The Ultimate Adventure: Volunteering In The Jungle
The Amazonian jungle - it’s a vast wilderness of almost mythical status, packed with unknown creatures and stunning landscapes. On the Jungle Conservation project in Peru volunteers have the opportunity to experience living and working within this incredible ecosystem. You will be in nature’s domain, there is no doubt about it, so if you have a passion for the environment, or a thirst for something a bit different then this is the program for you!
Kristin Stone spent 4 weeks becoming acquainted with the Jungle Conservation project and all it has to offer. This is what she has to say about her time abroad…
After my first week on the project I was more impressed than ever by the plight to save the rainforest. The sanctuary certainly has an uphill battle but trying to protect some of the most amazing species this world has to offer is a worthy cause. The Panthera Sanctuary was founded in 2013, with a focus on jungle biodiversity and ensuring it’s there for future generations. The team also work to rescue, rehabilitate (if possible), and re-release animals that have been caught in smuggling cases.
Standing in front of what the local people call a Shiuahuaco tree – it’s massive!
What to prepare for:
I’ve found there are three things you have to come to terms with when living in the jungle (aside from heat and humidity):
- Things are going to poke you
- Things are going to bite you
- Your feet will never ever be clean
But it’s all part of the experience. The sanctuary’s main mission is to nourish, maintain, and protect this piece of forest, allowing Amazonian species to thrive and creating a bio-diverse environment.
Type of work:
There is a lot of work that goes into this endeavor. One important activity involves adding salt to rich locations called clay lakes to provide more nutrients to the many animals who feed around them. This also helps to attract many more species to the protected lands. We also monitor what’s going on with game cameras at all corners of the reserve. All of this requires lots of hiking through the hot jungle and in near knee deep mud for miles. At times I think I’m going to die, but when I don’t, I know it’s been worth it!
Making your way through the dense jungle is no easy task, especially when there are large pockets of water to navigate.
The team are working to create a tropical “agroforestal” system to serve as a model for community engineers to use when working with farmers. This system is a garden that encompasses a wide variety of strategically planted crops. Different plants have different needs and are planted next to each other to complement the nutritional needs of the entire crop. This allows for a large variety of crops to be planted in a smaller footprint, all while maintaining a nutrient rich soil base. Not only is this model better for the environment, it is more financially lucrative in the long run for the farmers and community.
Wild macaws fly overhead.
During my second week it was fairly cool and we worked a lot on building the new nursery. When finished, it will be certified and include a procedure room where a vet can work on the animals. This is a big milestone for the sanctuary and instrumental in their mission to help animals. I’m so grateful, now more than ever, for all that I learned growing up from my dad when he would include me in building projects. I’m able to take those skills and knowledge and apply it to a great passion!!
During my third week, a group set out on an expedition to clear a path to an unexplored lake near the sanctuary. The team hope to discover the existence of giant otter, black caiman, or other endemic species in the area. On the second expedition in my last week we finally reached the lake. There is a high probability that no other human has ever been there – or at least not in a very long time. It was surreal. Now that a path is created studies can be done to find reasons to permanently protect this area and the land surrounding it.
The sanctuary does amazing work for the forest and all that inhabit it - and I’m proud to have been a part of it!
As my time at Panthera is coming to an end, I’ve tried to find a way to continue to support their mission. I’ve decided to raise funds to help provide the sanctuary with a solar power system. Panthera uses a lot of fuel to run a generator for a few hours each day. This generator is used to provide light in the evening, charge electronics, and run a small fridge that keeps a small amount of food somewhat fresh between trips to town. The solar power would provide a constant source of power for research, emergencies, as well as a better way to maintain the food supply in this remote location. This will allow them to support more volunteers and research, all while saving a lot of money on fuel costs.
Interested in volunteering in Peru on the Jungle Conservation Project?