Meet some of the animals cared for at our Wildlife Custody Centres. Discover their stories and why they needed our help.
If you would like to sponsor one of our rescued animals, take at look at our Feed Me pages.
Balu was still a young cub when he was captured by hunters who had killed his mother and who were hoping to make some money from them both. The poachers were trying to sell him to a circus when he was confiscated in coordination with law enforcement authorities. He was taken to Wildlife Custody Centre Machía where he received the necessary care and space to live a healthy life.
Balu continues to live at Machía to this day, where he has become one of the Centre’s most loved and characteristic residents. Despite now being an adult, he is still very patient and enjoys spending time with his volunteers and in his environment. Balu is a large animal; he weighs more than 120 kg and needs a special diet to keep him healthy. His diet does not come cheap, therefore a contribution towards the costs of his food would be a great help for the organisation.
Marley is a puma (Puma concolor), another victim of the illegal wildlife trade. She had been purchased in a local market in Cochabamba by a family that had wanted her as a pet. Soon after they brought her home, she started to display some very serious health problems. She was extremely weak, and was experiencing intermittent seizures. They were unable to improve her health, so they brought her to CIWY. Marley arrived to Wildlife Custody Centre Machia when she was just two months old. Here she received the correct diet, which helped to improve her health very quickly, and in a short amount of time she appeared to be happy and healthy.
Marley now lives in a large multi-level enclosure deep in the jungle. She loves her daily walks with her volunteers, where she can explore the ever-changing sights and smells of the jungle. She is a very intelligent puma, with beautiful eyes.
Pepa used to be kept as a family pet in Cochabamba, yet when she started to become difficult to manage the family decided to hand her over to CIWY. This is a very common story and tends to be a recurring theme among our capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella), since even at a young age they can be aggressive and very destructive.
Sometime later the family came back to Machía asking if we could give Pepa back to them as they were missing her and did not want to buy another monkey. We had previously explained to them to the issues with keeping a wild animal as a pet: not only the fact that it is illegal, but also the harm that it can cause the animal and the risk that it can pose to the family members, especially to children. However unfortunately they did not want to understand. It’s inevitable to think of what might have happened to Pepa if she had continued in this situation; instead of trees and other monkeys to play with, she would have been treated as a toy until a serious accident occurred.
Nowadays Pepa lives at Machía, in one of the areas dedicated to capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella). She is very sociable and is often regarded as one of the volunteers’ favourite animals. She always surprises them with her intelligence and ability to problem-solve, but also with the limits that she sets – reminding them that she is still a wild animal, especially when they try to take something away from her or when she thinks that one of her group members is being threatened.
Watson was purchased from the black market by a family in La Paz. However it wasn’t long before the family realized the mistake they had made by purchasing a wild animal. Watson has a very powerful beak and loved to use it on the family’s furniture. Unfortunately for the family, this often led to Watson destroying their furniture.
The family decided to give Watson up and brought him to Parque Machía. When he arrived, the vets observed that one of his wings was so badly fractured that he would never be able to fly again. While this news was sad, Watson seemed stable and happy in his new home. We were overjoyed to see Watson find companionship from another macaw named Rosa. Today they spend most of their time together, and if anyone tries to get close to Watson, Rosa becomes jealous and fights them off.
Despite the fact that he cannot fly, Watson is let out of his cage during the day and can roam around the aviary as he desires.
When he was only one month old, Sama was sold as a pet on the black market after his mother was shot by poachers. He lived with a family in an apartment in La Paz until he was five months old, at which point he had become too difficult for his owners to handle. They tried to sell him to a circus, but fortunately their actions were reported to the police and Sama was confiscated and brought to Parque Machía.
Sama was moved to Parque Ambue Ari in 2006, where he continues to live today. He is not able to leave his enclosure, so volunteers offer him companionship and provide him with enrichment. His enclosure is very large and has sufficient space for a jaguar in his condition to live happily.
Sonko was raised by a family in Santa Cruz until he became too large for them to handle him. They decided to hand him over to CIWY in March 2004, when he was just six months old. His name upon arrival was Leoncio, but since another puma already had this name, volunteers decided to call him Sonko, which means ‘heart' in Quechua.
Sonko and another puma Roy used to share trails at Parque Machía, which highlighted their differences. While Roy was known as ‘The Running Machine,’ Sonko was known as ‘The Lazy One.’ However in more recent years Sonko has become increasingly active thanks to some excellent volunteers.
