- 1large pot of coffee
- Sachet of surprise
- A good night sleep
- Coated with life never being boring
And so just how does the average day in the life go on an animal refuge?
Something like this;
Alarmed, quite appropriately by the monotonous yet loud noise emanating from my really crap new mobile phone at 05:45. I bought that thing just to tell time and to take photos with. The camera function leads me to believe that I´d have been better of purchasing colored pencils and a note pad, but it does redeem its self by having an alarm and therefor meaning that I don´t have to try and wake up naturally before sunrise anymore. *A woeful few months that was!
I set the table full of cups and boil the kettle in a bid to get volunteers to sit their asses down for the morning meeting at 7:15 and not rocking up on time and making their way straight for the kitchen in search of their caffeine fix. Come on people, that doesn’t count as being on time. I throw a nasty look to that French fairy who needs his makeup on before appearing late and I inform him that he´s on kitchen duties for the day once more.
I enter the prep room, have a laugh with the prep girl for a little while (I reckon she’ll stab me before I leave) before setting out armed with breakfast containers for the animals.
I make my way to the top of the hill where we keep Mitzu (ocelot/ big cat), owl monkeys and four young macaws that are kept inside a large enclosure for their own safety as there are just too many of these birds here fighting over a relatively small patch of turf.
Before even entering the owl monks door I can see something’s a miss. It´s the first time they´ve ever left their food and the fact I don´t see them bouncing around inside only adds to my suspicions.
They´re definitely not in here, but where else could they be? Maybe the vets took them down for a routine checkup of some sort? Suppose that would be just like them to do something like this without letting me know, but as I close the door and begin to make my way towards the clinic to make sure, I come across both owl monkeys sitting on the tree next to their enclosure looking pretty chuffed with themselves. Ah, problem.
It would take a while but eventually I get them both back in by setting a trap using a long rope tied to the door to yank shut when they enter to obtain a punnet of irresistible grapes set out for them, the only thing in the world it would seem that’s even better than banana and then I watch them simply climb back out through a hole in the roof. Problem number two.
Mitzu is my second animal of the morning and takes the form of a large playful yet potentially dangerous wild cat. Takes a while for him to really get used to people and I´ve got his trust now, but I still can never enter that area with him and should always remember to coax him into the other enclosure (he has two) before entering to clean that side.
‘Remember’ should be a big enough word in this instance for me not to overlook but my minds on those cheeky escaping monkeys that I need to keep an eye on until the roofs fixed for them and so in I saunter without a care in the world until I realize the massive cat that shares this confined space with me now. I make a hasty retreat!
Grateful to the fact I´m not volunteering with big cats in Africa or India right now *Thinking lions and tigers-, I make my way to the four young macaws that I love like they´re my own kids. Such naughtiness in one relatively small area where you´re always within range of birds with more power behind that beak pound for pound than a lion!
Part of this clean up involves taking the leftover food out and dumping it into the nearby compost area. I note that all macaws are on the furthest part of the cage away from the door and that their inability to fly means I easily have time to quickly exit, dump my stuff and re-enter without having to close and open the door.. I´m contemplating this while one of them fly´s past me and out of the door. B*****ks!
I think that even he didn´t realize he could really fly and so while he sits on a low branch wondering how the hell he done that, I catch him in my big red basket and return him to his friends before they have the same idea. Note to self; these buggers do fly!
The bears still need fed and with both our regular bear peeps being off for a while it´s left to myself and one other to step up and complete what is possibly one of the most dangerous jobs I will ever do.
In I go to the 6ft 5 bears enclosure to clean and lay out food while another volunteer keeps the bear distracted with peanuts. He joins me a few moments later.
“Eh, who´s looking out for the bear”?
“Couldn´t see him so I thought I´d just come in and help”.
A rustle of bushes followed by a large black object moving downhill towards us at speed almost leads my pants to fill. It´s just a spider monkey but it´s about time to wrap up and get out of here!
Stuck for an age while two capuchin monkeys try desperately to rob me of keys and containers, I finally enter our other cat enclosure. This time it´s a margay called Sasha who I find has killed and half eaten another chi (a small possum like animal that sometimes kills our birds).
