August 26, 2013

A Day Volunteering for Amazon CARES Veterinary Campaign

June of this year, volunteer Rachel Rayner joined one of Amazon CARES' two week-long veterinary campaigns, helping to spay and neuter dogs and cats in Peru's rainforest.  In today's blog post, Rachel shares what a day in the life of a CARES veterinary volunteer is like.

Woke up to the sounds of the jungle in our twin bungalow at San Pedro Lodge.

After a quick shower and breakfast of delicious fresh banana pancakes and jungle fruit juice, we headed down to the river to start another day of the two week campaign.  This morning we were greeted by three eager members of San Pedro village where we had already neutered twenty-five animals a few days previously.  They were ready to join our regular team of three vets and three assistants on the journey to today’s location, a small village on the top of a hill near a well-known Ahyuasca Temple.  We had a half hour walk at the other end from the river to reach the school building where we were to be setting up the mobile clinic, so help carrying the equipment was essential!

The commute on the Amazon today was a little longer than usual, heading past various other small communities and miles of rainforest for just over an hour.  When the boat is traveling in the main channel of the river it is a little wide for wildlife spotting on the banks, even with binoculars.  However, after drifting off to sleep with the relaxing motion of the motor boat I was reminded of how lucky you can get with wildlife if you keep your eyes open!  Isabel, the full-time Peruvian vet on our team, woke me up to catch a glimpse of a grey river dolphin passing the boat!  On that trip we also got some great views of a brightly crested male Egret, various kingfishers and herons, as well a group of wild moustached Tamarins.

Following another impressive display of navigation of the Amazon tributaries by our boat driver, we arrived at the path.  More helpers were ready to meet us on the bank, including an enthusiastic dog which we had neutered earlier in the campaign!  It was a hot walk up to the village over the logs laid down to prevent the path from eroding in the heavy rainstorms which are quite a regular occurrence.  Luckily the rain only fell whilst we were inside today!  After all helping to set up for operations and treatments, we set to work neutering and treating all the dogs and cats from the village over three months of age.  The owners were keen to be involved and brought blankets and plastic bags for any animals that were cold when recovering.  As well as assisting with the anesthesia and passing of instruments to the vets operating, the assistants made sure the owners all had written information about the surgery and medications given and how to care for their animals afterward.  This village also had three horses used to help transport things from the village down to the river, so we administered parasite treatments and vitamins to them as well.

When we had finished, we had a delicious lunch of freshly caught fish with plantain rice and a lemon and onion dressing prepared by a local family.  With our equipment already washed and taken down to the boat, we walked back leisurely discussing the campaign so far and the arrangements for our day off the next day.

After another relaxing boat ride home we showered and had dinner with the other guests at the lodge and shared traveling experiences.  We also took turns to hold the orphaned woolley monkey, Valentine, who had recently been taken in by the lodge owner.  Once the surgical kits were all rewrapped and ready for re-sterilization, our work for the day was complete.  As the generator was switched off for the night and the mosquitoes came out in force, we retired to our bungalows looking forward to our visit to Pilpintuwasi the next morning!

Interested in volunteering for Amazon CARES?  Visit our website or contact Shannon at

August 19, 2013

Experience Making A Difference - Amazon CARES Veterinary Volunteer (Part 3/3)

Have you ever wondered what a day volunteering with Amazon CARES is like? Recent veterinary volunteer Sarah Keown shares her experience with us in today's blog.

Day 11

A big adventure today - going to Tres Unidos.  Three men came to our beautiful lodge in San Pedro to help, and off in the boat we went down the main river (seeing river dolphins on the way!) before navigating through very narrow tributaries carefully directed by one of our helpers. We really felt we were properly in the deepest Amazonian jungle!

When we finally reached the bank more people were waiting to carry our masses of equipment on the tricky, exciting half hour trek uphill to the settlement.  They were determined to carry everything themselves, which was extremely nice as our crew all found it difficult enough without anything to carry!  Off we went traversing bogs and logs up to the very smart village.

