Visit AmaZOOnico – A Wildlife Rescue Center In Ecuador’s Rainforest
An inexpensive, worthwhile jungle excursion involves a visit to AmaZOOnico in Ecuador’s rainforest. It is a particular jungle zoo rehabilitating local wildlife.
While this “zoo” provides an opportunity to see various wild animals up close, AmaZOOnico is not a zoo in the traditional sense of what is usually expected of a zoo. AmaZOOnico is a wildlife rescue center and animal rehabilitation station in a rainforest preserve within Ecuador’s jungle.
AmaZOOnico is discovered a few miles up Rio Napo from Misahuallí, Ecuador, on the different side of the current from the village of Ahuano in the shielded GSR rainforest preserve. The GSR began as a private cooperative conceived in Ahuano and officially organized in Switzerland by a handful of individuals with a common goal to protect the rainforest.
Initially, 39 acres of jungle land were purchased and set aside as a preserve in January 1993 and officially recognized by the government as an animal rescue center in 1994. Eventually, Ecuador recognized the project as “preserve Selva Viva” in November of 1995.
Since AmaZOOnico opened in 1993, it has been experiencing wild pets in imperfect shapes and requiring veterinary attention or animals impounded by government authorities as they were being traded on the black market. Most animals arrive in bad physical form as they are either malnourished, full of parasites, wounded, or above.
The center is now sheltering many different jungle animals and nursing them back to health, but some are in danger of extinction. The list of rehabilitated animals includes a variety of birds (macaws, parrots, toucans) and various monkeys, as well as ocelots, caymans, and even boa constrictors.
They are animals that people buy as pets or capture to sell as pets on the black market. While keeping a wild animal as a pet and the trafficking of wildlife is illegal in Ecuador, people still buy them on the black market. Unfortunately, such wild animals lose their appeal as pets or wear out their welcome (because they are fantastic and cannot be housebroken).
Also, babies may be orphaned if local hunters kill their mothers. The staff estimates that one-fourth of the animals, unfortunately, die on the way to the center or die within the first few days in the center. One-half of the animals that come to AmaZOOnico must remain at the center because they require protection or cannot be completely rehabilitated.
The Liana Lodge
The good news is that approximately one-fourth of the animals (the adults and healthy animals unaccustomed to human handling) can be successfully released back into the wild. Cages or enclosures constrain many animals within the center’s confines, but only half the animals are in the center for a lengthy stay, and many are not in any cells at all. Some animals, such as the lemurs and some of the monkeys, roam freely around the area. (One needs to exercise caution with the monkeys as they are determined to snatch people’s bags and backpacks).
What is impressive is that the Ecuadorian government doesn’t provide any funding. The center is self-sufficient but at merely a subsistence level. In 1999, they opened a 24-bed hotel, the Liana Lodge, as one more way of supporting the project along with entrance fees, souvenirs, and donations from “Amigos del amaZOOnico,” a group of supporters from Europe. Also, most of the people working on the preserve are volunteers (primarily Europeans). It is worth the time to visit Amazoonico, and it could again turn into an enriching journey for all involved.