Big Cat Rescue goes to Brazil
Christina Adania, Director of AMC (Associa 'ao Mata Ciliar) and Pat Quillen of S.O.S Care hosted their first eco-excursion to Brazil the last week of July. Hanaya Gomes, a 4 year volunteer at Easy Street, and Karen MacNeill, a relative newcomer at 1 year, traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil; the world's 5th most populated metropolitan area. AMC decided to kick off this program to raise crucial funds to keep their program going, because Brazilian support of animal rights is not as strong as it is in the U.S.
Here's how their trip went!
After going on a tour of the facility, it quickly became apparent that AMC was badly in need of enclosures. Every nook and cranny was occupied, and they averaged one new arrival every day. We scavenged for wood, fencing and tools. When we came up short, we cut down some relatively straight growing eucalyptus trees. The Brazilian staff quickly learned the English word "deeper" when digging post holes.
Our first project was an addition to an ocelot enclosure. The embattled ocelot sisters needed separation. Ultimately one would have to be switched out for a male in hopes of starting a breeding program. We had to stop mid-project to quickly build another enclosure for an ailing deer.
Construction was interrupted a few more times for the sake of exploring Sao Paolo's Zoo, taking a quick flight over Jundiai and hiking to AMC's rainforest facility.
Every night we nursed two baby wolves, and every morning we shared breakfast with the staff. Wednesday night they held a traditional party for us, complete with bonfire, decorations and ranch hand costumes.
We had hoped to release a two-toed sloth, but his health made a sudden downturn, and he died the day before release. We also lost a hawk, two deer and a huge snake during our stay. Of the daily arrivals, only a baby black tigrina held healthful promise.
The American dollar went further in Brazil than we thought, so we had the staff take us to a pet store for enrichment, bedding and bowls. Then we went to a construction store and bought all the tools we'd wished they had during construction, including a power saw, drill bits, an extension cord and bolt cutters.
Our last day was a sad day, but a very happy day. After only an hour or so of enriching Raquel the ocelot's enclosure, we had the official opening ceremony, complete with toilet paper bow and caipirinha (Brazilian margarita) blessing. An audience of over a dozen of us awaited her first steps into her new home, and she did not disappoint.
Raquel first sampled the grass we planted, and found it to her liking. She then circled around a couple of times, pausing to sniff her new den box. Then the moment of truth: She plopped down in the very center, yawned, stretched and rolled over in her new space. The only thing that gave us more satisfaction was hearing AMC staff members, Patricia and Gabriel say that they now feel they can build their own enclosures after we leave.
Hanaya and I were called to sit on the couch in the main house, while the AMC staff gathered in front of us with papers in their hands. They seemed very nervous, and had a hard time recruiting Jorge and Simone to join them. They begged our forgiveness ahead of time, and proceeded to SING to us! Three of the gals had re-written the lyrics to John Lennon's Imagine - with lines like "imagine all these animals, living in big enclosures" and "three crazy women from Tampa Florida" and of course "After all, what's really essential, It's dig deeper a little bit more." At the end of their song, we applauded and wiped back tears. They presented us each with a thank you note, imprinted with finger and paw prints alike of each of our new friends.
After a last trip around the animals saying our goodbyes, Hanaya and I sadly packed our bags and tucked into Patricia's car for the return to the airport. Funny how you can travel so far, and in less than a week, feel closer to a group of people than you do to your own neighbors. Hanaya and I have both emailed the gang at AMC since we left, and miss them terribly. If we have the means, you can bet they'll be seeing our faces again!