ShelbySkinner's Travel Journals


  • 27 years old
  • From Yellowknife, Canada
  • Currently in San Jose, Costa Rica

My adventures through Costa Rica, Peru, and Ecuador

Weekly updates of my trip

Welcome to Yana Cocha and Surroundings!

Ecuador Puyo, Ecuador  |  Nov 16, 2014
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Here is my first post from Yana Cocoa, which is an animal refuge about 10 minutes from the city of Puyo. The centre has been in operation since 2006 and currently cares for approximately 154 animals. They really completely on the work from volunteers and the volunteer coordinators to care for the animals. There is also a veterinarian on site at all times who looks after sick animals and all animals when they first arrive. Most of the animals here are from illegal trafficking or the pet trade. The ministry of environment here in Ecuador brings the animals to Yana Cocha where they can be assessed and hopefully released back into the wild. Some animals are released within a few days of arriving because the veterinarian believes that it can survive on its own back in the jungle. Some animals are here for a very long time because they have been pets for a long time, they need to be released in a group, or they have been injured and can't survive on their own. It is really quite sad what some people do to animals without knowing the damage they are causing.

I arrived at Yana Cocha on Monday morning after a 5 hour drive from Quito. Franklin, the cab driver, picked me up nice and early at 6 am. When I arrived Ebba, one of the coordinators, gave me a tour of the place. Currently they have 7 species of monkey, parrots, macaws, a honey bear, capibara, Tortugas, caimen, four ocelots, margays, a weasle, a racoon, guatusa, toucans, owl, coaties, and pavas. It is amazing how much space the animals have to live in although it isn't ideal. Some are kept in cages and some in the open. There are two "enclosures" for monkeys that are open and surrounded by water. These monkeys are afraid of water and won't cross it which is super cool. There are also open areas for some of the macaws that have had their feathers cut so they can't fly. After lunch I was thrown right into work and went around with the other two volunteers to feed some of the animals eggs. Linn and Ka are both from Sweden and have been here for 6 weeks and have another 2 to go! The monkeys, coaties, weasle, and honey bear all get eggs twice a week to add more protein to their diet. The tamarind monkeys are super social and will come sit on you when you bring them food but there is one that likes to bite which isn't very pleasant! Once we finished egg round we cleaned the rabbit shed which is probably my least favorite job. They breed rabbits to feed the owl. Once 4 comes around it is back in the chopping from to prepare the afternoon food for the animals. Not all of them get fed in the afternoon but they all do in the morning. The animals are well taken care of while still having as little human contact as possible.

Tuesday was my first full day at Yana Cocha. We start at 8 with the morning feedings. The chopping of all the food takes about half an hour with 3-4 of us working. The rounds are then divided into three groups; monkeys, non-monkeys, and the rest of the animals. I did the non-monkey round with Linn and we went to the small birds, the weasle, the racoon, the honey bear, and the capibara. When we finished we cleaned the ocelot cage which was pretty gross. They are small cats that get a live chicken to eat so you can imagine the mess their cage is in afterwards. Many of the animals have a handling cage and their regular cage. Pretty much everything except the birds has a handling cage where we clean and place the food and are not at risk of being attacked. One of the best parts of the day is from 12-2:30 when we have siesta time to relax and eat lunch. We have access to Internet and the pool which is nice on hot sunny days. We gave sugar cane to some of the animals in the afternoon, which is one of their many treats. By the time we finished that it was chopping time again and Linn and I fed Luis Fernando, Malachite, and the honey bear. Line, Kansas, and myself quickly washed up and headed into Puyo to do some shopping. Puyo is quite a big city close to Yana Cocha and has everything you could ever need and more. We only went to the supermarkets to pick up some food but there are plenty of restaurants and shops to look through too. The schedule here stays the same pretty much the same and we rotate through who does what. I think I will finally know where everything is and the name of all the animals by the time I leave!

