I walk into a building of two rooms, and the smell of parrots, toucans, and macaws hits me as I think about another day of taking care of these poor animals. In a corner I see a large cage on top of which I see a blanket. There is a heater facing the cage, the first heater I have seen in Brazil. I carefully look inside of the cage, curious about what is inside. I see a black animal, “What could it be?” I think to myself. Curious about what is happening I knock softly on the Ambulatorio door, informing the veterinarian, Kadashi, I would like to enter. I enter the Ambulatorio and see Kadashi preparing an injection for an animal. This catches my attention, I ask what the injection is for as Kadashi checks the amount of milliliters in the syringe. Kadashi answers in his fluent English, “The injection is for the monkey who is laying in the other room in the cage. Do you know what happened to the monkey?” I answer, “No, that is the reason I walked into the Ambolutorio.”
“The monkey that is in the other room was electrocuted on an electric pole because it ran away from its cage that is in the External NUTRAS and then it could not find its way to the forest. It climbed up on an electric pole, and unfortunately got electrocuted.” Kadashi then asks me if I would be able to hold the monkey down as he administers the injection. I hesitate being a bit afraid of something going wrong yet I tell myself everything will be alright and answer, “Yes, I will help you.” As Kadashi takes the monkey out of the cage I see the raw skin on the site of what used to be the monkeys tail. I hold the monkey down but the site is horrifying. Kadashi injects the clear liquid that will soon ease the monkeys pain. Then Kadashi holds down the monkey and gives me a cr̬me that I put on the burned hands of the monkey. Looking into the monkeys eyes I can see the agony the pain is causing. These burns will take weeks to heal…
We finish administering the medicine, Kadashi puts the monkey back inside the cage and asks me if I can mash up some bananas and add sugar for the monkey to be able to eat. The monkey does not want to eat anything but adding sugar to mashed up bananas makes the meal sweet and if the monkey will eat anything it will be this. I go into the kitchen peel two fresh bananas, use the wooden spoon to mash them up, and add a tea spoon of sugar. I then go back to the room where the monkey covered with a soft blanket is laying, I open up the cage and give the monkey its food for the day. Closing the gate I whisper, “Just eat a little, it will make you better, I wish I could take some of the pain away from you…”
This is just one example of what would be a regular occurrence at R3 Animais. The animal trafficking business is the second largest illegal trafficking business in Brazil because of the tremendous profits it provides, reaching ten billion dollars annually. Animal trafficking is expanding annually because of the strong and rapidly expanding demand for a variety of products around the world including bushmeat, ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine, exotic pets, jewelry, trinkets, accessories, furs for uses, and trophies. The most popular animals to be trafficked are hedgehogs, macaws, lizards, monkeys, tigers, and bears. At R3 Animais there are macaws, parrots, toucans, three different types of monkeys, canaries, owls, anteaters, and turtles because R3 Animais is an organization that only works with wild animals from the Atlantic Forest.
The conditions in which wild animals are in during trafficking are horrifying. They are put in crowded places with poor ventilation, lack of food, water, and basic care. For example, parrots of which there were many in R3 Animais are usually trafficked having their beaks and feet taped, stuffed into plastic tubes while hidden in luggage. Baby turtles, of which there were about two hundred at R3 Animais, when trafficked were taped therefore trapped in their shells and shoved into tube socks. When these animals finally arrive in their final destination they are usually inadequately cared for because of the caretaker’s lack of knowledge. Many times animals that are taken care of inadequately are brought to R3 Animais where they need to go through close observation to recuperate.
On the same day that I found the monkey in the cage electrocuted I was appalled with the situation yet Kadashi told me that two months ago, when I was not working at R3 Animais yet, a monkey that was confiscated from a woman by the environmental police was brought in. It was mistreated by this woman who taught the monkey how to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. The monkey was brought to R3 Animais with a tumor on one of its sides and it had to go through an operation to remove the tumor. After the operation it had to go on detox and be given injections to help it through the situation of changing its diet and making it healthy. This broke my heart – How could an animal be treated in such a cruel manner? What can be done to stop people from mistreating animals? At R3 Animais the workers want to spread awareness about how to treat animals well through their guided tours of the Rio Vermelho Trail. The Rio Vermelho Trail is an extension of the External NUTRAS and when animals recuperate but are unable to return to the wild they are put on the trail where they have cages that are large enough for them to fly in or play in and they are taken care of by the staff from R3 Animais. This trail can be visited but people may only go on the trail with a tour guide because the tour guide educates people about how animals should be taken care of, what happens when animals are not taken care of properly, and the stories of these animals.
Working with R3 Animais has been a gift, an experience that has made me understand more about animal trafficking, how to take care of animals properly, and about the psychological effects on animals who are mistreated or removed from nature. It was wonderful to go to work every day knowing that I am working for a cause that is greater than myself and I am happy I could have volunteered for an organization with such a meaningful cause even if it was only for a month.