The highlight of my trip so far has been the month I spent volunteering in butterfly farm and animal rescue centre Pilpintuwasi. The name means “butterfly house” in Quechua.
It was set up by an Austrian woman called Gudrun who has battled through all the odds which could possibly have been stacked against her, including government bureaucracy, exes trying to ruin her business, slacking workers and a total lack of funding – yet has created an absolute haven in the middle of the jungle.
Walking into Pilpintuwasi is like stepping into a different world. You find yourself in a mesh tunnel, surrounded by wildlife on all sides (this is the kind of animal centre where it’s the humans who are in the cage), including monkeys which may try to groom your hair or steal your phone as you try to take photos of them. The first stop is the butterfly house which is a massive netted area full of exotic plants and the most beautiful coloured butterflies. From there, you’ll head into the hatchery to see the caterpillars, and from there it’s a tour of the animals rescued from various parts of the illegal pet trade, and the ADI (Animal Defenders International) animals who have really suffered at the hands of humans. The tour finishes with a jaguar called Pedro, who I have had the chance to feed (it’s terrifying), the tapir Chibbolo, who sprayed a very annoying couple of men from the States (it was hilarious), and some sloths.
What I love the most about Pilpintuwasi is that it exists against all odds. Gudrun loved animals but set out merely to open a butterfly farm (“I wanted to work with animals I wouldn’t get attached to” – butterflies only live for two weeks) but instead was landed with a whole host of monkeys and ocelots and more. Its only income comes from the entry fees and from donations, so it’s a constant battle to stay afloat, but Gudrun manages it but the sheer force of will alone.
I have spent my time at Pilpintuwasi cleaning shit, getting pissed on, getting attacked by an emotionally unstable Capuchin monkey (I’m going to have scars), getting more mosquito bites than I could ever hope to count, falling more and more in love with the jungle and the animals who live there, leading fantastically interesting people on tours, leading incredibly annoying people on tours, getting to know Gudrun and appreciating the amount of life which the jungle gives birth to. Whether its army ants, a jaguar or the weird and wonderful plants which I will never learn all the names of, I have fallen in love with la Selva and everything it has to offer. Pilpintuwasi has been an incredibly big part of that and has definitely been the highlight of my trip so far.
I am going to continue supporting the work Gudrun is doing at the centre, whether it is donating a little each month or by continuing to take charge of their social media. I’m not going to forget this place in a hurry.
Please consider donating to the appeal which I’m linking below – we’re raising money to build Chibbolo a swimming pool! You can also find links to our website and social media below (and if you give us a like/ follow, you’ll also be helping make me look good!)
Crowd-fund for #apoolforchibbolo: https://www.gofundme.com/apoolforchibolo?fbclid=IwAR3z74ZRrLxNDVGqvhEa4N1fLWEAACYUPpMMK-Nzv4iff0BoiQDyqONBqLQ
Facebook page (make sure you like the right one!): https://www.facebook.com/Pilpintuwasibutterflyfarm/?_rdc=1&_rdr