Before 15th October of this year, if you had asked me what is my favourite place on earth, without no doubt, my mind would travel so fast to my favourite jungle: A small piece of forest in the southern Amazon of Perú. An especial place that represents exactly how nature can overcome years of degrading and destruction. What once was a cleared forest, now it’s a beautiful regrowth forest, with different kinds of trees, enough high to attract groups of colourful birds and sneaky monkeys. Sitting there, next to a pretty calm stream, very close to where I once had my first boa constrictor encounter, was the best feeling in the world. And for whoever who knows a jungle might be thinking ‘wait, what about mosquitoes?’ Well, there were mosquitoes too, but as annoying as they are, as beautiful this place is to make them disappear. Do you find that hard to believe? It’s true, mosquitoes and sweat all over me didn’t bother me when I was there.
However, everything changed after I met Daniel. And before you start thinking that this is a human love story let me state that Daniel is a young giant river otter. I met him in a rescue centre located in Iquitos (northern Amazon of Perú) where I happened to work and it was the best and somehow, the saddest event of that year.
Daniel was the sweetest and the most mischievous and clever river otter I have ever known. Every morning he was making sounds and jumping around his place, to call the attention of everyone who walked by. He was so crazy for his food: entire fish that were provided around four times a day. All the excitement he expressed when he would smell his fish, and the ‘yum yum’ sounds when he got to eat them, were enough to forget other issues. For some minutes it was just me and him. For some minutes I would feel so privileged for being close to him, looking at his playful eyes, his funny whiskers and touching his amazing paws.
Then the moment of leaving came and I threw a piece of fish into his pool so I had the time to leave out. He soon realized it, and of course, he complained, just like a little kid making a tantrum. I stayed outside, and at that moment I came account that he was my little oasis. However, I felt so selfish for having this feeling because I was never going to be what he needed. ‘He shouldn’t be there, I wish I never met him’ become to sound harder every time in my mind. Suddenly, all the happiness I felt for being close to him, was surpassed by the sadness to know that he was deprived of his freedom when he was so little.
The circumstances took him to a place where people put a lot of effort to make him feel comfortable. He had an artificial pond with a nice cave and a resting place, all just for him. He was well fed and provided with different kinds of toys to satisfy his playfulness nature. However, it wasn’t right! If we humans, were more empathetic and less selfish, Daniel would be with his real family now, swimming and playing with no need for empty plastic bottles as toys. I discovered that I preferred him unreachable, thousands of miles away from me.
Now that I am not close to him anymore, and I will probably never see him again, I can’t avoid tearing up remembering how hard was to say goodbye. I wish I could have done more for him, but many things escaped out of my hands, excepted writing. Most of the people who visit a rescue centre talk about how amazing the experience of being close to animals is. However, not everyone says how heartbreaking is watching them all locked. And when it comes to me, I can’t help wishing that his place had never become my favourite place on earth.
- Juriko Rupay
- : I’m a Peruvian biologist who completed her degree at the National Agrarian University in Lima, Perú. After some years of working travelling to the jungle, I discovered my passion for communicating through blogging all the amazing things I had experimented in the depth of the Amazon rainforest. This took me last year to become a blogger for the International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation. Here, I wrote about diverse conservation topics of tropical forest, based on my experiences working in conservation institutions. Now, I am creating my own site to keep writing and spreading the word about nature conservation.
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- : This is the first time this story has been published.