Finally, after seeing many cool things this week I arrived at Foundation Jambeli! The drive from Guayaquil is about an hour and a half, so Rafaela and I took a quick lunch break before taking a tour of the facility. After lunch, Rafaela showed me the animal rescue and breeding facility which includes spider monkeys, a spectacle bear, ostriches, Galapagos tortoises, crocodiles, and of course many Guayaquil Macaws; also known as the Great Green Macaw which is the focus of my work here in Ecuador. Rafaela has a large rescue and breeding project for these macaws with goals of returning these great birds into the wild. The Guayaquil Macaw is often confused for the widely known military macaw which is also green in color, but they are two distinct species. The Guayaquil Macaw is extremely endangered and it is believed that there are only about 80 individuals left in the wild. This bird, like many other macaws are endangered because of the pet trade and habitat destruction. In fact, Guayaquil has made this bird the symbol of the city in hopes of bringing more attention to its dire situation.
After our tour we went right to work, we joined up with other staff members named: Priscilla, Justo, Migeul, and Darwin to begin an inventory on the Guayaquil macaws at the Foundation Jambeli breeding center. While I carefully held each bird its microchip was checked to ensure functionality, and its weight and enclosure location were taken. After we completed our inventory, under Rafaela’s direction we moved a few grown birds out of their parent’s enclosure to new enclosures, where they would have a chance to make new bonds with other birds. At the end of the day we had inventoried fifty-one Guayaquil Macaws; a very productive day!
As a rescue and breeding center for endangered animals, Foundation Jambeli also focuses its efforts on educating its visitors about the pet trade and the improper treatment of exotic animals. Many of the center’s animals come to them as former pets, but Oso a spectacled bear was seized by a government authority from a circus that was not treating him properly. Oso may have had a tough start on life, but now he is one of the most beloved animals living at Foundation Jambeli!
I have had the opportunity to speak with staff the past few days about different enrichment devices for Oso; enrichment items are various items that encourage natural behaviors from an animal or stimulate the animal to think in new ways. In addition to brainstorming about new enrichment ideas, I received permission from Rafaela to target train Oso using a target pole! Today I was able to demonstrate and teach a few staff members about target training and how to target train Oso. This target training will not only cause Oso to think in new and different ways, but can also lead to teaching him new behaviors and making health checkups easier and less stressful. Oso is a very smart bear; by the end of the second day he began to pick up on the training. Just in case if you were wondering…Oso’s favorite treats are apples and jam!!
Today was a fun filled morning. While helping out with daily husbandry tasks, Justo a staff member at Foundation Jambeli let me bottle feed a few of their baby lambs! I absolutely love working with exotic animals but there is just something about domesticated farm animals that I cannot seem to get enough of!
Yesterday we had completed a large scale Guayaquil macaw inventory, but today brought more microchips and weighing of birds! In addition to the Guayaquil Macaw, Foundation Jambeli is home to the scarlet, blue and gold, green wing, and military macaws, and several other smaller psittacines. Today we had three birds: two green wing macaws and one Guayaquil macaw that each needed a microchip inserted. This is a simple process where a micro chip is inserted into the bird with a small syringe. The microchip is an excellent way to identify each macaw; as it is almost impossible to distinguish individuals in large groups because they all look similar! Knowing individuals is also vital when creating breeding pairs; the best breeding pairs will consist of macaws that are not related or have different genes. After inserting microchips into each bird we also took a blood sample for a DNA test. This blood sample will be used to determine the sex of the macaw it was taken from.
The big event for today at Foundation Jambeli, was to begin a massive crocodile and caiman inventory! The Guayaquil Macaw isn’t the only endangered species being rescued and bred at Foundation Jambeli; the center has over one hundred and fifty crocodiles and caimans. It is well known that many people do not like the crocodile because of its bad reputation. But the crocodile, like all other flora and fauna have a specific niche in the environment that is extremely important for them to fill!
Alongside of fellow staff members Priscilla and Justo, we began our inventory in the enclosure containing the youngest and smallest caimans and crocodiles. One by one, Justo and I careful obtained an individual by using proper handling techniques and began recording information. We recorded the length, weight, and sex of each individual in that enclosure. After completing this process with each individual, we moved each animal into a new enclosure so we wouldn’t record the same animal twice. After everything was said and done, we completed the measurements of fifty crocodiles and twenty-two caimans! The complete process took about four hours! This sounds like we were moving in slow motion but as we moved to the second enclosure the caimans and crocodiles were much larger and required more time and effort to correctly and safely manage. We accomplished a lot of work today! There are still four enclosures with crocodiles (some weighing over a couple hundred pounds) that will be inventoried in the future with help from staff from Guayaquil’s Historical Park.