Date With an Uakari

Iquitos is a great place to get on a boat and head off on an Amazon adventure. As Lauren and I had just had an eight month jungle adventure we didn’t really want to spend the money on another. One thing we were interested in however was the Wildlife Orphanage and Butterfly Farm of Pilpintuwasi, just outside of Iquitos.

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Getting to Pilpintuwasi was fun and interesting on it’s own. Firstly you have to head to the port of Bella Vista. This small village at the edge of Pucallpa is a market, floating village, fishing port and river boat terminal.

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The bustling port could be quite daunting if you’re not well travelled, but it’s really interesting if you stop and look.

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We’ve got to admit we were a bit lost as the floating walkways head off in different directions, all to different docks. Of course there are no signs to indicate where to go, and after some advice, that was mostly people vaguely pointing in varying directions, we happened to end up in the right place.

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We’d read up online that there were two types of boat, expensive private slow boats or water collectivos. We were looking for one of the collectivos. A boat driver told us he was going to Padre Cocha, the correct destination. We asked the price, got the correct answer and hopped in. 

Being alone on the boat we were a bit confused when he immediately set sail. It turns out the collectivos just set off when they have some passengers. So we got a 20 minute private boat ride along the river to Padre Cocha.

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From the port it was a nice walk through the village, first heading towards a water tower and then to the end of the road. Here there was a big sign for Pilpintuwasi.

Pilpintuwasi was originally set up by an Austrian as a butterfly farm, but when the owner woke up one morning to find a jaguar cub on her doorstep it also became an animal rescue center. Much like Esperanza Verde locals bring in animals that they rescue and the government drops others off after confiscation.

Today the center has a huge collection of animals, jaguar, ocelot, Capuchin monkeys, marmosets, Macaws, capybara etc.

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The stars of the show and the main reason we went are the Red Faced Uakari.

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These monkeys are incredibly endangered and are almost impossible to breed in captivity. Pilpintuwasi has a group of them living in release around the center.

So when we first arrived at Pilpintuwasi, before we’d even made it inside, we were greeted by this face. As this monkey was the last animal on my South America “to see” list, I was very happy.

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The monkeys run amok around the center, and much like our much missed Willow the Wooly Monkey, their male adolescent enjoyed terrorising the volunteers. He especially liked it when the male volunteers were carrying sandbags, jumping up and down on their backs.

The butterfly farm that was the original inspiration for the project still sits at the center. The guided tours give a great understanding of the lifecycle of these animals.

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We were shown lots of different species in the butterfly house, as well as getting to see some of the workers collecting the eggs.

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There was a brief surprise when we also found a Kinkajou curled up under some stairs. It had apparently escaped the day before and obviously found somewhere nice to sleep.

Next we were shown the room where the eggs are stored, caterpillars hatched, and crysalis formed. Eventually leading to the new butterflies.

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Some of the Caterpillars were huge and it was amazing to see how the chrysalis perfectly resembled the leaves of their favoured plants.

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Whilst we went mainly for the Uakari, the butterfly house really was amazing and equally worth a visit. If you find yourself with some free time in Iquitos, we’d definitely recommend Pilpintuwasi as a day trip to get away from the bustle of the city.

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