I have been lucky enough to have responsibility for two lovely cats; a puma called Elsa, and an Ocelot, OB. Elsa was the first that I was introduced to and quickly became the highlight of my days. Although walking her was scary at first (especially when she would decide that I looked like a fun scratching post) we got used to each other pretty quickly. She is quite a nervous cat and often gets agitated while out walking. Learning to deal with her anxiety has been one of the harder challenges to overcome, and yet one of the most satisfying. Elsa is just a big sweetheart who loves having lots of scratches under her chin.
OB on the other hand is one of the oldest ocelots in the park and can be a bit of a cranky granny at times. Both cats are lovely and it goes without saying that it has been an experience I’ll never forget.
Dean: Inti, Wara & Yassi (3 pumas)
After arriving in Ambue Ari, i got assigned to Inti, Wara & Yassi, 3 puma sisters who have been together since they were cubs. Going to meet them for the first time was quite a scary experience, we walked straight into the enclosure and sat down on a log in the centre with 3 pumas running around chasing each other! I soon found out however that they were all greatly affectionate, and wouldn’t purposely harm me at all; they would all rather just rub their bodies on me, and have a fondness of going between my legs.
Walking with 3 different pumas provides its challenges, and I soon discovered they all have very different personalities, and also that trying to hold a puma back when they’ve seen a chancho (wild pig) is hard work. I also discovered that the noise of a puma on heat can become incredibly irritating when you’ve listened to it for 5 hours. I’ve had a great time with the sisters and love them all so much; I couldn’t be happier that I’ve had the chance to work with these 3 amazing animals.
Ewen: Lazy Cat (Ocelot) & House Animals
Working with Lazy has been one of the best experiences of my life. Despite her name, she does do things other than sleeping! Once she gets to know you, she’s super affectionate. She jumps on your lap and licks your arm and bites out your arm hair; which is something you get used to after a while. Getting her on trail can be quite tough, but a good challenge. She’s a natural hunter, and on 3 occasions I’ve had to remove dead animals from her cage. Even on a bad day she’s a pretty laid back cat and I’ve really enjoyed my time working with her, and hopefully one day I can again!
In the afternoons I also looked after the house animals, which included Tejones, Tapirs, Parrots, Toucans and more! This was perfect, because it meant that I got to spend time with a lot more of the different animals from South America. Feeding Tony the baby tapir his milk was a particular highlight
Dan: Monkeys, Tupac (Puma) & Gordo (Parrot)
As soon I arrived at Ambue Ari, I was told I would be working with the monkeys in the mornings and a puma called Tupac in the afternoons. I also spent some of my time working with the house animals in which I gained a new special friend (Gordo the Parrot). Working with the monkeys was a great experience. The 3 howler monkeys have the chance to be released into the wild, so my time with them was spent providing enrichment in the form of interesting and challenging feeding times; for example, hiding food in the ends of hanging bamboo.
Working with Tupac was also a brilliant experience and was not a straightforward task. Tupac is partially blind and requires a lot of patience and hard work. He is very nervous which makes him jumpy, meaning he needs a good balance between reassurance and a firm hand. Overall, my time at Ambue was challenging yet rewarding and I would recommend it to anyone.
Callum: Roy (Puma)
When I arrived at the park I was a bit worried about the animal I would be looking after. After being shown around and some allocation decisions I found out I would be working with a puma called Roy or ‘the machine’. He walks up to 20km a day with few stops. This appealed to me as I didn’t want to wait around in the jungle everyday waiting for the cat to move. Also there are fewer mosquitos while walking. Roy was a great cat to work with. His unpredictable nature was interesting; always keeping you ready for a run or a rare jump. His jumps were not necessarily friendly but playful and he doesn’t get his claws out. The time before I witnessed the first jump was scarier than the jump. It is easily avoidable.
My favourite moments were hand feeding him his medicine in mince balls. He was like a little puppy in his cage when my hand went through the fence. Scary though. It’s nice to understand your cat as they are all different, a few people have said that it is crazy to hand feed a puma, as their cat wouldn’t be that friendly. Sadly Roy’s shoulder was a bit painful and we had to make decisions on what would be best for him. After a short stay you can still make a difference with them, because they need you. Roy would stop to make sure you are still there, and he would stop swimming to check you haven’t left him.
Fun Ambue Facts:
•Pios (ostriches) disprove the theory of Natural Selection.
•Dean caused a Puma to go into heat, and then carried her home; true gentlemanly conduct.
•Having Gordo on your shoulder is as much a curse as it is a blessing.
•Dan has experienced the Chunder Dragon.
•Lucas the escaped squirrel monkey is indeed a “mono descarado” by terrorising all of the other house animals.
•Mariano sucks Will’s…….. T-shirt