In June 2013 transfered Sonko from Parque Machia to Parque Jacj Cuisi. We took this decision because in the previous couple of years we had noticed that his trails were being disturbed due to their close proximity to the park’s boundaries. Moreover we would be able to offer him a larger enclosure in our newest centre. Sonko was flown to Jacj Cuisi and moved into his new enclosure measuring 20m x 20m, 12.5 bigger than his previous one. Sonko adapted very well to his new home; these days he is looking very trim and healthy. He is well-behaved and very affectionate.
In July 2006 Ramona was brought to Parque Machía by a family that had kept her as a pet. She has been an accepted member of the spider monkey group at Parque Machía for many years. She has a strong maternal instinct and has adopted many orphaned monkeys who have come to the centre too young to be introduced into the group alone.
Tomasita, a long-term member of our spider monkey group, gave birth to Lucianita in May 2010. Sadly in February 2011, barely a year later, Tomasita passed away due to a heart disorder. Lucianita’s loss was evident and we were worried that she would not be able to survive without her mother. However within days Ramona had already reached out to her and begun carrying her on her back. And after only a week Ramona had even started producing milk for Lucianita.
A bond developed between Ramona and Lucianita that continues to grow to this day. Ramona plays happily with her new daughter and proudly shows off her child to the other monkeys in the group, as well as to the volunteers. Ramona’s confidence has grown and she now enjoys a higher status in the group. She spends her days wrestling with other baby spider monkeys and biting them playfully.
Ramona still remains very interested in the other babies, due to her maternal nature, and if given the opportunity she would surely adopt more. Her capacity to love and nurture has given her the title of ‘The Best Mother in the World.’
The Municipal Zoo of La Paz received a blue-and-yellow macaw that had no feathers on her chest or abdomen. Staff at the zoo realized that this parrot, like so many others in captivity, had plucked her own feathers due to poor care, poor nutrition and the stress of being in confinement.
Iya was not accepted by the other birds of the zoo and her bare skin made it very difficult to adapt to La Paz’s cold climate. She was often attacked by the other parrots and thus isolated herself. After doing everything possible to try to restore Iya’s psychological health and taking into account that Iya was far from her natural habitat, the zoo staff decided to relocate Iya to Parque Machía.
Shortly after arriving Iya showed signs of improvement. She stopped plucking her feathers out and found a friend named Cleo, who appeared to have undergone a similar trauma and had no feathers herself. Iya has also found a mate, Mathias, another blue-and-yellow macaw. The pair spend all their time together: grooming each other, sharing food and making their nests - eggs have been spotted on more than one occasion.
Josefina was another neglected pet that should have been left in her natural habitat. She was kept by a family in Cochabamba in a small cage and was not fed an appropriate diet. A CIWY volunteer and representative convinced the family to give Josefina to a wildlife centre so that she could receive adequate care.
She arrived at Parque Machía in poor health. She was very skinny and suffered from skin disorders. As time passed she regained her health and put on weight. After months of rehabilitation, she was finally able to be released into the jungle within Parque Machía’s borders. She began socialising with a group of coatis and now has strong ties with its members.
She has born several offspring, born free in nature. Her cubs do not know the inside of a cage and are not dependent on human care. They are often seen on the different trails foraging for food, leading a natural life.
Florentina is a sweet tortoise who was made into a pet when someone came upon her in the jungle of Beni. Seeing that she was harmless, he decided to take her home in his backpack. This person took her to La Paz and kept her for many years on the patio of his house. Florentina was attached to a rope and a hole was drilled through her shell so that she couldn’t escape. When the family moved, they gave Florentina to another family. Her new owners saw that she was ill and took her to a vet. The vet could not do anything for her but recommend taking Florentina to Parque Machía, which is what the family did.
Under our care Florentina recovered well and was released within the centre. She now shares her life in the jungle with other tortoises.
Popular was rescued by two volunteers in November of 2006 from a circus near Villa Tunari, where they kept him in a cage measuring 1m x 1/2m and in terrible conditions. Thanks to support from the police Popular was confiscated from the circus. During his time in the circus, Popular was forced to jump through rings of fire and perform other acts in front of large crowds. He suffered maltreatment at the hands of his trainer, which left him traumatised and nervous
Popular stayed in Parque Machía for a month before being transferred to Parque Ambue Ari. Once there he was initially housed in the secondary cage of another puma named Elsa, until March 2007 when his permanent cage was ready. Due to financial constraints at the time, the size of his cage limited to only 8m x 8m.
This cage was not ideal for Popular. Firstly it turned out to be in an area that is prone to flooding, so a large part of his cage would flood during the wet season. Secondly it was not big enough for a puma that cannot be taken out and walked (today the sight of ropes still causes him stress, meaning volunteers are unable to walk him).
