How many times have you heard this sentence in your normal line of work? I bet not too many.
Well, academia is usually a madhouse, but we haven’t reached (yet) “that” level of craziness. At least not at the department of Economic History.
Yet, this is the “new normal” at the place where we are volunteering now.
With 230 animals in the center, the conversations around can be about anything from…..
– can anyone help me with the monkeys? to …
– who can babysit the pelican?…
or a casual comment -en passant- about the need of more rats to feed the snakes.
Sometimes you see people walking around with baby monkeys on their heads; some other time (like today) you cannot access the container with the dirty dishes because the brown booby has decided to perch there and considers it his territory, or you stand in the garden drinking water and minding your own business when a deer pushes you on the butt.
It is such a radically new working environment.
And I am having A LOT of fun.
It is important to say that most of our time, however, is not devoted to interacting with the animals. In fact, such interaction is extremely restricted, since the main purpose of the center is to rehabilitate and release. And for that, the animals need to continue being WILD. So, human contact needs to be set to the minimum. So, no touch, no talking, and if possible no eye contact.
So, most of our time goes to the support activities needed to guarantee the good recovery of the animals and their release into the wild. This includes having a clean enclosure, fresh food, and water, clean clothes, and blankets.
So, we clean cages, wash dishes and do laundry. In between, we might be able to bring food to certain animals and watch them a bit closer.
Which is fascinating.
Particularly since it is not easy to see animals in the jungle close by. So now, before our first week is complete, I can clearly tell apart the two-fingered sloth from the three-fingered, the collared aracari from the fiery billed aracari or the yellow-nape parrot from the mealy parrot…
But mostly, I am able to tell apart the iguana poo from the toucan poo or the deer poo. The most fascinating? The booby poo. It is like opening a coca-cola can after shaking. Now, go try to clean THAT one ;-).