February 24, 2011 - Go DIEGO GO!!! Can’t stop thinking about the kids and the cartoon character Diego the animal rescuer, as we took the plane, the bus, the boat and seemingly endless uphill hike (with luggage) to arrive at ARCAS animal rescue shelter at a balmy 32 degrees Celsius.
ARCAS is a wonderful place where we found very passionate people. It is an NGO funded in 1989 by Guatemalan professionals. The main objective is to preserve endangered species native to Central America. Animal trafficking is the third largest type of trafficking in Central America behind illegal drugs and illegal weapons. ARCAS is using education of the local population by educating the kids who in turn can educate their parents. By showing the children the animals they are saving and explaining why they are doing what they are doing is extremely important as children do not have the preconceived ideas that most of the adults native to this location have. The population that lives next to the ARCAS rescue centre rely on hunting to feed their families. These people have very little money; therefore the animals represent both food and a source of income from trafficking animals. The sale of one Macaw parrot could generate as much as $5000 US. This would represent over 2 years of income for the average Guatemalan clearly illustrating the biggest challenge ARCAS faces in regard to educating the public.
At the ARCAS rescue centre we found Spider Monkey, Howling Monkey, Macaw, crocodiles and a Jaguar. Most of the animals come from rescue during criminal investigations. At their arrival animals are put in quarantine for 90 days and rehabilitation depending on the species. ARCAS has a very successful breeding program for the MACAW.
ARCAS relies on government help to achieve their objectives, but the help of the volunteers cannot be estimated. Every year ARCAS receives more than 300 volunteers from all around the world. We found 12 dedicated volunteers from the US, Europe and Canada. Most of the facilities such as the library and the new quarantine facilities were built with the help of volunteers who came and gave their time and money to the cause. For example, the library was built by a group of retired German volunteers in a week. The volunteers help keep the organization alive. We suggest anyone interested in traveling and doing something good for the environment and for wildlife to check the ARCAS website. They are open for any duration and for family volunteers and the accommodations are great.
February 25, 2011 - We had the opportunity to visit the Pentecito Zoo next to ARCAS and tour the small town of Flores. But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the trip to Jaxha. Jaxha is an ancient Mayan temple site roughly 2 hours from Flores. The class was able to learn a small amount about the Mayan culture and gain an appreciation for the architecture of this ancient civilization. At the end of the tour, the class was able to enjoy a spectacular view of the Mayan lakes and jungles at sun set. While overlooking the jungle it is hard to imagine that this entire area was once completely cleared by the Mayans. The Mayan had a great culture that is worth discovering and learning about. Seeing all the great monuments made us think that any civilisation may have its rise and fall, but if we have respect for nature there will be always a chance for recovery and the Mayan were conscious and respectful of nature.
David Ferguson, Christa Royce, Amadou Thiam – AALP Class 13