When the need came to help the wild animals of the Rainforest, Vicky Ossio and Marcelo Levy answered the call. Several years later they operate a first-rate sanctuary that rescues animals from illegal trafficking.
The green path or “Senda Verde” is filled with the sights and sounds of many exotic and endangered wild animals that have been rescued from illegal trafficking. The beautiful animal safe-haven is located in Bolivia, South America and cares for over 400 animals in a natural jungle environment. The animals are lovingly cared for by founders Marcelo and his wife Vicky, along with a handful of passionate International Volunteers.
A Peaceful Paradise
In the hot early morning you are awaken by Macaws and a vast array of exotic jungle sounds. Soon, Black Spider Monkeys with long lanky arms swing freely amongst the trees and cling to volunteers in casual fashion. As night time falls night you are soothed by the gentle rapids of the Corioco river which runs through the 12 hectare property, a perfect setting to connect with nature.
It all started back in 1994 when people started dropping off injured animals to them, 3 hours from the nearest city La Paz. “We never intended to have an animal refuge” says Vicky, “It started with one monkey and a few parrots and grew very fast.” People, hikers, campers and travelers dropping by noticed they were struggling trying to care for the animals. That’s how it all started, by word of mouth. “People started showing up out of the blue to offer their help.” We felt very lucky, and now we have an excellent volunteer program which actually funds the feeding and general care of the animals. Volunteers now arrive from all over the world to work closely with all creatures, cleaning enclosures, feeding and bonding with them.
Anneke Vedelaar 35 from Holland has a great passion for nature, it’s in her soul. “You have to have patience in a developing country, doing things can be very difficult and out of your control - so you must get creative.” she says. Her Advice for people who want to help animals “Go for it, Don’t wait, everyone benefits”
All volunteers agree that the hardest part of their experience at LSV is leaving, but many return numerous times once they are “bitten by the bug” explains Anneke.
GENTLE GIANT Aruma a 6 year old Male Andean Bear cools off in his pool. Aruma means night in Aymara language. Andean bears are very solitary which means they like to roam forests alone. The endangered bears are often recognized for their unique masks around their eyes.
LSV’s focus is now on Educational Tourism, bringing in school tours and teaching children how delicate the ecosystem is and for them to bring valuable conservation information to their parents.
In busy Bolivian cities there is no relationship with nature, and no infrastructure for rescuing animals. As an independent refuge LSV depends on private donations and tourists from nearby attractions.
Their visitors always leave with an excellent experience as they get to know and understand the animals up-close.
The Fun Never Ends
The monkeys sometimes team up with the Macaws using stones or anything they can find to try to open the locks on doors. “They are just so smart and curious. The monkeys are so intelligent, says Vicky, “that they can sense your emotions. When they see you are sad they will give you a big hug, and you’ll instantly feel better.”
Best Friends ForeverKyle MacSuibhne from Ireland is a Biologist who likes to integrate new Capuchin monkeys into the growing family. They are named after the unique Cap on the top of their heads. "It's like a ballet in the woods" says Kyle, "every monkey has it's own jumping style, it makes you laugh everyday."
The sad part is that most trafficked animals cannot be released back into the wilderness. Vicky says the solution to animal trafficking is education and “no more animal refuges, we need to fight the illegal trading at the source and educate kids that these animals belong in the wild, and not as pets.”
“It’s a severe problem everywhere in the world.” she adds.
“We don’t want kids to take nature for granted anymore and we hope they discover a new appreciation of the wilderness.”