Tres Unidos has grown since a shaman's temple has been set up next door  - nearly everybody in the village now works for this place and the size of the village has at least tripled since it began.  Even though it's the tiniest place, you see the odd gringo (some in the "I love everything" stage of ayahuasca!) - which was even odd for me by now!

We were based in the school building today - I was quite happy at my little miniature set up of school tables and a little children's chair - ideal for me! Three bitch spays and two dog castrates today - we did 16 in total which is a lot less than normal, but probably a higher proportion of the population in this small community.  Also two sets of anti-parasiticides for the two local working horses which Rachel did - my days of equine practice are well behind me (thankfully!).

Just before we got in the boat home we saw some more wildlife - big orange monkeys in the trees.  Is so nice to see them in the wild especially as illegal trade in monkeys for pets is a huge problem - which is where the lodge's baby wooley monkey Valentine  was rescued from.  Tied to a tree by his "owners" who wanted to breed him!  At least now he seems to have really settled into his new abode, thankfully, and loved the cuddles from everyone.  Highlight for myself was him falling asleep curled up on me whilst I chilled on the hammock - lush!


Interested in volunteering? Amazon CARES offers virtual and veterinary volunteer positions year-round. Learn more here.

August 14, 2013

August Amazon CARES Campaign In The News!

By Shannon Sullivan

Amazon CARES' August Veterinary Volunteer Campaign has been underway for just over a week, and already the campaign has made headlines in Iquitos' local news. On Sunday, August 11, Pro & Contra, a major local news source in Iquitos, published a short article about the campaign.

The article explains that the campaign is being conducted via an alliance between Amazon CARES, Mi Dogtora, and the municipality of San Juan. The campaign focuses on pet registration, parasite treatment, as well as the spaying and neutering of both dogs and cats.

The article goes on to explain that the alliance and campaign are intended to regulate pet ownership "in order to achieve a peaceful coexistence between people and animals, recognizing the important work of society, help and security, but without forgetting the public health aspects and possible inconveniences caused by them."

It has taken Amazon CARES nearly ten years to make responsible and humane pet ownership a public concern and a talking point in the media. You can support this August campaign at our Crowdrise fundraising page.

Pro & Contra article translated using Google Translate.

August 8, 2013

Experience Making A Difference - Amazon CARES Veterinary Volunteer (Part 2/3)

Have you ever wondered what a day volunteering with Amazon CARES is like? Recent veterinary volunteer Sarah Keown shares her experience with us in today's blog.

Day 4 - My Birthday!
Today started as normal with a lovely Marlena breakfast.  Off to Santo Thomas today for a clinic in a very beautifully painted brick village hall.  I went in the back of the pick-up today as there was no room up front, but despite it being the most bumpy thing ever at times - especially over the dirt tracks farther out of the city and each of us having to stand to hold onto the bars with dear life - it was the best way to travel and I loved it!

Two neuters, a cat spay and a dog spay today, so not quite as busy as yesterday, but enough to keep the day flowing and us all to feel like we very much earned our packed lunch!  The local kids seemed very entertained by our (normal bathroom) weighing scales for the animals.  I got on too, and even though they laughed when I said I was a "gordita," one of the lovely girls gave me a big consoling hug!

After the surgeries, Rachel, Isabel (Amazon CARES veterinarian), and I went to "vamos a la playa" and got taken by one of Bruno's friends by boat across the river to his idyllic home where some very lucky ex-pats live.  There Isabel, with amazing skill, managed to restrain both of their (rescued) monkeys and parrots for me to (try) and inject them with anti-parasiticides. It was an experience, with a beautiful view!

Back at the clinic (after managing to break one of the big boxes with my gordita weight on the way back in the truck!), I felt refreshed for the evening.  I was amazingly surprised by the Amazon CARES team with the most amazing, biggest, impressive, chocolate and dulce de leche cake ever seen, a round of "Feliz Cumpleanos" and Spanish version of "For She's A Jolly Good Fellow," and a round of cervezas - all good and enjoyed by everyone - especially when Harry the vet tech got a face full of cream courtesy of Bruno! 

