As my time was drawing to a close at the park, I found myself having to stay a bit longer in the camp until another volunteer came. By this stage, Daryl had decided against working with Rupi, so Andy couldn´t walk him by himself. Then I had my most nerve wracking moment with the cat! Rupi was still desperate to get Andy, and once in the clearing surrounded by long grass, he rolled around itching his back. I knew he would try and jump Andy, but as he flipped up, spun round and went for Andy, I pulled back on the rope and as I did my left foot gave way and I slipped.
The cat had missed Andy and was on the floor. I was heading for the floor and as I fell and my wrist hit Rupi.jpg on the head, I thought I was in serious trouble!! I was lying face to face with the jaguar – a very dangerous position. Luckily for me, he was hell bent on getting Andy, so as I jumped up so did he and went for Andy again!! All Andy can recall is seeing my tiny head next to Rupi.jpg´s and feeling an element of panic i´m sure! All I can recall is somehow jump up quicker than I have ever done in my life!! He said the most worrying thing was that he actually had some faith in me that I would protect him from the cat!!!
Towards the end of my time in the park I went out for a morning with Inti, Warra and Yassi, three Puma sisters. They have grown up in the refuge and are the most domesticated of any of the animals. It was amazing to see how close a newcomer could get to the cats and I was even able to swim with the three of them in the river, which was an awesome experience. I found it a little dull in comparison to walking my Rupi though.
My last day with Rupi went by incident free apart from him having my leg in his mouth again 3 times! I knew he wouldn´t hurt me though. I know it sounds ridiculous but I trusted the cat after 4 weeks of being with him every day.
On my last night in the park I went to say goodbye to him at night while he was patrolling his enclosure. He came straight up to me and licked me all over my salty arms! I missed spending time with Rupi as soon as I left, and I left with really mixed emotions.
It was the best thing I have ever done, and despite knowing I had already stayed longer than planned, I wanted to spend more time with Rupi and felt bad for leaving him. But at the same time I was glad to be going back to civilisation again, getting rid of a 4 week old beard that reminded me of my dad´s, having a decent shower with the light on and not being bitten to death by mosquitoes and finding ticks in weird and wonderful places.
Only in Bolivia could I just rock up and work with a Jaguar!!
Upon reflection, now that I am back in the corporate world of London, I often squeeze on to the tube and wonder what the hell I was doing with a Jaguar on a lead.
The park is purely funded by donation, and the people working there do so out of kindness. The park is battling against the poachers and illegal traders of South America, and is forever trying to provide for animals that have endured the cruelty or ignorance of humans.
The park is crying out for volunteers to stay long term. If it sounds of interest to you, I am happy to answer any email queries you may have.
In the meantime, check out the website set up by some of the volunteers www.intiwarrayassi.com