May 2, 2022

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First Impressions of Animals I’ve Volunteered With!

Part 2 – Here are my first impressions of meeting different animals in real life after watching them in the wild on nature documentaries!

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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I have forgotten the exact species of snake I volunteered with at the sanctuary, but I sure loved it. I loved all the facts I learned about it, and I especially loved to see reactions from visitors that I was holding a snake. This particular snake was an ambassador animal, and I learned a lot about snake behavior while interacting with it. Many people are scared of snakes, and many visitors thought that the snake would bite them. But, the reality is, snakes know what they can swallow.  Most snakes cannot swallow humans, and they would never try to do so. The only reason you could get attacked or bitten by a snake, is if you got too close to them in the wild. Or, of course if you attack or threaten them first. 

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Goats are not the most exotic creatures, I know, but I wanted to mention them on this list because I thought goats were much friendlier than they were. The goats I’ve met have been very sassy. Whenever I got food for them, I had to brace myself for the constant head-butting into my legs. Of course, they were young goats so it didn’t hurt too much but they were for sure very demandant. Its all laughable of course, because they have the cutest faces and make the funniest noises. 

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Like I described in Part 1, birds were easily the most intimidating animals to work with. As a 12 year old, I was VERY cautious around the birds at the sanctuary, especially Cockatoos. Not only are these birds naturally territorial, but the birds at the sanctuary had very traumatic pasts, so they would shout swear words they heard in their pasts while trying to bite your hands and pooping. I avoided early morning shifts so I didn’t have to take them out into their day enclosure. However, I learned to appreciate the bird’s beauty and feel empathy for their suffering. Cockatoos are traded a lot in the pet trade and by the time they reach the sanctuary, they are often mentally and physically scarred. They have the right to be angry. 

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I volunteered with horses through a different organization than the sanctuary. These horses were way bigger than I expected them to be. Additionally, they were very sassy. I loved learning each horse’s personality and quirks.  

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Rhesus Macaque Monkeys

The Macaques at the sanctuary were the most obviously physically ill. They were also the most abundant animals in the sanctuary. These monkeys often were retired lab monkeys. I remember they were very overweight, had tumors, and had eye problems. This experience exposed me to the horrors of animal testing. Many scientific paths lead us to labs where animals are tested in place of humans, and I desperately hope I can avoid this. 


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