Animal rescue in the Ecuadorian Amazon at Merazonia Animal Rescue Center

I had the privilege of spending much of last year working with wildlife at Merazonia Animal Rescue Center in Mera, Ecuador. Here's what I did...

Held a baby spider monkey who got electrocuted and is now missing one arm and a tail. The vets at Merazonia treated him and saved his life and now he is recovering there. In the meantime he needs lots of exercise, attention, and love.

Baby spider monkey comes for a cuddle
Taking Spidee out for a jungle jaunt

The center was full of birds that had been confiscated as pets in bad conditions. Macaws, parrots and parakeets were a pleasure to work with and would allow me to chat with them all day long. Some even answered back!

Head master at the center

Barbosa, the pirate bird. He would spend the day nuzzled into your shirt while you cleaned his cage. I liked to think he was a sneaky old-man-bird who used his disability to get into girls' clothing. He he.

Another orange-cheeked parakeet

These parakeets were so cute, and flocked around you during feeding time

This one liked to ride on my head while I was cleaning

Playful blue-headed parrot

Feeding abandoned blue-headed parrot babies

Chestnut-fronted macaw

This bird talked A LOT, and said some amazing things. He would greet me with Buenos Dias and continue talking about housekeeping chores while chuckling to himself throughout the day.

One of my favorite parrots - very sweet and would make cute chirping sounds when you entered his cage

A cute but unwelcome visitor to the bird cages, this wild tamarin monkey is not much bigger than the size of your hand and likes to steal bananas out of the aviaries

One of my favorite residents of the center was Miss Grautin, a rainforest rodent who was tamed as a baby and ran up for pets n cuddles upon entering her cage. Her favorite food was large fruit seeds with some pulp left on.

Petting Miss Grautin while greeting the Blue and Gold Macaw

Beautiful Blue-Headed Parrot

Miss Grautin says HI!

It's a privilege to work with these endangered tropical wildlife species

A Red Howler Monkey that was being rehabilitated for reintroduction was a great animal to see up close and personally. A beautiful yet fickle animal, she has been known to bite and pull hair in the past. I was very careful while meandering her cage to place food in difficult-to-reach places. I suddenly felt something large land on my back and realized she had jumped there. I was acutely aware of my very-vulnerable jugular as I made slow movements toward her feeding area. I stayed quiet and didn't panic, therefore keeping her calm as I grabbed a piece of food and lured her off my back and onto a large tree limb in her cage. She fell for the bribe and jumped off my back to take the food. I quickly finished and got out of there, happy to be attack-free.

Little Red Howler Monkey just waiting to get back out into the wild

She could have killed me by tearing out my jugular, but she didn't. :) 

One night we reintroduced a new kinkajou in with the rest of the kinkajous, and I was put on watch duty to see how they would react to each other. I sat out with my candle and headlamp and watched the kinkajous' antics. They are very nocturnal and sleep all day but hop and climb around all night. I knew the kinkajous were very curious and, though they get a bad rep at the center because of how ferocious they are during the day (when woken up - who wouldn't be?!), they are really sweet after a full day's rest.

Making a connection with a curious kinkajou

I love my job

And then there are the capuchins. The center is home to many types. Some are docile, some are vicious, and they are all very smart. When fed onion pieces, they take the onion and rub it all over their bodies before consuming it. They do this to fend off pesky mosquitoes. In the wild they do this with anything that stinks, because apparently that keeps the bugs away. I heard about a time when a large blue morpho butterfly flew past the capuchin cage and was captured by one of the monkeys. He proceeded to tear the wings off and rub the blue glittery dust all over his body. In the words of my fellow volunteer, "he looked like he was going to the disco!"

Fights between capuchin groups can be deadly. Even certain volunteers aggravate the capuchins for no apparent reason, and those volunteers aren't allowed to work in the cages (we do not work with the monkeys - rather they are caged off in separate cages while other cages are being cleaned). The monkeys sometimes grab a wad of volunteers' hair and pull it out. One grabbed my t-shirt and tore a piece off of it. If you ignore the monkeys and don't do anything to aggravate them, they are fine to work around.

There was a baby capuchin in quarantine that was so cute. He would watch me and jump around the cage, playing with and taunting me - but when I approached the cage he would immediately run to his mother and hide under her.

Momma and baby brown capuchins

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Merazonia Animal Rescue Center, and will be back again. This was my second volunteer visit to the center, and I plan on spending a lot of time at my own eventual rescue center in the Ecuadorian Amazon some day.

"In all regards, you must love what you do."


  1. This would be so much fun to attend! I've been learning more about what the wildlife conservation teams do. I'm really interested in joining a team to make a difference!
    Sylvia |


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