Monday, December 17, 2012


The pain of a brutal past is obvious in Maruca's broken jawline, her twisted and battered nose, and in her slow ambling gait up the path in her current home within La Senta Verde near Coroico and the jungles of Bolivia.   She is one of 350 refugees who receive daily care at the facility.  Many arrived confused, ripped with violence from their homes, afraid of men, women, or children depending on past abuse or negligent treatment.  With good nutrition, daily medical treatment, and the gentle ministrations of more than a dozen volunteers from all over the world, the refugees have found a safe respite and new home.  Bolivia's governmental policies are such that is illegal for them to be returned to the jungles and plains of their original habitat.

Maruca is a spider monkey, and she and her fellow primates (including almost a dozen howler monkeys and dozens of incredibly cute and intelligent capuchin monkeys), two endangered Andean spectacled bears, over 100 reptiles, and birds of every shape and color, make up the community of animals rescued by Vicky and Marcelo Ossio.  The couple originally operated an ecolodge, mainly serving mountain bikers who road 69 kilometers from La Paz down "the world's most dangerous road" with the Gravity Biking Company.  About 8 years ago, they received their first capuchin monkey, Ciruelo.  Today they have the only licensed animal refuge in Bolivia and with the care of a wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Adriana Orellana, a great staff and many volunteers, they now receive dozens of animals a month.  Most are casualties of illegal pet trade or habitat loss due to ingress into National Parks and conversion of land to coca fields, activities encouraged by current governmental policies.

We were touched in deep and meaningful ways by the people and their animal refugees at La Senta Verde.  One young female, Wara, spends her days foiling human attempts to lock her out of buildings.  She is a rascal, but when Jess sat by her, she snuggled close, laying her head in Jess's lap.  Pimienta, another female spider monkey, recognized in Sally a kind and gentle soul as she climbed her for a long hug, a walk, and consolation as the young female spoke insistently into Sally's ear. Pimiento's sorrow was clear as was her need for reassurance.  The Amazonian parrots and macaws called out for attention as they mimicked both Spanish and English words, dog barks, cat meows, and sounds of video games.   All of the animals receive daily attention from a young and growing group of international volunteers.  Many soon to be volunteers first experience the refuge after an adrenaline-filled bike ride ending in lunch and a site tour.  Some cannot forget the sight of so many animals in such great need and come back for a week or two and stay for months or years.

Some people give of their time and others give money.  The needs of the refuge are significant.  Carrying capacity and beyond have been reached on this small 22 hectare site.  New enclosures, flight cages, quarantine areas, and clinics are being built for the ever growing group of animals in need.  Feeding the animals  and providing the medicines are costly as well.  It is a time of year we seek to give to others.  Instead of buying a materialistic object for someone this year, consider making a donation in that person's name to this worthy endeavor of human compassion for lost animal refugees.  You can donate to the refuge by PayPal or direct deposit.

La Senta Verde Pay Pal account -
Bank of America  TX2-563-01-01, Acct. Number 488036101948, Virginia Ossio
Website with more donation information

Posted in Bahia Blanca, Argentina

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