March 7, 2022

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First Impressions of Animals I’ve Volunteered With!

Part 1 reveals 6 Species I have volunteered with, and what I thought of them when I first saw them. 

I’ve had a variety of unique experiences volunteering with exotic animals. I volunteered with a primate sanctuary for two years that rescued primates, birds, and reptiles from the pet trade. I started volunteering there in middle school, so its fair to say I have quite a few interesting stories about these animals. It was also often the first time I had seen these animals in real life. Here were my first impressions of these animals!

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Spider Monkey

At the sanctuary there was a Spider Monkey named Blue. I had never seen or heard of a spider monkey before meeting Blue. He had a very interesting backstory so I looked forward to mealtimes with Blue, because I got to see his personality. His personality was very active, like all the monkeys on TV you see as a kid, Blue was energetic and very food motivated. He was also very aggressive though. I only fed him once before I was switched to care for a less aggressive section of monkeys. I learned to understand that Blue was a wild animal, and monkeys can be aggressive so its important to be careful around them. 

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American Alligator

The American Alligator was a sight to behold. I worked with one young Alligator named Chompers. Quite a fitting name. He was our ambassador animal, who had been in the sanctuary since he was only the size of a hand. I LOVED Chompers and I often volunteered to be the person who would share facts about him and his species when the sanctuary was open to the public. I recognized how dangerous this species is, but also appreciated all the cool facts about their biology. Did you know Alligators have a wider, U shaped snout than Crocodiles? Did you know Alligators have three eyelids? I learned all of that during my time at the sanctuary. It was an amazing experience. 

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Ring-Tailed Lemur

There were multiple Ring-Tailed Lemurs at the sanctuary. Somehow, many people believed that these lemurs made good pets. Spoiler alert: they aren’t pets. No wild animal is. These lemurs were very sedentary compared to other primates at the sanctuary and I quite liked to watch them interact with enrichment. To me, they seemed very smart and family oriented. It was obvious they were very emotionally attached to the others in their enclosure. 

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Looking back, I’m not sure what species of Tortoise I fed in the sanctuary. It might have been an African Spurred Tortoise because I remember it looking very similar to the picture shown to the left. The Tortoise at the sanctuary was actually much faster than I imagined one would be. If he wanted a snack, he would go get it. I don’t know why I expected him to take years to get to his bowl, but I was very surprised when he reached it in approximately 3-5 seconds. I laugh as I look back on it now. 

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Scarlet Macaw

These guys were very scary to me. Surprisingly, birds intimidated me more than any other animal at the sanctuary. That’s right, even more than the Alligators. I sometimes purposely avoided coming in the early morning to avoid having to relocate the birds to their day enclosure. Scarlet Macaws are much bigger and heavier than I expected. I’ll admit the Macaws were not the most mean to me, there were other species of birds that were a lot more aggressive. I remember being surprised at how vibrant their wings actually were. I assumed the photos I had seen had been altered in some way to make the colors brighter, but they are actually very vibrant in real life too! The sanctuary had some Macaws that had been in horrible conditions before, so some had feathers falling out or bald spots. But, the ones who had been in the sanctuary for a while and had recovered were extraordinarily beautiful. I can only imagine what it would be like to see them in the wild. 

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Bottlenose Dolphin 

I did not volunteer with dolphins at the primate sanctuary, but I did have the opportunity to be around them when I was volunteering for an aquarium. I was shocked at how large they actually are. Bottlenose Dolphins can be up to 14 feet! They are GIANTS! Its incredibly fascinating to see them in real life, they seem to have the same bubbly personality as in the movies and documentaries I’ve watched, but somehow I severely misinterpreted their size. When I was younger, I expected them to be around 6 feet at most. But that couldn’t be less true.  



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