The End of an Era

After over 6 years of intensive research and community development work in and around the Yachana Reserve, GVI Amazon is coming to a close. We have finished our final research project (look forward to our Road Effects paper, coming soon!) and are handing over the project to our partner, The Yachana Foundation. They will continue to maintain and monitor the reserve, using it as an hands-on science education center for students -- we're very excited to see what fabulous things this next generation of scientists find! For more detail on GVI Amazon's closure, and our accomplishments over the years, please read on...
GVI Amazon Closure Statement

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hector's Island

It’s the fourth week of our GVI programme and we’re going camping on Hector’s Island, a little islet named eponymously after the man who had bought it for a very special reason – to create a haven for monkeys that he rescues from local markets otherwise destined for a life as a pet or who knows what. A short canoe’s ride from Coca, Hector’s Island is a charming little escape from the rambunctiousness of its nearest town. Wooden steps that seem to ascend from the River Napo itself lead one up from water’s edge to a pathway that opens into a quaint little commune. As we enter, a volunteer carrying Tammi, a baby Woolly Monkey, greets us. As I’m used to being wary of anyone who handles wild animals like a domestic pet, I feel a bit uncomfortable. We learn, however, that Tammi is an abandoned baby monkey who needs constant care to be able to survive, and there’s a plan to release it back into the wild when it is ready. Finally, we meet the man himself. Hector, stubby and rotund, commands our attention with his confident gait and larger than life charisma. We had been told that, in his youth, he used to ‘fight the oil companies’, having to live with a remote tribe called the Wahrani in the Amazon rainforest for several years in order to escape political strife. We learn more about this curious Ecuadorian man a day later when he invites us to join him for a special tea-drinking session at 4am in the morning, an ideal time, in the words of the man himself, to “interprete dreams and discuss the day’s work ahead”. On this particular day, we help Hector with a ‘minga’ (group work project) on the island. We go out on canoe to a sand flat not far away, fill up bags with the pristine sand and empty the bags at a sand pit on Hector’s Island for future use around the commune. The reward for all that hard work? We get to cast ourselves to the torrents of the Napo, let it take us down river as we drift like scattered ants to the sand flat where we had been to before, spending the afternoon playing football – pieces of drift wood stakes stuck into the sand acting as goal posts! – and lying on the ashen sand, lazily whiling our time away baking in the gorgeous Ecuadorian sun.

Quen Wong, GVI Amazon volunteer, July-Sept 2011