Wednesday was monkey day with Ebba! The monkeys round takes a little bit longer and the volunteers always have to be with one of the coordinators because monkeys can be aggressive and dangerous. Monkey Island with the chorongos is probably the most intimidating because they are only separated from us by water. These monkeys are the most aggressive and luckily, afraid of water. When we went to feed the Capuchin monkeys, one of them tried to steal my gloves through the fencing! Raficki, the squirrel monkeys, was super calm and pleasant for some strange reason. Normally he shows his teeth and tries to pee on you! Super nice guy ;) in the afternoon we made cookies for most of the monkeys. Their is protein powder in them so they are a good protein supplement. The pigmees and tamarind monkeys also got baby food, another one of their favorites. I helped Elliot, the other coordinator, make dinner tonight. We made bbq chicken and lots of vegetables.

Thursday I did the small round with Linn which is the macaws, parrots, tortugas, and guatin the rodent. This round goes by really quickly. Linn and I went fishing in the afternoon in one of the lagoons on the reserve. We collected worms from the compost to use as bait and used bamboo poles to fish with. It was raining so it was hard to see the fish. They are really good at taking the worms off the hook and not actually biting the hook. I was unsuccessful but Linn caught two fish which were then feed to the animals in quarantine. There was also a wild caimen hanging around so maybe that is where all the fish went ;) In the afternoon I fed the toucans, pavas, chorongos, weasle, racoon, and honey bear. We threw the food to the chorongos so that we didn't have to go on the island.

Friday, the last full day of work for the week! Morning rounds take longer on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because we have to clean the pools in all the animals cages. It's not the cleaning that takes a long time but the walking back and forth to the plugs for the pools. Sometimes it takes a while to get the animals eitherinto the handling cage or out of it. Friday is also major cleaning day in the chopping room. We go through all the crates of fruit and veggies and put the bad ones aside for the tortugas which will eat anything! We also clean the two fridges, the floor, all the buckets we use to carry the food, and the cutting boards. They let me do part of the afternoon rounds by myself for the pavas, coaties, honey bear, and racoon. Other than taking a little longer than the rest I think I did fine. Every Friday night the volunteers go to Puyo for dinner out on the town. This friday we went to a pizza place called Ole Solei Mio which was super good. I had a pizza with mushrooms, ham, artichoke, and tomatoes. Then for dessert we ordered two chocolate calzones which were super yummy! My stomach started acting funny that night but I don't think it was the food.

On the weekend we can choose to work either Saturday or Sunday morning. Once you finish the rounds you are free to leave or relax on site. I decided to head to a nearby town called Banos. I had planned to do all these fun things there but unfortunately my stomach had gotten worse over night and through the day. I ended up sleeping for four hours in my hostel and eating soup and crackers for dinner. I guess I can't complain too much since I have been in Latin America for 9 weeks without any problems. Sunday morning I was feeling a much better but did not want to do the bike ride or the bungee jumping that I had hoped to do while in Banos. Instead I had a light breakfast on the rooftop terrace at Hostel Chimenea and went to some hot springs and soaked in the tub for a bit. They weren't especially nice pools and the water seemed quite dirty even though it was only 9:30 am. I walked around Banos for the rest of the day buying food to take back and some treats to bring home. I left Banos around 3:30 and arrived in Puyo around 5. I really wish I hadn't been so ill because Banos is an adventure town and has lots of activities to offer. Hopefully I can squeeze another trip in the next time I come to Ecuador ;)

All in all it was a good week. A little overwhelming learning all the new procedures and animals at Yana Cocha but it has been fun. I only have five more days here and then off to the Galapagos! I can't really say that I've been homesick, and I've felt a little guilty about that, but I am looking forward to returning to Canada and being with family and friends over the holidays. Next time you hear from me I will be back in Quito. Ciao for now!

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  • User Profile Photo
    ShelbySkinner's journal made LindsayValentin smile Tue Nov 18, 2014
    do smile
    Shelby - thank you so much for all of your insightful journals! It sounds like you have been having an amazing time on all of your projects and it has been wonderful reading about your experience through your journals. Have fun during the rest of your time in Ecuador!

    -Lindsay V
    Placement Advisor