April 29, 2013

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month Ends, But We Won't Stop!

By Shannon Sullivan

April may have been the "Prevention of Animal Cruelty" month, but Amazon CARES works hard all twelve months of the year to prevent animal cruelty. Amazon CARES, which stands for Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety, works hard to educate children and communities in Peru about the humane treatment of animals. 

Peru director Bruno Antoine is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs in and around Iquitos, and appears frequently in local newspapers to discuss issues important to the community. 

Additionally, Amazon CARES hosts humane education programs for not only children, but also adults. The primary goal of humane education is to create a culture of empathy and caring.  By stimulating the moral development of individuals, we hope to form a more compassionate and just society, in turn preventing animal cruelty.

Bruno can keep any 
crowd entertained!
Bruno discusses parasitic diseases 
with local teachers.
In addition to educating communities in an attempt to prevent animal cruelty, Amazon CARES works with local legislators in Peru to strengthen laws that protect domestic animals.
Bruno Antoine and the 
Mayor of Iquitos

In 2012 Amazon CARES worked with the Iquitos Bar Association to secure an animal cruelty conviction for Sandra Milagros Padilla Alvis. In February 2012 Alvis threatened to kill Arthas, a five-month-old puppy owned by her neighbor Alfredo Martín Díaz García. The day after making her threat, Alvis poisoned Arthas causing his death.

Padilla as she is convicted
Amazon CARES helped to bring the case before the courts and followed the case for seven months. Alvis was found guilty of animal cruelty and was given a fine of 2000 Peruvian Nuevo Soles, approximately $775 USD, which will cost her one-fourth of her income for nearly seven months.

The conviction is considered by many to be a landmark victory, setting a precedent for Peru and the rest of the Third World. The case received attention not only in Peru, but internationally as well.

Press mobbed the small courtroom
Every donation you make to Amazon CARES helps to further our goals of preventing animal cruelty in the Peruvian Amazon. Amazon CARES has accomplished a great deal since 2004, and we hope to accomplish much more!

Articles about this case are in Spanish, although many bloggers covered the story in the USA.  Click here.

April 28, 2013

International Workers Memorial Day: In Memory of Gustavo

Amazon CARES Remembers A Dear Friend and Colleague

by Shannon Sullivan

This International Workers’ Memorial Day we remember our dear friend and colleague Gustavo Cahuaza Shapiama. Gustavo, born in Mazan, was a valued employee of Amazon CARES for five years. He was married and had two sons; his youngest son is an infant named Jack.  

Gustavo was the primary caretaker at the Amazon CARES no-kill shelter at Cabo Lopez, near the city of Iquitos. He was considered the “Pied Piper” of puppies due to the fact that they followed him throughout his daily work routine.

The shelter at Cabo Lopez only recently obtained electricity, and the power of electricity is often misunderstood by individuals in developing nations. In February of this year Gustavo died from accidental electrocution; we are told that he did not suffer. Volunteers and employees of Amazon CARES came together to cover his funeral expenses, and Amazon CARES has established a fund to help his family during this difficult time. 

International Workers’ Memorial Day is observed around the world in honor of those workers killed or injured by their work. We honor Gustavo best by continuing to rescue dogs and cats in need. Gustavo provided daily treatments and preventative care for all animals awaiting adoption at Cabo Lopez. He also provided a loving, dignified and humane life to our "permanent residents" at the shelter who are not adoptable. His love for each animal ran deep. He is sincerely missed, leaving a void in our hearts as we continue his life's work.

To see how well Gustavo interacted with our shelter dogs, watch a clip from this video.

Read more about Gustavo from those who knew and loved him best on our original blog, "Remembering Gustavo."

April 25, 2013

World Malaria Day: An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention – Amazon CARES Observes World Malaria Day

By Shannon Sullivan

When visiting Peru to volunteer with Amazon CARES, there are a few essentials you’ll want to be sure to bring. A camera, water bottle and rain jacket are a given, but you’ll also want to remember an antimalarial. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Peru is considered to have a low risk of malaria for visitors. However, it’s still recommended to obtain an antimalarial from a physician before your visit. 

