Parque Machía, a Wildlife Custody Centre owned by the state, has approximately 38-hectares of land and is located in Villa Tunari, Chapare, in the department of Cochabamba, at the beginning of the Amazon rainforest. In 1996 with two spider monkeys (Ateles chamek), one capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella) and one squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis), CIWY established the first wild animal refuge in Bolivia in WCC Machía. Today the Centre cares for over 500 animals, from more than 30 different species, including five which are threatened.
Tourists are allowed to visit one part of the park to see the free animals that live within it, many of which were rehabilitated by CIWY and reintroduced into the wild. Many monkeys have formed groups and are often heard and seen in the treetops, playing and foraging. Many species of birds can also be seen.
The centre is run by Tania Baltazar, with the help of permanent staff and international volunteers, who stay for a minimum of two weeks. In addition to its main function of caring for rescued wildlife, veterinarians in our Centre also offer veterinary assistance to the people of Villa Tunari, who bring their pets in for medical attention.
In 1996 the Municipal Council of Villa Tunari agreed to allow CIWY to use the park for its work with animals, CIWY in turn would protect the park from deforestation and indiscriminate hunting. The land continues to be owned by the municipality, though over the years CIWY has purchased additional land to be used for its work, including volunteer housing and infrastructure for the care of the animals, such our aviary and clinic.
In 2009, the Municipal Council of Villa Tunari approved the construction of a road that would cut through the park in order to improve access to various communities. In that same year, renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall visited Villa Tunari to speak out against the destruction that the road would cause. Despite this and an international campaign condemning the road, construction began in 2010. The road has loosened ground soil, causing landslides during the heavy rainy seasons. This not only makes the road impassable for much of the year, but also contributes to further habitat loss. In 2010, four pumas were relocated to Parque Jacj Cuisi as a result of the land loss.
More than 350 animals of different species live within the centre, including endangered species like spider monkeys (Ateles chamek), an Andean bear (Termarctos ornatus), the military macaw (Ara Militares) and others. The Centre specializes in the care of capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella), spider monkeys (Ateles chamek), coatis (Nasua nasua) and many bird species.
The animals are cared for by full-time veterinarians, permanent animal keeper staff, as well as national and international volunteers. Their diet is carefully worked out according to their specific nutritional needs and they are provided with environmental enrichment to keep them engaged and happy. Furthermore, if possible, they are taken out of their enclosures for exercise and a chance to explore their environment.
In WCC there are a wide range of animals which receive care, including mammals, birds and reptiles. A number of different management systems had to be developed to ensure that each individual within the park receives the appropriate treatment. The objective is to encourage as natural a behaviour as possible in order to offer a decent quality of life. Management systems are created specific for each individual, but of course with common themes among similar species or families. These are in turn adapted to the safety protocols which have been established to ensure the safety and integrity of both persons and animals.
Within Parque Machia animals in a state of complete freedom can be found, these are groups which exist comfortably in the space available. Some of these individuals have been released by the organisation since they were suitable for this process, these have prospered creating stable populations in a wild existence.
These animals live independently, however they do receive constant control from a distance by the staff.
This system has been developed for animals under permanent care of the organisation, which receive daily care. These are individuals which are not able to exist in complete freedom as they depend on the care and management of the park staff.
This system has been designed to allow an improved quality of life for animals which cannot be in a state of freedom or semi-freedom. The aim is to assimilate activities that encourage behaviour more ypical of the species, reducing their stress and promoting natural reactions.
With some individuals where it has been determined that is it not possible to have any direct contact with them, or that it will be safer for them to be kept separate from other animals, these are kept in individual enclosures.
Visitors are welcome to come and explore part of the park. CIWY is only in charge of the care of the animals and is not responsible for the touristic side of the park (this is the responsibility of the local council). However, visitors are informed about CIWY’s work and the importance of respecting wildlife.
Visitors are welcome in the park from 9:30am until 4:30pm, every day except Mondays and rainy days. There is an entrance fee of Bs. 2 to 6, which the town of Villa Tunari collects and which does not go towards funding CIWY’s work. For more information please get in contact with the Villa Tunari council (alcaldia)
As more animals arrive needing our assistance, the cost of their care increases and our expenses rise. More permanent staff and volunteers are needed. There are many ways in which you can help:
Banner photo: Tim Watters
Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY) is our sister organization in the UK. They have been a major source of support since their founding in 2008. Find out more about FIWY here.
Quest Overseas organizes gap year trips for British and international students. Since 2001, Quest has worked with CIWY to bring much needed volunteers and funds. If you are interested in the programs they have with us, find out more here.