I am working on a project about recycling and waste management in Guatemala, but I cannot keep aside my great love and interest for animals for very long. There are two particular cases that I want to share, they are very different situations, but interesting like all things about animals.

In the landfill sites that I visited, I noticed the presence of dogs, lots of them, and many very sick or thin. In this particular place, the workers said that there are as many as forty or sixty dogs. They were born there, brought by people, or they came alone in search of food. They even said that different groups come at different times of the day! Some years ago they were killing some with poison, but now they were just letting them be. I was very worried about this entire situation, and even for the health of the workers: some of the dogs were aggressive, and the diseases were very real. As soon as I came back to the office, I contacted the local group that works with strays dogs. They capture the dogs, neuter them and cure them from midge, parasites, etc. and release them in the same place they found them. We visit the place together with the director, and she decided to contact the Veterinary school and organize a neutering campaign with the teachers and students. This will take place as soon as the classes start next year. But in the meantime, they captured two females in heat to make sure that no more puppies were arriving in the near future. I am looking forward to participate and to see the results of this campaign in the huge dog population, that hopefully, in the future will get a little under control.

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Dogs eating garbage in the market dump

I visited another Waste Treatment Plant in the San Marcos Department, and I stayed at my friend’s house in town. She told me very casually that she had a neighbor that had a monkey for many years. I worked on volunteering projects with monkeys in Argentina and South Africa, and I consider them my big love. I ask her to help me visit the monkey, and she did. We arrived in the house and I saw a beautiful seven year old female spider monkey in a relatively small cage. I talked to the owner, and he said that she escaped lately, bit a woman and he got into a big problem with the police. They ask him to find her another place to live. He contacted some zoos, but they rejected her. They said that they had too many already. I promise him to help finding a place where the monkey could have a better life, but most important of all, I promised her the same. I contacted a national rescue organization, but they also said no. She was too old, too used to people, and they could not accept her. They suggested that I contacted private reserves. I remembered that the Atitlan Reserve near Panajachel had four spider monkeys from private owners, and I wrote them. The answer was yes! But now we had a transport problem, how doing the three hour ride to the Reserve in a safe way? This question took us more than a month of meetings and phone calls, but finally the owner of the Reserve sent two of his employees to find her. They travel with a cage, a copy of the permit they have to keep wild animals, and a lot of patience. They told me that it was not easy to convince her to get into a small cage. They had to go inside the cage while the owner was feeding her and holding an arm. The worker had a lot of experience with monkeys, and he could catch her and put her in the cage with minimal stress. I went to see her the day after. She was doing very well, and she really enjoyed my massages trough the cage.

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Visiting the spider monkey in her new home

This cage was already bigger and another monkey was coming from the outside enclosure and stealing her bananas. She looked happier already. After a few more weeks and the visit of the vet, she was released with the other monkeys in the forest. They have a huge space, full of trees, and an electric fence keeps them in this safe space. She will have another twenty years of life, a better one, in her habitat and with more animals of her species. I cannot describe how happy this makes me. For so many animals I tried to rescue and not always succeeded, this is a story with a great ending.

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Spider Monkey in the Atitlán Reserve, before being released in the forest