Malaria is an infectious disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes and it most often presents with flu-like symptoms and anemia. Being proactive, however, can eliminate your risk of contracting malaria. Prior to traveling to a malaria-endemic area it is recommended to start an antimalarial, an antibiotic that the pathogen is susceptible to. 

There are a variety of antimalarials available, some being better suited for certain geographic areas. Most are started one to two days before travel and may be taken daily or weekly depending on the particular medication. Antimalarials are generally inexpensive and easily available from most pharmacies. 

Side effects of antimalarials are uncommon and mild, with the most common side effect being nausea. More severe side effects, such as blurred vision, convulsions, hallucinations, and taste changes have been reported, but are uncommon. (Source:  http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Antimalarial+Drugs

Some antimalarials are not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women due to the risk of spontaneous abortion and birth defects, although there are safe antimalarials available for these women. Regardless, it is recommended that pregnant and breast feeding women do not travel to malaria-endemic areas.  Additionally, after visiting a malaria-endemic area, US residents are not permitted to donate blood for one year due to the potential risk of transmitting the infectious pathogen. (Source:  http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/index.html)

Mosquito (Source: Nat Geo)

Additionally, simple preventative measures can be taken to decrease exposure to mosquitoes, further decreasing the risk of malaria. Using insect repellents, such as DEET, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and the use of bed nets significantly decreases the chance of mosquito bites.

Only about 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States every year, most of those cases being from returning travelers. (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers

In 2010 there were 219 million cases reported worldwide. Due to an increase in awareness about the disease, its prevention and treatment, global malaria mortality rates have decreased by 25% since 2000. (Source:  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/)    

World Malaria Day is observed every year on April 25th and has been a driving force in raising awareness about this preventable disease. With just an ounce of prevention, you’ll be off enjoying the beauty of the Peruvian Rainforest in no time!

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Be sure to consult a physician before starting any medication or traveling to a malaria-endemic area.

April 20, 2013

International Medical Marijuana Day: Ayahuasca in the Amazon

Written by Shannon Sullivan

April 20th is International Medical Marijuana Day, a day to recognize the health benefits and medicinal properties of marijuana and other natural plants.

Most tourists travel to Peru in order to explore the beautiful Amazon Rainforest. Some tourists, however, are now traveling to the Amazon not to explore the rainforests, but to explore their own minds. 

 PHOTO Source:  NPR
Ayahuasca tourism has been steadily growing for years, especially in Iquitos, home of the Amazon CARES’ animal clinic. Ayahuasca is a sludge-like, hallucinogenic potion made from jungle vines. 

Understandably, the indigenous tribes call it “the sacred vine of the soul.” Source:  Washington Post

Photo Source:  NP

Drinking the potion is believed to lead to contact with the spiritual world, and has reportedly helped individuals to overcome depression and emotional strife. Some, however, experience no effect. Many experience an extremely upset stomach.  Source:  NPR

While any psychological benefits of the potion are purely anecdotal, research has found that not only is the potion non-addictive, but it can actually help to overcome addiction.  So now the question is, would you drink it?

*Amazon CARES does not endorse the use of any non-prescribed drugs or remedies. This blog is for informational purposes only.

April 19, 2013

Virtual Volunteer Opportunities, Shannon Sullivan's Debut Blog: International Medical Marijuana Day?

On April 17th, Amazon CARES friend and volunteer Mary Haight wrote about National Volunteer Month.  In her well-read blog, DancingDogBlog, Mary took the time to mention international volunteer opportunities with Amazon CARES in Peru in her recent blog post!  Mary Haight has been a volunteer in Peru with Amazon CARES, and we appreciate all the wonderful blog posts she has written on her blog and on our blog.  Read some here.

