On July 10th, John Garnica, founder, and president of RAREC received a call at 4 AM informing him of a baby manatee in dire need of help.
The call came from Regionales de la Producción (DIREPRO), a government body that supports environmental preservation and sustainability. Members of DIREPRO had boarded a boat to check if the owners were complying with regulations. Instead, they found a sight of horror: a vulnerable, wounded baby manatee in a small freezer box. The orphaned baby manatee had been poached – taken from her natural habitat to be held in hostile conditions and eventually sold as food.
Known by many as the “capital of the Peruvian Amazon”, the city of Iquitos is a hive of bustling activity. Yet drive a few miles South and you’ll find a completely different landscape filled with forests, wildlife, and rivers.
RAREC (a Peruvian NGO), or Rainforest Awareness Rescue and Education Center, is located in the heart of this beautiful area. Just one hour from the city, RAREC is full of the flora and fauna populating the Amazon.
Founded by John Garnica, RAREC is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing all types of animals in the Peruvian Amazon, including manatees, monkeys, tapirs, butterflies and other wildlife. It also provides and supports research and local education, which are integral to conservation efforts in the area.
As soon as John received that fateful 4am call on July 10th, he sprung into action, quickly preparing his truck and rushing to the scene.
By the time he arrived, the police were preparing to transport the wounded manatee. After a bit of convincing they handed her over to John, allowing RAREC to take responsibility for her. The Peruvian government was willing to trust John with the manatee’s care because RAREC has consistently proved its commitment to conservation efforts and education programs, as well as its ability to properly and ethically care for animals,
John rushed her back to RAREC headquarters, where she was given immediate medical care.
Miraculously, the manatee is currently in stable condition and being cared for 24/7 by RAREC and because of the donations and supplies by the Nashville Zoo. They’re feeding her, tending to her wounds, and preparing her for her future release back into the wild.
John also decided to name her Bui after Thai philanthropist, Bui Simon. Bui is the founder of Angels Wings Foundation International, an organization dedicated to providing a multitude of services focused on Thai children. Bui closely monitors her organization’s projects and impact, visiting Thailand at least twice a year in order to directly supervise Angel Wings’ endeavors. So it’s pretty easy to understand why RAREC chose this name – Bui Simon is a true inspiration and full of miracles, just like Bui the manatee!
Manatees are large, gentle aquatic mammals. In the past, they have often been mistaken for mermaids. Found in shallow coastal waters and rivers, they eat a herbivore diet. Manatees also weigh on average between 800-1,300 pounds! Although occasionally attacked by sharks and crocodiles, their size makes them difficult to prey on. Yet they’re on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable, meaning that they face a high risk of extinction in the wild.
The combination of illegal hunting and habitat destruction spawned by humans has taken its toll on the manatee population. Even so, RAREC does not condemn anyone for their destructive behavior. They believe the root of the problem lies not in individual actions, but rather in the lack of education surrounding this topic. This is why they engage with locals by educating them and spreading awareness about the Amazonian manatee, and they are already seeing the results of their efforts.
The fight is not over for Bui – she still has a ways to go. However, RAREC is on a noble mission to save this (and other) species and to promote sustainable development, and you can help!
Want to make a difference in the world? Interested in caring for manatees and other wildlife creatures? Click here to learn more about volunteering with RAREC. You can also purchase one of their handmade artisan keychains in order to support their rescue of Bui and other wildlife animals.
Written by: Zoe Sadugor, a third year at the University of Virginia studying Youth and Social Innovation.
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