Inti Wara Yassi and Leoncio’s story.
Leoncio was born in the jungles of Bolivia. Most young pumas will stay with their mother until they’re about two-years-old, learning from her the skills they need to survive in the wild. This, however, was not to be the case for Leoncio.
He was still a very young and vulnerable when cub when hunters killed his mother, captured him and stole him from the wild. It is most likely that the hunters put Leoncio and his mother’s fur up for sale on the black market. Leoncio ended up being kept as a pet in a family home in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city. We do not know how he was treated when he first arrived at the family home, but problems started when he began to grow into a young adult puma.One evening a neighbour called the police to report a disturbance in the house where Leoncio was being kept, thinking someone was being attacked. When the police arrived at the family home, they discovered that the distress cries were coming from Leoncio. His owners were beating him with a stick and had broken both his back legs. The police rescued Leoncio and arranged for him to be cared for by Inti Wara Yassi.
It took a long time for Leoncio to recover, both physically and mentally. But thanks to the love, patience and dedication of the staff and volunteers at the refuge, he is now happy and healthy once again.
Leoncio will never be able to be released back into the wild. He has spent too much time in the company of humans and suffers from arthritis; probably a result of the beating. However, he enjoys an excellent quality of life at the sanctuary in his natural habitat. He has a spacious enclosure to live in and is taken on long walks on his own jungle trails every day.
Leoncio’s story, although shocking, is not uncommon. Inti Wara Yassi has rescued hundreds of animals from similarly appalling conditions. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. Most hunters know that what they’re doing is illegal, but crushing poverty and increasing deforestation means that they often have no other means of making a living. Many hunters will capture young animals to sell as pets.
The capture of primates commonly involves shooting the mother out of a treetop as her child clings to her. The mother is then sold as bush meat whilst her baby is sold as a pet. At open-air markets and even along the side of the road, children and adults can be seen selling everything from baby monkeys, parrots and puma cubs.
The Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1992 that manages three wild animal refuges across the Bolivian Amazon, dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals that are repossessed from poachers or dropped off by owners that can no longer care for their non-domestic pets.
Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY), a charity registered in the UK and established in 2008, supports CIWY’s work by raising vital funds and awareness of the issues surrounding their work. CIWY currently cares for over 600 animals, including species such as spider monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, tapirs and macaws.
Alongside a handful of permanent Bolivian staff, CIWY relies on international volunteers to assist in the care and environmental enrichment of the rescued animals. Whenever possible, the animals accepted into CIWY’s care will be reintroduced into the wild. If re-release is not an option, they will be given long-term sanctuary at one of CIWY’s refuges.
FIWY participated in Animal Friends’ facebook competition in June and won the top prize of £5,000. FIWY would like to say a huge thank you to Animal Friends for giving us this fantastic funding opportunity. £5,000 will make a huge difference to the 600 plus animals in CIWY's care. The funds have been transferred to Bolivia and will be split between the three refuges, supporting a different project in each park:
- The funds for Parque Machia, CIWY’s first refuge, will be used to create educational and awareness-raising resources for CIWY’s environmental education programme.
- The funds for Parque Ambue Ari, CIWY’s largest refuge, will be put towards purchasing the construction materials needed to build a new enclosure for our jaguar, Rupi.
- The funds for Jacj Cuisi, CIWY’s newest refuge, will be used to put a roof on the newly constructed quarantine area.
Please visit our website to learn more and read about some of our other animal friends: www.intiwarayassi.org