Shannon Sullivan has been a volunteer for Amazon CARES since 2011. She works as a veterinary technician in North Idaho and plans to attend veterinary school. As a student of sociology and bioethics, her studies have focused on the relationships between society and animals, as well as animal welfare.She is an avid reader, baker, self-proclaimed Star Trek geek, and loves being outdoors, especially when backpacking in the beautiful Inland Northwest. Working in veterinary medicine, Shannon has spent the last decade rescuing and fostering countless critters. Her four-legged family includes seven cats, one dog, three rats, a guinea pig, and a bearded dragon.  She has recently agreed to take over as our Blog Editor, and her first blog will appear on April 20th, which is International Medical Marijuana Day.  What does this have to do with Amazon CARES?  Read on tomorrow to in Shannon's debut blog, "Spiritual Tourism in the Amazon!"  

Amazon CARES also has several virtual volunteer opportunities as well.  You can see them on our website as you scroll down the Events Page.
Amazon CARES is a qualifying organization for the prestigious Presidential Volunteer Service Awards Program, which we first wrote about here.  
The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation issues the President’s Volunteer Service Award on behalf of President Barack Obama.  The Award recognizes the best in American spirit and honors volunteers that demonstrate outstanding service and participation over the course of a 12-month period.  To be eligible for an Award, maintain a current record of volunteer activity and hours online with the USA Freedom Corps.  Please contact molly@amazoncares.org so that she can register you on the PVSA website. 

Previous Amazon CARES volunteers have been distinguished with the following awards:
  • Sarah Razmandi Taylor, Bronze, 2009
  • Ana Garcia, Silver, 2010
  • Ana Garcia, Bronze, 2011
  • Brandi Pool, Gold, 2010
  • Linda Schwefel, Bronze, 2010
  • Manuela R., Bronze, 2010
  • Manuela R., Silver, 2011
  • Manuela R., Lifetime, 2010 (based on work on behalf of many organizations)
  • Molly Mednikow, Lifetime, 2009 (based on work on behalf of many organizations)

New awards are currently being processed for 2012 Volunteers!

A trip to Amazon Cares, Iquitos by Catherine Davidson

Our next vet trip is in June 2013 We are raising funds to pay for this trip.  Please support the trip and/or become a fundraiser for Amazon CARES   



A trip to Amazon Cares, Iquitos

by Catherine Davidson, originally written on 10/30/2010 for the Worldwide Veterinary Service

