After our amazing trip on the Amazon river we spent a few days in Iquitos and we visited the animal sanctuaries and parks.
My favourite had to be the Manatee sanctuary. These beautiful mammals are high on the endangered list. This sanctuary rehabilitates them and then releases them back into the Amazon. It is the only sanctuary in the world where you can really get up close and personal with a manatee. I am quite embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t even know that there was an animal called a manatee before this trip. They are really beautiful and look something like a cross between a seal and a hippo. They have two flippers and a body that tapers down into a tail. They use the flippers like hands to help them eat huge quantities of plant material (80kg of Amazon ‘lettuce’, ubiquitos surface plant) and they play an important job in keeping the equilibrium of plant material to open water in the Amazon. Their faces are gorgeous and we had the opportunity to feed them which was quite something.
Their heads and faces are wrinkled and their snouts are covered in white whiskers and when they et from your hands the whiskers brush up against your skin. They are so graceful in the water but are actually quite slow which has lead them to become endangered as they are very easy prey for hungry locals. I could really relate to them as most of their time is spent eating and resting which is a pretty good way to spend time ;). Despite their seemingly sedate life, they are enormously powerful. One of the volunteers from the centre was telling us that they needed 8 men to hold an adult manatee while drawing blood! (I’m not quite sure why theyneeded the blood or where they rew it from but that I suppose is beside the point) These beasts grow up to 3m in length and weigh over 300kg!. They have a gestational period of about a year, their babies suckle for 2 years so they can only have one baby in threee years. I guess us hmans could learn someting fom this!!!!
The next stop was the butterfly and animal sanctuary. Being able to actually see the life cycle of butterflies all in one place was such a learning opportunity. The different colours were inspiring. Andrew, Pat and Doug did a great j of understanding our spaish uide. I slid along at the back taking photographs.
I am quite glad we only went to the fish park after our trip on the Amazon otherwise I would have been terrified. There are massive fish native fish called paische which grow up to 5m in length and weigh almost 500kg! Their mouths are HUGE!!!!! If I had seen them for the first time while in one of our canoeing trips I probably would have had a heart attack on the spot. They almost looked like large snakes when you look at them under the water.
Monkey island was also an eye-opener. Here we got to see sloths up close.
The sloth took a real liking to Doug… must have kindred spirits. Doug also got up and close and personal to a monkey and they were definately checking each other out…..Pat you might have to watch out for this one…..
I got attacked by a very excitable brown capuchian monkey who couldn’t stop giving me little love bites all over my neck and arms. Had to keep my face protected or who knows what he would have tried to do.
Quite an interresting experience having a large monkey covering your head while you are trying to walk along a narrow wooden bridge. Doug and Andrew were extremely brave and had a large anaconda draped over their shoulders. We thought that it must really have liked Doug as it left some snake business all over his pants!
We also saw a “prehistoric” turtle, large camon and turtles.
All the sanctuaries we visited were either rehab centres or enclosures where rescued animals were kept away from the evils of captivity. Bar the sadness of seeing magnificent creatures in cages, we had the opportunity coming face to face with real native Amazon animals. The most striking species were the Ocelot, Coati and Jaguar. The Ocelot is a smaller version of a leopard – beautifully fine facial features with striking black markings on a pale yellow coat. The jaguar was the golden in colour and resembled a more robust version of our leopard. A very heavily set cat with powerful jaws and similarly patterned coat.
The coati is a cute little beasty not much bigger than a badger. Similar to an ant-eater with a very long snoat, these guys however have a fur coat. They also have long claws and an inquisitive personality.
Having seen the animals after our trip into the Amazon itself was most rewarding. We were able to appreciate just how difficult it is to see them in the wild and more to the point, how endangered they are. This, together with watching massive barges coming up river filled with massive felled trees left a nasty feeling in one’s gut about how we as the human race, are destroying our environment.