Press Release: Ecuador
LOCAL WOMAN RETURNS FROM VOLUNTEER TRIP IN AMAZON
Vancouver, WA (September 8, 2015) – Monkey chatter, toucan croaks, and the grumbling growl of ocelots greeted Crystal Steinmueller every morning at AmaZOOnico, an animal rescue center located in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Steinmueller, a native of Vancouver, spent 5 weeks volunteering at the rescue center this summer.
AmaZOOnico was founded back in 1993 by a local Kichwa man and a Swiss lady, and relies primarily on volunteers to operate. “I volunteered at a similar animal rescue center in Guatemala in 2010, so I knew what the hard work would entail” says Steinmueller. 12 volunteers representing six countries worked diligently every day to make sure the animals were as comfortable as possible.
A few of the volunteers had backgrounds working with animals, but most, like Steinmueller, were there because of their love for animals. “You don’t need a degree in animal biology to make a difference in an animal’s life” says Steinmueller. “Simply being caring, nurturing, and attentive makes a world of difference to them”. One third of the animals received at the center die on arrival or shortly after, one third are successfully reintroduced into the wild, and one third will remain in an enclosure for the remainder of their lives due to various reasons.
With over 600 animals to care for at the center, volunteers often worked for 10 hours a day. Cleaning, feeding, providing enrichments for the animals, and educating tourists were the focus areas for the volunteers. Occasionally animal attacks, on volunteers and other animals, occurred. While feeding the wild free roaming spider monkeys, Steinmueller had a close call. “As soon as I got to the feeding table and saw a wild monkey with her baby on the table, I knew I was in trouble. The next thing I knew, I had 3 adult spider monkeys on me. My first instinct was to shrug my shoulders so they wouldn’t bite my neck. I calmly walked away while eventually shaking them off. Man, my heart was pounding!”
Steinmueller has embraced the concept of voluntravel, and is the president and founder of 2 Hands 7 Continents, a non profit based right here in Vancouver. While not traveling and volunteering, Steinmueller works in Special Education at Battle Ground High School. You can meet Crystal and her board of directors this Saturday at the Peace and Justice Fair at Esther Short Park from 9am-4pm. You can also read more about Crystal’s adventures in the Amazon and other voluntravel experiences at www.2h7c.org and on the 2 Hands 7 Continents Facebook page.