Friday 19 January 2024


Get ready for a post with wildlife, fun and the Amazon! We are in the Amazonia region, heading for AmaZOOnico, a refuge where they care for wild animals bought or sold in the illegal trade and confiscated by the Ministry for Environment, or, brought into the refuge by their owners!  And in case you were wondering, the 'zoo' in the name stands for zoology, not for zoo 

But to get there, we needed to get a boat down the Rio Arajuno (a tributary of the Amazon)!  Our boat was a motorized canoe, simple with a shade and benches, but our driver was somewhat unusual.  He was good at steering the boat and he was strong. But the reason this is impressive was that he was only twelve! 

When we reached our destination, we were given a tour around the refuge by a volunteer. We were shown several animals, such as toucans, turtles, Amazonian parakeets, spider monkeys, tapirs, peccaries, turtles and even an anaconda, but my favourite animals were the two baby spider monkeys! 

Basically these baby spider monkeys (Otto and Lucy) have been kept as pets from a very young age. Otto is 6 months old and has been in the refuge from when he was 2 months, and Lucy is 1 year old and has been in the refuge since she was 6 months old. Spider monkeys are very close to their mothers and stay near them until the age of 2. But when the refuge workers put a female spider monkey without babies in their cage and she showed a lot of interest in them, Otto and Lucy simply would not cooperate, almost like they couldn't understand what this other monkey was doing in their cage. Now the refuge workers say that Otto and Lucy are happy to play together in a cage of their own, and to learn from each other!

Talking about tree climbers, here is another animal with a sad story that lives in the trees: Kevin, the toucan. Kevin is a young toucan brought into AmaZOOnico after being rescued from a village because the tree her nest was in had been cut down. It is also sad that some children were throwing her into the air to see if she could fly. I know you are probably wondering how is it that she's called Kevin? Apparently, staff at AmaZOOnico named her before figuring out that Kevin is a 'she'! Oh well...we do live in modern times!

Not Johan but a different
spider monkey we saw nearby
And now for the escape artist: Johan, the spider monkey! Johan is a spider monkey with a brain unlike any other. He has been in AmaZOOnico since the refuge was founded (1993) and he knows how to plan an escape! Over the last 31 years, he has escaped seven times, and, though he is in a cage (or behind bars), he is currently the leader of a wild spider monkey group!! I thought this is definitely impressive, although a bit sad. The refuge staff hope that one of the new baby spider monkeys from the wild group will be a male and more dominant than Johan so that the group can move on.

I was so impressed by the work AmaZOOnico does. It's all based on volunteers who have saved and treated around 3500 animals since the refuge was founded. But of those, a whopping 1500 animals have been released back into the wild. It is definitely one of the biggest animal rescues in Ecuador, and I am so glad that the first place we visited in the Amazon was here!

If you would like to read more about AmaZOOnico, you can check their website

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