After many months of fundraising enough money was finally raised to start on the construction of a new enclosure for him, and in August 2011 Popular’s new home was ready. Measuring 20m x 40m, it is 12.5 times larger than his previous cage. A large fallen tree that is still alive provides Popular with natural platforms that he will be able to use for many years to come. Popular is much happier and is getting much more exercise in his new enclosure. He enjoys the large space to roam around in, runs and jumps; all this is thanks to all the volunteers who contributed financially as well as those who help to build his new home.
Popular passed away in 2015.
Herbert Ezequiel, or Herbie for short, was rescued as an infant from a family that intended to raise him for his meat; tapir meat is highly prized in the region and can fetch premium prices at market. Herbie’s hind legs had been tied to the family’s canoe for several days, causing injuries that affected his walking significantly. He was rescued by CIWY volunteers, with the support of and help from the regional government of Beni, and was subsequently taken to Parque Ambue Ari, where he continues to live today, for treatment.
Herbie spent his first month at Parque Ambue Ari living in the clinic and being bottle-fed around the clock by vigilant volunteers. After careful attention from the vets and doting volunteers, Herbie was soon walking all over camp and making lots of friends. In late 2007 Herbie was given his own large enclosure, which lies on a beautiful lagoon.
Since arriving Herbie has grown and grown, and he has, hands-down, Parque Ambue Ari’s biggest appetite! Due to his affection and calm temper, he steals the hearts of many volunteers that have the chance to work with him. In November 2011 a new rescued tapir, Tony, was transferred to Parque Ambue Ari and a budding friendship between the two of them formed.
Herbie passed away in 2015.
Socrates has a rags to riches story. He was purchased illegally and kept as a pet for a family in La Paz. He was chained up and kept on the family’s balcony where he was exposed to the elements. La Paz’s high altitude and cold climate are far cry from the warm climate of a squirrel monkey’s natural habitat in the jungle.
Socrates was underfed and kept in poor conditions. When the authorities received a complaint, Socrates was seized and brought to Parque Machía. After receiving much-needed nourishment, he was kept in quarantine for observation. A few months later he was released and became the dominant male of a squirrel monkey group nearby. His group continues to grow and prosper in the treetops of Parque Machía.
Simba was another ill-planned pet of a family in La Paz. He only lived with them for two months, but in this time he fractured the femur of his right hind leg. He then was given to a second family in Cochabamba, where he received more poor attention. He was kept in a small dog cage, way too small for his size, and was fed a poor diet, completely void of milk, which is so important for a cub. Again, the family were unable to care for him due to his growing size and changes in behaviour, so after just two months he was given away again. Fortunately, this time he was handed over to CIWY.
Simba arrived with a limp, presumably caused by malnutrition, but after beginning treatment with nutritional supplements, he lost the limp within a few months. A new enclosure was built for Simba deep in the forest, complete with his own trails and far away from people.
Unfortunately in 2009, the town of Villa Tunari’s decision to build a road through the park affected Simba’s home and trails. In order for Simba to continue with the same amount of space as before, he was moved to Parque Jacj Cuisi, which was just beginning at the time.
Simba passed away in 2016.
One evening at National Park Carrasco, two park rangers heard a gunshot and ran to see what was happening. In the distance, poachers were seen escaping and close to them on the ground lay a dead female spider monkey, shot to death. Still clinging to its mother was a tiny female infant. Not knowing what to do, the rangers cared for the monkey for a few days before one of them decided that the infant would make a good present for his children. He took her home, where she stayed for six months. During that time, she clung to the owner’s dogs in search of body heat. Although she received their warmth, she also received fleas and parasites, causing skin problems. She suffered acute alopecia, the source of her name, and developed bald spots across her body.
When Alopecia began to act like the wild monkey she is - breaking everything in the man’s home and making a mess - the man realized he would not be able to care for her any longer. They decided that the best thing to do would be to bring her to Parque Machía.
When Alopecia arrived, she was dressed in a ridiculous outfit and was very frightened and stressed; she was the perfect example of why wildlife should never be captured and made into an attraction, pet or personal property. She was incredibly anxious after having just been separated again from her family, in this case the pack of dogs that carried her. She wouldn’t eat and she became agitated when we needed to give her medication.
As the days went by, so did her anxiety. She began behaving more like a monkey again and her hair began to grow back. Another female spider monkey arrived soon after Alopecia and the two became quite attached to each other. When both were physically and emotionally stable, they were moved to our spider monkey park, allowing them to live lives much closer to what they would have in the wild.
Mickey Tomas, the alpha spider monkey, watched over the two closely and, after a few days, accepted them into his group. The other spider monkeys then welcomed them as well.
Alopecia passed away in 2015.
If you would like to sponsor one of our rescued animals, take at look at our Feed Me pages.
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.