After a full week at Panthera, I have to say, I’m more impressed than ever by the plight to save the rain forest. The sanctuary certainly has an uphill battle against greed and selfishness to protect some of the most amazing species this world offers. Also it’s really hot here and I’ve not been dry all week.
I’ve found there are 3 things you have to come to terms with when living in the jungle (aside from heat and humidity):
- Things are going to poke you
- Things are going to bite you
- Your feet will never ever be clean
Panthera’s main mission is to nourish, maintain, and protect this piece of forest to allow for all Amazonian species to thrive – creating a very biodiverse environment. There is a lot of work that goes into this endeavor. One important activity involves adding salt to rich locations to provide more nutrients to the many animals who feed around them. This also helps to attract many more species to the protected lands.
We also monitor what’s going on with game cameras at all corners of the reserve. All of this requires lots of hiking through the hot jungle and in near knee deep mud for miles. At times I think I’m going to die, but when I don’t, I know it’s been worth it.
One day this week Wilson, Pierre’s father-in-law, took some volunteers out to teach us survival techniques in the jungle. Wilson is a tough old Peruvian man of few words. But those are the words you listen to! I choose Wilson to be my partner in any survival game show. Ever.
(Hunkered down under the lean-to shelter we created. I’m so ready for a survival show!)
Pierre has a personal mission of herpatology conservation and we will often go out at night to catch snakes and frogs to identify them and check to ensure they are healthy before releasing. These activities are important to ensure the biodiversity is growing in Panthera.
One night Pierre and some other volunteers went out to the lake (5miles round trip!) and brought back a baby black Cayman. Black Cayman are very rare and only present a few places in the world. They were over hunted for handbags for many years. And now they’re facing extinction. We suspect she is about 2 but she is not as big as she should be. The goal is to get her to eat and see if she’ll grow before returning her to the wild. She’s lovely.
There are lots of animals at the sanctuary who cannot be released. These are animals that were taken in from smugglers or other poor situations. These include 4 monkeys, 2 coati, and some birds. But they are well cared for and get to spend their time living in a mostly natural environment.
It’s not easy out here in the forest. Pierre and Milena do this because they care. They make no money and work so hard. He turns down many lucrative offers from surrounding “resorts” who want to send their clients on “wild adventures” because he knows this is not an exhibition and he is not in business. He is in conservation.