Posted: 25 April 2015. Updated: 26 June 2015
Having saved 39 spider monkeys, owl monkeys, squirrel, woolly and black and white capuchin monkeys, kinkajous (honey bears) and coati mundis from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade across Peru as part of Animal Defenders International’s (ADI) Operation Spirit of Freedom rescue mission, it was time to take the animals back to the jungle!
ADI has spent the past three months constructing wonderful habitats in the Amazon rainforest for our rescued animals, in often incredibly difficult conditions. With their new homes complete the Air Force and Navy were called in, at the request of First Lady Mrs Nadine Heredia, to help us get the animals to their new homes – in one of our most challenging relocations yet.
The day began at the ADI rescue centre in Lima at 2am. The ADI had to catch and each and every one of the 39 animals into their travel crates. Some were lightly sedated, but most were loaded fully conscious within three hours. We then drove to the airport and loaded our precious cargo onto the Peruvian Air Force aircraft, a brand new C27J Spartan jet. Our team kept the animals calm throughout the 2.5 hour and 600 miles flight to Iquitos, giving them treats and even holding the hands of nervous animals. It was then another trip by road to the Naval base in Iquitos where the animals were loaded onto 4 boats to go up the Amazon river to their new home.
When we reached Pilpintuwasi sanctuary we formed a long human chain to pass all the animals off the boats and along to their jungle habitats. It was after 5pm when we began releasing the animals – a magical moment.
As Pepe the spider monkey’s travel crate was opened he climbed out and hugged ADI President Jan Creamer before heading out into the trees. Cindy, another spider monkey saved from a circus, ran out and threw her arms around a large tree! One by one they scampered from their travel crates into their forever homes - lush, semi-captive habitats built and funded by ADI where they will be able to live as close as possible to how they would in the wild. Some may even, in future, be eligible for wild introduction programs.
Knowing that many of the animals were snatched from their families in the wild, it is incredible to see them back in the jungle where they belong. ADI will continue to work in partnership with Pilpintuwasi and has committed to fund their care.
Volunteers needed urgently to help care for the newly relocated animals at the Pilpintuwasi sanctuary. Find out more
Our utmost thanks to Peru’s First Lady, the armed forces, the authorities, Pilpintuwasi and our supporters for making this complex mission possible. The next, and final stage, of the rescue mission will be the Spirit of Freedom flight in June taking our 33 rescued lions, tiger and Cholita the bear to sanctuary in the US.