This summer we won't be sending the kids to camp and hitting the beach. Instead, on June 26th, Scott, Melanie, Lucas and Sydney depart for a 2 month adventure in Peru where we'll immerse ourselves in peruvian culture, volunteer to help those less privileged, hike the Inca Trail and live in the jungle. Follow our blog for regular updates, pictures and videos from all 4 of us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


This week we started a new volunteer assignment at the Cusco zoo.  When I say "zoo", I use the term very loosely.  While there are animals (and some of them are even kept in cages!), there are no vets and the people who work there seem to have little if any formal training on being zoo keepers.  There's a fee for visitors, but no one actually mans the entrance to collect the money, and there's really only 1 rule…keep the door to the zoo closed so the free-roaming llama doesn't escape!

Volunteering at the zoo typically starts with taking some of the animals out of the back storage rooms.  It's unclear why these animals aren't just left out overnight, but no matter.  We start by loading the turtles (there's probably about 20 of them) into a wheelbarrow and wheel them out to the exhibition area where we place them amongst the birds!  Next up is several monkeys and some other animals that look like ferrets and possums, but their exact names are unclear.  One, named LuLu, was allowed out of his cage and actually attacked Melanie, but she survived!  Finally, we bring out the toucan...for him we just open up his cage and let him hop out.  Today the Toucan, while roaming the zoo uncaged, actually attacked another bird...caught it in his mouth and seemingly killed it!  Check out the video:

It was unbelievable to watch, until the zoo administrator rushed up and grabbed the toucan and basically yanked the still alive bird out of its mouth!!!  Needless to say, this place is never dull!

Next up...feeding the animals.  What do they eat?  BREAD!  That's right, pretty much every animal in this zoo starts the day off the same way we do every morning…with a breakfast of bread.  The monkeys, the parrots, the macaws, the peacock, the bears, the ostrich, the deers…all of them get bread!  And how do they get the bread?  We feed it to them by hand!

I don't mean to be critical because it's a lot of fun…and I'm no vet (but mind you that neither is anyone who actually works at the zoo)…but I'm pretty sure none of these animals are meant to have a diet of complex carbohydrates.  One story I heard is that the zoo used to have a cheetah.  When we asked the woman who runs the place what happened to it, she informed us that it died of some kind of an intestinal disorder…likely from all the bread!  We also saw a dead monkey…can't say the bread was the cause, but guessing it didn't help.

Needless to say, I don't think this particular zoo is going to win any awards, but they do the best they can with the resources they have available.

Anyway, after the bread, we help clean the cages and then cut up fruit because the best way to wash down complex carbohydrates is bananas, watermelon, apples, pineapples and papayas!  On Monday's the bears, vultures and condors get Alpaca meat that one of the employees cuts up for them.  On other days, some of the animals get chicken.  The feeding isn't an exact science.

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