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From the Field, General

Chocolate Wafers Cure All: Peru Week 11

January 14th 2024

If I’m walking behind everyone else on a night walk, I sometimes feel a little on edge. It’s dark. A chorus of mysterious clicks, croaks and squeaks sound out around us and I can feel the wings of moths brushing past my face. The trees rustle but there seems to be nothing there. I imagine something suddenly emerging from the shadows behind me and pouncing.

Amazon Pumpkin Carving

Carving pumpkins in the amazonVolunteer in Peru | WorkingAbroad

As there wasn’t enough solar left to power all of the lights, Maria and I got ready in the light from our head torches. Maria attempted to recreate the look Vicente had sported when he wore a t-shirt on his head, to stop the sweat bees from crawling into his ears as he climbed a tree.

Despite the heat, Maria donned Vicente’s climbing helmet for the duration of dinner and even painted stubble on her face. As for me, I copied Clara’s classic baggy shirt look, drew her tequila bottle tattoo on my leg and fashioned a nose ring out of a paperclip. We even changed our lock screens to match theirs. I think we did a pretty good job, but see for yourself!

Halloween at the research station was a fun-filled affair with pumpkin carving, pumpkin pasta and pumpkin pie. Some people went all out with the dressing up, and by some people, I mean Maria and I. We’d been planning our costumes for days. So when we came to dinner dressed as the research coordinators, Clara and Vicente, people were in fits of laughter.

Those pumpkins in the photo, we carved for the animals in the rescue centre. As a form of enrichment for the cats, meat was placed inside the pumpkin and they were to rip the pumpkin apart to reach the meat. Making it more difficult for a captive animal to obtain its food like this brings it a step closer to what it will be like for the animal to catch food when it is returned to the wild.

Problems in Lucerna and Puppy Rescue!

Since we’re on the topic of Halloween, here’s a horror story for you. Do you remember those puppies we vaccinated in Lucerna a few weeks ago? Some of them fell ill and the owner threw them in the river.

Rescued Puppy in PeruVolunteer in Peru | WorkingAbroadUnfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence in this area. Sam is working towards getting all the dogs in Lucerna neutered and spayed to prevent puppies from being brought into a world where people aren’t able to care for them properly. Hoja Nueva also have a dog rescue centre, for all the stray dogs in the area. Sometimes they have to turn dogs away because they don’t have enough resources to care for them all.

The woman who threw the puppies in the river owns the shop in Lucerna that we always buy snacks from. Sam and Dylan have been working closely with that family for 6 years and are now refusing to work with them anymore. The taxi driver who takes interns to and from the rainforest and brings the supplies each week is also part of that family. Now we will go to a different shop and find another driver.

Now for some good news – we managed to rescue one of the puppies! I recognised it as the puppy that sat so calmly on my lap while it was being vaccinated. We washed her and combed her fur for fleas. The puppy is ill, so Sam has told us not to get too attached yet. But people are already discussing names for her, like Corazón or Cupid, because of the heart-shape on her face. I really hope she makes it.

The Wasp Trails

Another horror story from this week involves one of the dreaded ‘wasp trails’. Having already been stung earlier that day, I sprinted through the site of the crime, with Maria hot on my heels. Justine, another intern, wasn’t quite fast enough. After hearing a series of high-pitched screams, Justine came running up behind us, with tears in her eyes.

“Is it on me?” She wailed, in a high shaky voice. “Do I still have a wasp on me?” I firmly told Justine to stay calm and turn around slowly so that I could check for wasps. As she turned around, it was clear to see that there were at least four or five wasps stuck in the netting of her hat. This was rather ironic, as her hat was designed specifically to keep insects out. Gallantly putting ourselves at risk of being stung, Maria and I smacked at the wasps with sticks and water bottles, in an attempt to remove them from Justine’s hat.

Although Justine’s reaction to being chased by wasps was completely understandable, I’m proud of the calm manner in which I seem to have been dealing with animal stings. “You just shout ‘f***!’, not even that loudly,” described Maria. Luckily for me, the pain of the wasp sting died down shortly after the event. As for Justine, she confided in me that she’d needed an entire packet of chocolate wafers to get her through the stress of her traumatic wasp incident.

A Mystery Animal in the Rainforest

One of the few times I was walking a trail alone, without my phone or camera, I saw an animal I had never seen before. On first glance, I thought it was a spider monkey because of its dark fur. On closer inspection, I realised that it didn’t look like a monkey at all. It had the face of a tiny bear. It was small and had a tail not quite as long as a monkey’s. After getting a good look at it, I ran back to get my camera. When I returned, it was gone.

Later, I described the animal to everyone and even tried to draw it. The closest suggestions were an olingo (raccoon family) or a baby tayra (weasel family). However, I’m still not sure it was either of them. It also looked quite like an olinguito, but their range doesn’t extend this far South. I hope I see it again before I leave. I really want to know what kind of animal it is!

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Written by Holly Fortune

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