What I Did

Ara Vickers - Brazil


May 17, 2019

Note: These experiences were very specific to my apprenticeship, if you are a current applicant please be aware it is unlikely you will have the same position as I did.

It has been a whirlwind of a year, and even after a month of being back in the United States, I am just now beginning to process everything I have seen, done, and felt over the course of my last eight months in Brasil. In the midst of this processing, my (admittedly mostly my grandma’s) friends and acquaintances, have been attempting to figure out what exactly it was that I was doing. I’ve used a lot of eloquent sentences that promote my time nicely, such as “I was working to help rescue, rehabilitate, and release trafficked animals back into the wild while living with a local host family,” but what does this really mean? I wrote out an overview of what exactly I did:

I worked with two other fellows at a non-profit animal rescue called R3 (pronounced “Air-he-tres” for all you hopeful Portuguese speakers 😉 ). R3 is a fantastic organization that works alongside Brasil’s military police, helping to take wild animals from the marketplace and bring them back into the wild, as well as educating the public on the harm that trafficking does. I worked alongside several staffers (biologists and animal-lovers) in various sectors to care for these animals. It was an only Portuguese speaking space (although sometimes there would often be a mix during lunch time of French, Spanish, English, Chinese, and German because seemingly the US is the only country where not knowing a second language is standard). Due to the fact that my work greatly varied on a day-to-day basis, I have chosen to split up the work I did by the physical spaces, or "sectors". I was in. A typical work week would go as follows:

C2/C3: Care for papagayos (parrots), Toucans, and the vast amount of different species of small birds that are commonly caged in Brazilian houses. Occasionally, this sector would also have baby possums. The care involved cleaning, feeding, and snack making.

C1: Monkeys, Araras, & Friends: I usually worked with the monkey’s and Arara’s (large parrots, which happen to share my name), and occasionally the wild cats and dogs, raccoons, and Southern tamanduas. Monkeys are incredible animals, and after my time with them I am both in awe of them and in fear (I was once stuck in a cage with an angry group of parrots – and I mean wear a mask when you enter their cage angry – while an escaped, violent monkey kept me trapped, mocking me as he danced in front of the door). I also learned how similar monkeys are to us. Fun Fact: Howler’s love back scratches. My work with them was preparing food, water, snacks, and cleaning (as well, as I like to think, providing some friendship).

Trail: The Trail was a long path which passed by more monkey’s, the crazy, above-mentioned parrots, a southern tamandua by the name of ‘Princessa’ (who loved to climb up and down you before you managed to put her food onto the ground), more Arara’s, turtles, tortoises (which, actually, happened to be some of the most interesting animals to observe for me), reptiles, vultures, owls, and finally a cage where visitors could walk in and interact with different bird species. The trail was used for educating visitors on the effects of trafficking, as the animals there would never be returned to the wild due to the harm humanization caused them. I was responsible for maintenance, water, food, snacks, cleaning, and other general care needs. Once a week was “Festa da piscina”, where everyone would scrub down the turtle pool (super glamorous stuff).

[PSA: Some of the characters in the walk-in cage with different bird species included a little black bird which loved to be petted, a murderous parrot who would bite at my feet and literalmente walked by dragging himself around with his feet, and one obnoxious green parrot who had developed a taste for rat brains – food for a carnivorous bird species that cohabitates with him – and who I was constantly in a battle with as I attempted to sneakily hide the rat brains from him- mostly unsuccessfully because he had a downright remarkable ability to find them. While it was occasionally humorous, the root of all three of these birds issues stemmed from the owners they had. Trafficking is truly despicable. No matter what, whether you find a wild animal “cute” or you just “love/have a connection with ____”, trafficking is always completely unacceptable. It always harms the animals involved, physically or/and mentally, no matter if they are put in a “loving” environment or not. Animals which are not domesticated should never be your pet. I will touch further on this in future blog posts.]

Quarantine: Quarantine was where all the new arrivals came and often had a lot of baby animals. At any given time there could be baby monkey’s, common marmosets (which acted like the squirrels of Brasil), a variety of bird species including a room full of parrots, possums, and more depending on the day and what the environmental police brought in.

Veterinary: This section involved following the vet (who I honestly regarded as an actual doctor) and helping with performing check-ups, surgeries, and various other duties.

Marine: The Marine section was separated from the terrestrial section and had a good deal more variety in work day to day. I often could count on: caring for the large penguin population we had on hand, cleaning enclosures, testing the pools to ensure they have the right chemical balances needed for their subsequent species, taking care of sick sea birds, and performing autopsies on penguins found dead on the beach in order to investigate their causes of death (penguins are not commonly found in Brasil. They reside in the South of Argentina and migrate up and down a cold front when they are young. However, due to climate change, the cold front is moving further and further up North, and many penguins are getting stuck in Brasil out of exhaustion – resulting in a lot of deaths).

Beach Monitoring: For this day I had to wake up at 5 am to patrol different beaches and inspect them for possibly dead/alive marine animals.

Even though this is an extremely limited description of my responsibilities/work, and reads more of a diary entry than a blog post, I feel it is needed and probably the best way to help conceptualize my experience working in Brasil.


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Festa da piscina! 


Ara Vickers