Interested in volunteering? Amazon CARES offers virtual and veterinary volunteer positions year-round. Learn more here.

August 4, 2013

Battling Blatant Animal Abuse in Peru

By Shannon Sullivan

Since founded in 2004, Amazon CARES has worked to change the perception of domestic animals in Peru, promoting a culture of empathy and compassion. Sadly, we are sometimes reminded just how vital our work is and how cruel people can be.

Warning: The images below may be too upsetting for some viewers.

About two weeks ago Amazon CARES received reports of two rams tied up in front of a residence with no food, water, or shelter. Many individuals were concerned about the health and safety of the rams. Our team quickly mobilized and were saddened to see animals in such conditions.

The rams were lying in their own urine and feces, and despite asking the owner and local authorities to take action, the animals remained on the sidewalk in that state from 10 am to 4 pm.

Frustrated by the lack of action and consequences, Amazon CARES, led by Peru Director Bruno Antoine, filed a formal complaint with the Commissioner of Iquitos. This situation is a sad reminder about the work that still must be done in Iquitos and the surrounding area. We are grateful that so many individuals were concerned enough to contact us; ten years ago that may not have been the case. With the help of supporters like you, we will continue our work and continue to educate the community about the humane treatment of animals.

The signed formal complaint.

Support Amazon CARES' important work here.

August 2, 2013

Experience Making A Difference - Amazon CARES Veterinary Volunteer (Part 1/3)

Have you ever wondered what a day volunteering with Amazon CARES is like? Recent veterinary volunteer Sarah Keown shares her experience with us in today's blog.

Day 3

Early start, delicious breakfast as ever by Marlena who is our Peruvian mama at the Cabo Lopez shelter where we're staying (just outside of Iquitos) and off we go in our mototaxi pick-up to meet the others at the clinic in the city, load up and head off to a new village Olanta Humala for my first mobile clinic. 

Sarah at our facility in Cabo Lopez.

A little bit of a bumpy ride with everyone hanging on tight - luckily volunteers had the luxury of being in the cabin with the driver rather than in the truck!  We arrived with our accommodation for the day ready for us - an enclosed wooden room with dirt floor, though tables and chairs as required, and once the equipment was set out it looked just like a rustic clinic that had been there all along. 

The word got around quickly we were there and soon enough a crowd of people were waiting with dogs, puppies and some cats in their hands enthusiastic for parasite treatment and in most cases neutering.  Education is vital to Amazon CARES' work, and flyers were given out as well as members of staff (who speak Spanish - rather than my Spanglish!) informing about the problem of uncontrolled dog/cat populations and how neutering can help.  With volunteers and Harry (the vet tech) in control of when dogs were medicated etc., we had a conveyer belt of dogs going through being neutered very efficiently.

By the 5th bitch spay (including a heavily pregnant bitch and a pyometra) I was tired, hot, and my back was aching, but was happy that everything went as well as possible and grateful to everyone for helping so much.  Owners also seemed grateful and, if necessary, were given careful instructions of when to return to the clinic for check ups, further medications and the importance of this.

Back to Iquitos with some spare time to wander around and enjoy the city in the golden sunlight.  Within half an hour we saw the main square filled with school kids playing, a procession of people supporting the "Garden" Party for mayor elections - including floats of dancing hula girls, extravagant head dresses and firecrackers. We stopped at the delicious ice cream shop, took in the extraordinary view of the very full, yet very still, Amazon, and had an Inca Kola in the old school glass bottles to go back to the clinic with - I can definitely see why people enjoy living here!  On the way back in our usual mototaxi ride we even had a couple of stowaways that hopped on in the village for a ride and then jumped off again with no fear! Seems that growing up as a child here must be pretty fun as they all seem to be playing outside or swimming all the time (with a little bit of school).

Interested in volunteering? Amazon CARES offers virtual and veterinary volunteer positions year-round. Learn more here.