Bolivia and Argentina

MPW travel scholarships - Bolivia & Argentina

Thanks to an MPW Travel Fund, I have been able to visit both Bolivia and Argentina to do conservation work.

To begin with, I spent a month at Parque Ambue Ari volunteering for Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY), a Bolivian organisation that is made up of a team of adolescents, Bolivian professionals and volunteers from across the globe. Founded in 1992, CIWY was the pioneer of the environmental movement in Bolivia and is recognised nationally and internationally for founding centres designated to rescue and rehabilitate wild life. In addition to Parque Ambue Ari, CIWY manages two other wildlife parks in the country. Inti Wara Yassi’s name aims to convey a sense of unity with nature and also connections with all the peoples of Bolivia: the name combines words from three native languages. Inti means ‘sun’ in Quechua, Wara ‘stars’ in Aymara and Yassi ‘moon’ in Chiriguano Guarani.

I spent an incredible time at this conservation community with some amazing animals (and people!). I worked with three sister pumas during my stay, called Inti, Wara and Yassi (named after the organization). They were brought to the park as kittens at roughly nine months of age, after being saved from being sold illegally on the black market in a mining town called Potosi.

My spell at the community has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but it has been very rewarding. Although the work is very hard and the days are long, I was almost always eager to get out of bed, no matter how sore I was! I spent my days walking each of the sisters individually through the dense Bolivian jungle and swamp, encountering a huge variety of wildlife of all sizes, from snakes and spiders to monkeys! Dealing with deadly snakes and spiders became the norm, as I found them not only in the jungle but in my room every other day. Getting to know each of my cats has been an unforgettable experience: seeing different characteristics and traits in each one, gaining their trust and building different relationships with each of them, all of which has been a dream come true, thanks to the MPW Travel Scholarship. For those interested in zoology and conservation this opportunity to work with these incredible creatures is a must!

Following on from my stay in Bolivia, I travelled to Argentina to take part in a Marine Mammal Internship Programme. This programme supports activities related to the research and conservation of marine mammal species (whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea-lions and marine otters) that inhabit the coastal waters of the area. These species are monitored all year round by researchers and international volunteers. Interns are trained to participate in the rescue, rehabilitation, and biological follow-up of all these marine mammals, following specialized protocols. This programme is aimed at future professionals looking to develop a specialized career in the research and conservation of such species. We also strove to conserve and protect marine ecosystems and resources. Volunteers directly contribute towards the conservation of marine biodiversity via three main programmes. As a bonus, a partnering conservation group needed help for a few days working with sea turtles, an opportunity I could not turn down! Volunteer activities include collecting data on populations of marine birds, sea-turtle conservation work and environmental education with children.

Spending a whole month with a team of professionals at Bahia Blanca, Argentina, getting an inside opportunity to work with wildlife was possibly the most gratifying experience of my life. Although it was hard work and the hours were long, working alongside internationally renowned scientists pushed my passion for conservation to a whole new level. I’ve now made a set of contacts with people with whom I’ve been invited to work in the future, to hopefully kick-start my career in conservation!

Again, I can’t thank MPW enough for making this dream come true. Without this trip I would not have the necessary experience to start working for major environmental organisations, which is what I’m aiming to do in the next year.