 My first impression of the Amazon region that surrounds Iquitos was one of amazement. Flying over the Amazon River and tributaries snaking through the lush Amazon Rainforest is breath-taking. Stepping off the plane in the Iquitos airport, I was immediately hit by a wall of heat and humidity. It was a lovely change from the wet and miserable weather I had left behind in Scotland, although I did wonder how I would cope working in this climate. It was a real novelty getting into a mototaxi which is the main mode of transport in Iquitos, and then traveling to the Jungle Lodge in Capo Lopez. Just a word of warning though for any female volunteers coming to work here – bring a sports bra! You will need it for the mototaxi journey to and from the lodge.
Once I arrived at the jungle Lodge I met Molly, the Amazon CARES founder and director, as well as the rest of the veterinary team. Molly is a very inspiring person. She has given up a luxurious life in the USA and she literally sold everything to set up the charity and live a very simple life in Iquitos. Not many people in this world would be able to sacrifice so much!!
I recognized immediately the high number of stray dogs around and the apparent indifference towards them by most of the locals. They are essentially regarded as pests not pets. Many are extremely underweight and most are infested with mange.
We had two days to relax before we started work. We walked around Belen market where pretty much everything imaginable is for sale. There were all sorts of exotic fruits and meat including tortoise meat, turtle meat and piranha fish. There were also jaguar skins, sloth skulls, anaconda skins and a huge array of Amazonian spices and Shaman medical potions for nearly every ailment. We also went on an overnight jungle excursion, which included jungle walks, piranha fishing, the sighting of the nearly-extinct pink river dolphins. A highlight was taking a quick dip in the Amazon River ourselves.
We worked in several different districts around Iquitos and also we travelled along the Amazon River to visit some villages that would not otherwise receive veterinary care. Generally, we arrived in the early morning and it was all hands on deck organizing our drugs, equipment and setting up tables - some of which belonged to local people, their kitchen tables kindly loaned to us for the day! There was usually a queue of people and their pets waiting for us before we even arrived. Harry, the expert Peruvian dog catcher that works for Amazon CARES, roamed the streets with net and cage strapped to the back of a mototaxi to bring in stray dogs and cats for neutering and anthelmintic treatment. We were certainly kept busy!
There are a number of challenges for the surgeon working in Iquitos. The first is the stifling heat and humidity. A head band is essential to stop sweat dripping into the op site! The second is the challenge of working outside or in buildings with incomplete roofs. For example, flies and exposure to the elements such as sun, wind and even tropical downpours. The third of these challenges involve the equipment and supplies we were using. One must adjust to equipment that is different or less modern than what one works with at home. As this is a charity, we have to make do with what is donated which means quickly learning to make do and adapt to what is available. Language barriers also present a challenge. Unfortunately I don´t have a great grasp on Spanish, and it can be very tricky trying to ascertain from an owner whether they want their dog to be neutered or to only receive anthelmintic treatment. Stray dogs bring challenges of their own. Not only are they regularly fearful and aggressive, there is no clinical history that comes with the dog, nor is there any provision for any pre-op blood testing or other diagnostic procedures. Therefore the pre operative assessment is based purely on a good clinical examination. Another serious challenge is the high incidence of erlichiosis resulting in reduced platelet numbers and therefore an increase tendency to bleed. This meant that although a lot of the bitches we were operating on were thin, they were not easy spays!! Finally the numbers of local spectators, particularly children, can be overwhelming. On the one hand it was wonderful to see that people were so interested in what was going on and it gave us a great opportunity to explain the importance of what we were doing (or attempt to explain, in my case, with ‘Spanglish’). On the other hand it was sometimes difficult to stop people from touching sterile equipment.
I have had an absolutely fabulous time working with Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety (CARES) and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I would recommend the experience to anyone who is willing to work hard and really make a make a difference in an area where much veterinary care is needed. 

April 12, 2013

A fake donation of $15,000. Really?

Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education & Safety 
April 2013

2013 is a year of transition and growth for Amazon CARES.  We are ever grateful to our supporters, and hope that you will continue supporting our work in the future.  We are also seeking volunteers....We post new volunteer opportunities frequently.
We need Veterinary professionals to work in the Amazon, and we need virtual volunteers to assist with translation, graphic design, copywriting and marketing.  
If interested, please check out www.amazoncares.org/Events.
The Slap Heard Around Atlanta!
Reality TV Not so Real:  
Amazon CARES on  
Amazon CARES Director Molly Mednikow appeared on the reality TV show Big Rich Atlanta produced by the Style Network.  
However, if you are hoping to learn more about Amazon CARES, don't blink.  Despite filming several scenes in which Molly introduces Amazon CARES to cast members and to guests at an Annual Decorator's Show house, these scenes were deleted in favor of the slapping drama which Molly can confirm was NOT SCRIPTED.
The Episode "Preacher's Wrath" will re-run at the following times, and will be available to watch on the Style Network website after Sunday, April 14.  Set your DVR!

Wednesday, April 10, 8 PM EST 
$15,000 for Amazon CARES!! Or Not.
Thursday, April 11, 2 AM EST 
Thursday, April 11, 8 AM EST
Sunday, April 14, 3 PM EST
Tuesday, April 16, 2PM EST
Sadly, the name "Amazon CARES" was never mentioned, although it was clear the event benefited an animal rescue charity.  
The producers got a true reaction from Molly when Katie donated $15,000 to Amazon CARES in "honor" of Donald's room in the Show House.  "I was in shock and in tears, knowing that this amount of money could keep CARES afloat for six months.  Then I realized the check was fake..." states Mednikow 
"It was fun and interesting to be a small part of the show.  I especially enjoyed working with talented Interior Decorator Marcia Marchman and her daughter Meagan McBrayer, who is as poised and gracious as Marcia is.  I have known Marcia for years, but had not seen her since I had started the charity in the Amazon.  Thank you Marcia for mentioning Amazon CARES on your show blog."
Molly Mednikow, Founder of Amazon CARES
Despite the lack of hoped for publicity for Amazon CARES, we are hopeful that people will "open their hearts and their wallets" as Molly said on the TV show.  As our charity grows in scope and we save more animals, we really need donations to survive.
            Make a Donation 

April 4, 2013

Every Day is "World Stray Animals Day" at Amazon CARES!

