Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

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Life in the Nursery.....Jo


I’m lying sprawled out on the nursery floor watching the baby howler monkeys bouncing on the perches and swinging of the ropes above my head. Jessie - fondly known to the nursery staff as Queen Kong - climbs on top of me and starts to intensely study my face (I’m sure she’s thinking ‘What a strange hairless white lanky monkey you are!”). After a while, she gets bored and sleepy, and her eyes start to roll back in her head. But as they do she goes cross-eyed and tries to fight it…and I’m fighting the urge to burst out laughing at her! These are the special moments, the ones that make the early starts, the exhaustion, the sunburns, and the bug bites all worthwhile.

Three months ago I arrived at Wildtracks for a one month placement, bright eyed and bushy tailed. A waitress by trade, a bit of a drifter, and without any previous volunteering or animal care experience. I arrived just a few weeks before my 30th birthday armed solely with enthusiasm and a love for all gods’ creatures (except maybe scorpions, of which I have now encountered two!). I expected to be scrubbing manatee pools and cleaning up monkey excrement but in a whirlwind four weeks I found myself involved in an array of jobs that keep places like Wildtracks ticking over; bottle-feeding baby deer, swimming with manatees, feeding (and being attacked by) the curassow and helping care for Kenya, one of the baby howlers, who was in quarantine at the time. Then there were the slew of maintenance jobs; gathering fruit and browse for the feeds, cleaning sea grass, gardening, watering, and the washing of dishes. My 30th birthday? That was spent with my workmates dancing "The Wobble" in a dingy little Sartaneja bar! And so that was it. A month gone in the blink of an eye.

And as my boyfriend flew from the UK to Cancun ready to meet me to start our 3 year trip around the world, I found myself more and more attached to little Kenya and really not that ready to leave. But all the flights were booked; Miami, Cuba and Jamaica were waiting. Luckily it didn’t take much at all to convince him that a one-month pit stop, to care for some endangered animals, was just the ticket.

And so as we returned a few months later I watched him go through all the emotions I’d gone through in my first four weeks. From shell-shocked and unsure in the first week, to tired and irritable in the second, to confident and comfortable in the third. And as we sat before bedtime on the step to our bunkhouse, with a mosquito coil at our feet and the torchlight shining out into the jungle, we’d moan about the weather (well, we are British after all!), the bugs, the sunburn, the scrapes, the bruises and the monkey bites. But we’d also talk about our monkeys and those magical little moments that made that long and exhausting day worth it, and it was then that we’d realize that we were on the same page. He finally understood what I’d been gibbering on about when I came to meet him in Cancun just a few months previously.

And what was it like for me returning for the second time? Well, I was lucky enough to do the one job Wildtrackers dream about. I spent my days up in the nursery caring for the babies. I fed them and cleaned them. I comforted them when they were anxious, encouraged them when they were unsure, and cheered them up when they were sad. And I got to be involved in little Kenya’s integration sessions with the rest of the babies. Her new family, her troop, "The A-Team"!

And for my 40th birthday? I might return to that little bar to dance "The Wobble" again and search for a glimpse of The A-team in the Belizean jungle. And maybe Queen Kong will have popped out a few little konglets, and maybe we’ll have finally stopped destroying the planet, and maybe animals around the world will no longer be endangered and places like Wildtracks will no longer need to exist. We can but hope, right?


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-06-15 09:25:50   [Link to this article]

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