Returning to Wildtracks - contributed by Justin
Hi I'm Justin, a return volunteer here at Wildtracks.
The first time I left Wildtracks was back in February of 2012. However, it seemed that Wildtracks had never left me. The time I spent at Wildtracks had had a profound impact on me. It caused me to re-evaluate my relationship with the world around me and to contemplate past and future life decisions. Having returned to Canada, memories of my experience resurfaced constantly. I particularly remember watching the squirrels in the trees during breaks at work and imagining they were monkeys in the canopy. That may seem childish to some, but I'm sure any lover of wild things can understand. I tried to think of ways to continue contributing to Wildtracks from home. This led me to writing my children's book fundraising project called "Twiggy the Manatee". It is the story of a manatee calf that was rescued, rehabilitated at Wildtracks, and returned to the wild. Needless to say, I almost immediately started to look forward to my eventual return to the centre.
The day came exactly 2 years later. Having stayed up-to-date with what was happening at Wildtracks, I knew that my experience would be considerably different, and I was anxious to see how things had changed.
The Wildtracks experience is a very important one for many people. This can be demonstrated by the large number of volunteers who return to the centre. Presently, 3 of us are here for a second time, and a few others have extended their stays. It's great to sit around, reminisce and share anecdotes from all of our past visits. Doing this also allows us to see how things have changed over the years.
I for one was blown away by the progress and expansion that has occurred since my last visit. In a span of two years, the resident monkey population has grown from 13 to 40, with many others having been successfully released in the meantime. The monkey cages have become larger and more complex, and the monkeys are continuously stimulated with different enrichment games and obstacles. The manatee pools have also been upgraded with heating mechanisms and lifting pulleys.
Undoubtedly, the growing number of animals demands a greater number of volunteers to care for them. We are now 16 volunteers, compared to the 8 that were here at my last visit. Organizing and delegating responsibilities to so many people is successfully accomplished by two hard-working volunteer managers, Afrin and Matt, who make sure everything runs smoothly.
It has been mind-blowing and emotional for me to see monkeys like Little Pea, who once fit in the palm of my hand, now exploring the canopy of tall trees in one of the two large pre-release enclosures. It has also been great to see Duke again, doing well, and still striving to get better. It has been extremely interesting to see how the repertoire of species has diversified, now including margays and a capuchin monkey, among others.
As I sit here writing this blog, taking in the salty air blowing off of the lagoon, I find it difficult to come to terms with my departure in the coming days. To many, Wildtracks is a sort of sanctuary from the outside world. It is a place where you are surrounded by like-minded people who share a common passion. I know that once again, nostalgic memories will continue to resurface in my mind for quite a while. But I also know that this second experience will serve as a motivator to continue conservation efforts from home, and new projects have already began sprouting. I already look forward to one day returning and making new friendships and caring for other animals. Not unlike this time, it will surely be different, but an amazing adventure none-the-less.
Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-02-09 07:46:28 [Link to this article]
Check out the latest articles in the blog!