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

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