I start to deal with the remains when a sudden explosion of activity sounds from above my head. Looking up I see Sasha directly above me perched on top of a wooden platform eyeing up a squirrel monkey that had the nerve to climb across the top of her cage. Time to leave I think.
Never a dull moment I conclude when making my way towards Kinka´s (kinkajou) cage while my boy Tinto (temperamental spider monkey) fights with a capuchin on top of my head. In I get and discover that the strange squeaking noise I´d been hearing was coming from here. Kinka´s gotten herself tangled in string that was holding a hanging piece of wood that she likes to climb on. I return quickly to cut her free while one of our vets gives her the once over. *This is why we no longer allow volunteers to make enrichments by themselves.
Lucachi´s are a species of diurnal monkey that look like they could be used to exfoliate with * They look like loofas! I take care of three of them and right now they´re having a little bitch fight again with much hair pulling and slapping going on.
Luca Luca decides she´s now brave enough to climb onto my shoulder to eat some celery and is almost joined by her buddy/arch enemy. Almost but no cigar as she stops, squeaks with frustration and jealousy then gives my arm a good strong bite. I now care for just two lucachi´s.
Breakfast is a feast.. Somewhere, but not here.
I sit down to my watery bowl of porridge and grab what rolls are left before catching that thieving little squirrel monkey that keeps sneaking in and I throw it back out again. Our first meal of the day might be a slight bit sparse but they do improve dramatically through the day, but right now I´m going to slip off to Yolosa, our nearest village, to buy some post breakfast snacks.
I go to the same small shop every time I venture towards Yolosa, but only because it really is the best of a really bad bunch and as much of a regular as I am they still hound me the second I walk in and start to contemplate what I ´d like to buy.
Almost nose to nose she asks relentlessly “What do you want? What do you want”? I´d want a lot more if you weren´t chasing me around and I´d definitely take myself somewhere else if not for the fact that the other ´shops’ have even less than you. Customer service is not something to behold around here. Let us browse!
Back in time for my 10 o´clock tour all cookied up and raring to go. It´s a young group of four from England and as I sit them down to start the spiel about the history of how this refuge started it´s quickly pointed out that one of our spiders in a tree close by has gotten hold of a bag or something.. Something.. That’s my shorts!
Stupidity led me to believe that hanging my shorts out in the sun would be a great idea in an area where thieving monkeys thrive. The guests are loving this as we watch our lovable spider climb into my swimming shorts and even turn the inside lining out giving the appearance of a white stringy vest and trousers. Something of a Rab C Monkey going on!
Our tour would go on to compose of the rescuing of Sam, our white throated toucan, from one of our meat eating capuchin monks that managed to break into his cage and then finally we´d finish up by watching one of our volunteers get robbed of a packet of cigarettes after I´d told everyone strictly NOTHING in your pockets. Tormenta sat there out of range and ate every single one of those. Thanks, but we can really do without examples of what not to do!
A great deal of my time during the day would be taken up by the constant echo of my own name. “Andy, Andy, Andy” all day!
“Andy, she´s cuddling monkeys”.
“Andy, I don´t like him”.
“Andy, why can´t I work with capuchins”?
“Andy, can I cuddle the bear”?
*That last one from a volunteers first day to which I thought she was joking.
You can cuddle the bear but sign the waver form first and check your insurance covers stupidity!
Our daily bike tour arrives just as I sit down to eat and so off I scoot to meet and greet. “Welcome..blah, blah.. History of the refuge..blah, blah.. Monkey tour..blah.. Showers and restaurant..blah.
Step forward wanker of the day:
Talks to me like shit for the fact a macaw just pooed on his head then starts to break the bathroom door because he´s too stupid to figure out our monkey proof handles. I call him almost every name under the sun and tell him in many colorful ways to go away.
He called me a brute and demands that we call him a taxi.
I´ll call you a lot worse than that you auld p***k. I forget about the thirty or more people on the other side of the mesh wall that are watching this exchange.
Nicely handled I thought. Didn´t have to threaten him or break his hip, just used my poetic Scots niceties.
I find out later from the cycling company * I´ll call Groovity or Not Gravity to avoid legal issues-, tour guide that this stain is a travel writer. Oops! Wish I´d finished by asking him if he´d be interested in a monkey tour!
