Antoine in Bolivia

Antoine M. is a junior studying world languages. He was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2017 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU. He is spending the summer volunteering with Parque Ambue Ari, a wildlife center in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

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Leaving Ambue Ari

The past two months at Ambue Ari have gone by unbelievably fast. It seems like just yesterday that I arrived in the park, and listened in awe as people casually talked about walking their pumas or jaguars in the middle of the jungle. I can’t believe how quickly I took part in those conversations without realizing how crazy and amazing the work we were doing really was.

I had the opportunity to help Wayra move from a small cage into an enclosure that felt more like a small jungle surrounded by some fencing.

Me, with Wayra in her new cage.

Having lived her entire life in the same place, we had no idea how she would react in her new home. The move couldn’t possibly have gone better. She adapted almost immediately to this cage. She could run freely, climb trees, chase wild animals, and choose whether or not she wanted any contact with humans. As it turns out, she still wanted to spend time with us and nap at our sides.

This was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. Never before had I met such an open group of people, all with a common love of animals and volunteering. It is incredible how close I got to all the other volunteers and staff in such little time. I believe I can partially attribute that to the absence of electricity and phones, allowing everyone to interact and communicate face to face with one another. I will cherish the memories of the starry nights with fireflies, the time spent lying in the jungle watching wild macaws flying above, the long walks through the waist high swamp, the time spent with all the volunteers, and the days with Wayra and Carlos.

Wayra rolling on her back.

I leave the park with only one regret, that I can’t stay longer. I know I will come back.

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