Sunday, March 4, 2007

Got the keys to the Jag !!!!

I really did have the keys to a Jaguar. He was owned by a family in Bolivia, which is where I was when I first met him. I have been traveling around this wonderful planet of ours for the last 21 months. My travels took me to Bolivia in South America. Bolivia is one of if not the, poorest country in the continent. This is one of the reasons animals are removed from the jungles, in the north of the country for sale to richer families in the cities. So I volunteered at one of two animal parks in Bolivia. One park near a city called Cochabamba has birds of many different species, hundreds of Howler and Spider monkeys. Mixed into that, were a number of Pumas and Ocelots. This park has running water, electricity lots of volunteers and is situated near a village in the jungle beside a river. All that sounded great BUT I had heard about the other park. This one didn't have running water, didn't have electricity, didn't have a village near it and didn't have lots of volunteers. This park however was further east and required more effort to get to and was set up mainly to take care of Cats. Ocelots were here which looks like a small Leopard, Pumas lived with us and for me best of all were the Jaguars.

Because I'm fairly tall and around 160 Lb I was given one of the two Jaguars to care for. A task which means feeding and checking for illness, but most important of all excising him in the jungle. Jaguarupi is his name but we will call him Rupi for short. He is a 4 year old pussycat. A very large 4 year old pussy cat weighing in at 265 lb Jaguar cat. Now remember I'm 160 lb and around 6 feet tall with two arms and two legs. Rupi is 265 lb and stands 6 1/2 feet tall with 4 legs. With all that in mind, excising him in the jungle on a rope fixed to his collar was exciting and scary all together. An experience I will never by able to forget. Rupi was a cat and did all the things cats do but he did them in a Jaguar way. This means I was the rag doll on the end of a rope sometimes. The only protection while walking Rupi was another volunteer with another rope walking behind me. For protection around my body I was covered with........... my skin, so nothing!!!! Everyday for the month I stayed at Ambue Ari Park while walking Rupi he would jump at me, which was his way of playing and really a little scary in the beginning. I was introduced to Rupi by the volunteer I was to take over from, and while walking with him in those early days Rupi would jump onto me many times. In fact on day alone he put me on the floor 12 times. " I think he likes me! " This is Rupi's way of finding out if you will come back the next day. And I thought about not coming back on many occasions. I'm really glad I did though. As Rupi became more used to me being around him I was offered the chance to take a swim with him. Not something you should do unless the cat is confident around you. If one of those paws happens to grab your skin, while in the water it is possible to be drowned. The picture you see here was taken just after our swim together. I had to leave the water first because if Rupi had got out first. Because when he is on higher ground he is in a better position to pounce upon me.

I took my clothes off to swim in the river, which is what you do to go swimming. Right? NOT if you swim with a Jaguar... Because when I got out Rupi could see my legs, which to him looked like two very large lumps of MEAT.... ooops! If I run he would jump on my back. If I stay he will test my leg and decide what to do next? The trick is to stay really calm. .... I stayed.... It's a strange feeling having your leg in the mouth of a Jaguar.
Jaguars love to be in the river. As part of Rupi’s daily walk we would always end at the river where he would take a swim. After he had cooled off, he would run up the back and be ready to jump upon any volunteer not paying attention. I was waiting for this to happen to Yaniv the new volunteer who was waiting to take over Rupi's care after I left. It happened to me, and is the only way to learn.

No animals were hurt taking this picture....!
Volunteers...? Well, that's a different matter.
Yanvi’s pride was only hurt.
I will never forget my time at Ambue Ari Park in Bolivia. I will never forget the other volunteers, the monkeys that break into our rooms during the day to sleep in our beds. The pigs that would chase one another around like dogs. It would very hard to forget walking and swimming with Pumas for the first time. But the feeling of trust I had from Rupi and the trust I had for him at the end of my 4 weeks was magical.
Thank you Rupi

1 comment:

Rach & Stu said...

You are officially a nutcase Robbie!!!