My attention is drawn towards a young chi (rodent like animal that can kill our birds) stuck inside our empty, soon to be used as an enclosure, swimming pool and so I act the hero and save it from the clutches of the spider monkeys and then feed it to our ocelot.
It´s good for wild cats to be given live pray when we can. My first meeting with Mitzu was to feed him an injured bird when no one else wanted the honors. As dangerous as he is he´s just not the killer that Sasha proves to be. I hear he has previous though * Monkey sits on wrong cage!
So putting Boris (the chi) on the floor doesn´t work as he instantly starts to flee leading me to dance around the enclosure to retrieve him for his great exit and deliverance to rodent heaven. I decide to hold it by the tail and slide open the barrier separating myself from Mitzu just enough for him to grab hold and also get my hand if he felt inclined to do so.
Luckily he´s in no mood for human flesh tonight and so destroys the young chi while it dangles from my hand. It´s like watching a car crash, shock and awe.. I almost don´t wanna look.
Tonight Mitzu is a killer.
Boris dines in Hell.
Whilst feeding our recaptured owl monkeys -the two that escaped this morning-, again I realize something just not right. They both sit on the ground looking up at something and I find that something to be a strange blobby thing stuck to a branch up high.
This was a live thing of sorts but damned if I know what it is. Doesn´t resemble anything really and so I inform the vets who after closer examination confirm that it´s a very premature and dead baby owl monkey. I knew one of them was a boy!
Going completely against the whole idea of working with animals, I take a moment while feeding the four young blue and yellow macaw´s to pet my favorite. Deservedly I´m almost robbed of a finger while confusing Afroman with F**kface and learn that one of them can not only do a mean impression of another macaw, but also bite really hard!
Back in the prep room and I find prep girl #2 with her hands full and so I take this opportunity to slap her in the face four times with a defrosted chicken before having to run and avoid her for the rest of the evening. She´s going to get me back and I don´t know how bad.
I´m at a loss as to how to accurately or in the slightest way describe what a kinkajou is. Quite possibly the second coolest animal in the world behind donkeys, but physically? Maybe a bit like a possum but much, much cooler. I use her as much as possible to get chicks and so would you! “Wanna stroke my Kinka”?
I have to leave the young cutie alone in the enclosure with Kinka for a moment while I refill the water jug but get caught up talking with the owner. Our conversation takes longer than I thought (like always!) and I return twenty minutes later to find the girl has locked herself inside the holding cage and away from our adorable little Kinky. Closer inspection finds a massive scratch running from close to the eye until her jaw line. Oops.
Did Kinka get a bit too friendly in there? Well, you´re a real volunteer now that you have the war wounds. Another name the kinkajou’s known by is the honey bear so technically you´ve just survived a bear attack and that is something to write home about! You´re welcome!
The humble man that I am sees me rubbing the fact that I´ve destroyed everyone at pool again into their faces big time while at the bar later on. This will be mentioned at the morning meeting tomorrow I explain while dancing a jig shouting “YEEEAAAHHH, GIT IT UP YE BITCH”!
Karma would then bite me on the ass on my way home in the shape of a horrible big dog named Beethoven -back of the leg really, but I would later learn that my shouting at the owner after demanding he come out, could be heard by some of our volunteers from across the river (quite a distance).
The next day I would walk past that dog pointing at it with a machete. That dog and I never did make up and the owner never spoke to me again. He was an arse anyway.
A new volunteer visits my cabin after accepting the invite to take a look at some of my old photos on an old laptop that someone kindly left behind for me. I´m so sure that this is going to end well, but I forgot about the photo I took of myself in bed with those two ladies and the selfie of my stomach * Hey, we´ve all been there.. Don´t judge!
It didn´t go as I´d planned.
Alone, I slap on a DVD and pour myself a well-deserved rum and coke with coca leaves..and then another.. and another.. and..
We know how this ends.
*La Senda Verde condone none of the things Andy did during this day. He is a bad, bad boy and going to receive one massive can of woopass for his actions later on!
Other titles available from Andy Ritchie on Amazon Kindle:
Kiss My Ass
Recipes for Disaster –naughty version-
Caution: Scenes in these books will cause weak people to cry and probably poop in their pants.