Photo from https://www.facebook.com/strayanimalsday

April 4 is the worldwide celebrated day to give special attention to the 600.000.000 stray animals in the world.

Dogs and cats should have a home. But stray dogs and stray cats don't. They lead poor and miserable lives on the streets, often illfed, suffering extreme heat, cold, and diseases, even more often being chased around by hostile and violent civilians and authorities. 

But we, as people who care about animals, can do something.

April 4. The Day to show Compassion, deploy initiatives to Care, and get into Action for stray animals all over our planet. (Above text is quoted from the website http://www.strayanimalsday.org/)

Every day is Stray Animals Day for Amazon CARES!  Not a week goes by when we are not educating the community about the importance of responsible animal ownership and the importance of adopting animals.

During this particular World Stray Animals Day, Amazon CARES had a volunteer veterinary trip planned.  Due to a lack of funding, we had to shorten the trip, originally scheduled to begin on April 1. The trip must go on, however, and on April 8 our vet team will be traveling by small plane to the remote Peruvian Amazon region of Contamana.

In the city of Contamana, for the first time, Licensed Veterinarians will conduct a comprehensive health check to animals, register the animals, adminster anti-parasite medications if warranted.  The team will also be spaying and neutering street dogs and owned animals in this poor population.   

This activity will take place under the Interagency Cooperation Agreement between the Provincial Government of Ucayali and Amazon CARES from April 8 to 12, in the Plaza Alfredo Vargas Guerra, with a motto "Responsible Owners, Healthy Pets." Massive participation from the population is expected.  

Amazon CARES has traveled to the borders of Peru to serve very remote populations.  To date, Contamana is the MOST remote location the charity has visited.  

We could not do this without sponsors and donors such as Embrace Pet Insurance, the Fondation Brigitte Bardot and many individual donors.  Please donate to our cause today!

April 2, 2013

Flagrant Disregard for Endangered Species Still Common in the Amazon

In late February,  in the Office of Environment, Amazon CARES confronted the complicit passivity of authorities in charge of a flagrant violation of the law and basic humanity.   Amazon CARES presented an official complaint regarding Mr Luis Navarro Achoa for crimes against natural resources.  In the horrific case of the "wild carnival" of Bellavista-Nanay, merchants utilized endangered animals hanging on "humisha" trees as decor. 

Besides this outrageous act of barbarity, the contest organizer for the Municipality of Maynas, offered a cash reward of 3000 Nuevo Soles (more than half a year's income) to the winner of of this bloody humisha tree decor.  The merchants and government blatantly ignored environment law, sending a signal that locals can continue preying on the Amazon's natural resources, including endangered species. 

Below is a copy of the formal complaint made by Bruno Antoine, Director of Amazon CARES in Peru.  Although it is in Spanish, we wanted it to be seen. 

Despite the evidence, the president of the association of Bella Vista vendors refused to recognize his criminal act "in forms of depreciation protected wildlife." Our lawyer Dr Isabel Cabanillas will host a discussion this evening about abuse, trafficking and animal law.

In total, two monkeys, a howler monkey and a wild boar, registered on the list of wildlife species protected by law, were murdered for the sake of decoration. Ironically, this took place as the sixteenth conference of the parties to CITES was being held in Bangkok.  During the closing ceremony, here in Iquitos endangered species were thoughtlessly killed with the blessing of Regional Forestry Officials and Municipality Maynas.  To add insult, the offender received an award from the President of the association of Bella Vista of s/ 3000 cash!

Warning:  Pictures are extremely graphic and disturbing.  They are on the following page.