The Jungle breaths. As you are standing under its thick green canopy, wandering along the beds of its narrow canyon creeks, or floating down its calm rivers you feel as though the jungle has eyes on you. As you hike through its lush plant life you can almost feel it listening to you as you slice your way through. The truth is that the jungle IS watching you, it is feeling you, and it is listening to your every movement. In the jungle, everything that makes entrance into its green walls becomes a part of the jungle. However, if anything or anyone begins to break the rules of the jungle, the system begins to fall apart. Like Elton John’s “Circle of Life” each living organism within the forest, from the smallest ant to the
most brash of monkeys, has a duty to preform that protects the flow of life. Over the years people have begun to break this natural cycle. We are taking birds for pets or using their feathers for decoration. We are killing large cats for their pelts. We are stealing monkeys from their families because, let’s be honest, everyone who watched `Friends` thought it was really cool that Ross had a monkey as a pet. But the reality is that when we do all this, we are essentially stealing from the jungle. We are sucking the air out of our earth’s lungs. Luckily, there are still places like Amazoonicos, in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, that are working to protect, and preserve the living organism that is the Amazon jungle.
AmaZOOnicos, as the staff loves to remind visitors, it is not a zoo; it is an animal sanctuary which provides refuge to abused and mistreated animals that are native to the region. For example, a jaguarundi named Felix was brought to the sanctuary after being found in a local hotel room, obviously a pet for someone in the past. The goal of the sanctuary is to provide a median territory for animals that they are trying to eventually put back into nature. Of course, some of the animals that find safe haven here can not be returned to nature for a variety of reasons ranging from the fact that they have been wounded or because they have become to accustomed to life in captivity that they wouldn’t be able to survive in nature. In the case that animals can not be released to one of the many plots of reserved land owned by the sanctuary, I’m sure the live-in animals find the environment provided to them just about as cozy as it could be; and definitely more comfortable then the tiny confines that they may have become accustomed to living in captivity.
Amazoonicos houses animals of all kinds, but all of which are native animals to the Amazon basin of Ecuador. Some of the more interesting residents include a family of capyberas, the
largest rodent on earth – which resemble in someways the giant rats of the swamp forest in the movie “The Princess Bride.” There are also a number of different species of monkeys; Spider monkeys, Squirrel, Wooley, and Capuchin monkeys all find homes within, and without the cages here at the animal sanctuary. Many of the monkeys that have been released feel so comfortable around the sanctuary that even upon release they still hang around, if for nothing else other than to cause mischievous havoc on the unsuspecting visitors.
In the Amazon most of the animals are nocturnal, and even if they weren’t the jungle is so vast and thick that it is a challenge to spot any sort of large sized wildlife within the jungle itself. And as hard as it is sometimes to see animals stuck inside cages and behind walls, the animal sanctuary is based on well intentions. Amazoonicos runs entirely upon donations, which are earned by running tours of the site for visitors to the region that want a closer look at the animals that have eluded them in the wild. Amazoonicos also does significant amounts of work in the human aspect of things within the jungle. They run a school for local children near the site. Beyond the usual elements of school life, at this school they teach the students about the flora and fauna of the jungle, and how to preserve it in a sustainable manner. They also teach the students English and German, so that they may have the opportunity to someday work as guides in the area. All-in-all, the people at Amazoonicos are putting their hearts and souls into the community, both human and wild.
Any visit to Tena, Ecuador, which is the true jumping off point for exploration into the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, isn’t complete without some sort of animal viewing. And while the romantic notion of chopping through the jungle with machetes may tickle your sense of adventure, the truth is that you would need several days, if not weeks, and a barrel of luck to spot anything of value. And although it might seem like cheating, a visit to the animal sanctuary will allow to see animals from the jaguar family, the ocelots and jaguarundis, and a number of monkeys in an hour long tour. On top of it all, you are investing, at the same time, to a very good cause.