Sunday, January 27, 2019
It’s hard to leave. We’ve had a wonderful time here, seeing and learning so much about the many beautiful birds and animals that live here. As we boarded our bus to the airport, we were greeted by several local children, many of whom had greeted us only a week earlier.
We stopped at the Dallas World Aquarium Amazon Rescue Center. This rescue project was started eleven years ago as a partnership with the Dallas World Aquarium in Dallas, Texas, to rehabilitate manatees, monkeys, river otters, tortoises, turtles, macaws and other birds, then return them to their natural habitat.
Macaws continue to be hunted for their feathers. There are two Scarlet Macaws who had been captured and their wings clipped. They could not be returned to the wild because they could not survive there.
Monkeys have also been hunted and kept as pets. The center has several of different species.
Tortoises have been hunted for their eggs and shells. The females are prized, of course, because the eggs are considered a delicacy. There is only one way to tell if the tortoise is male or female. You need to flip them over and look at the bottom shell, which is flat on females, concave on males.
There is an 8-year old male ocelot that will never be returned to its natural habitat. It was orphaned and kept as a pet, so it has no idea how to survive in the wild. The center may move it to a zoo, if such a move becomes feasible.
River otters have been subject to illegal trapping. In addition to that, many of the waters have become polluted, posing another danger to the otters. They have been know to eat the plastic that’s floating in the water, dying as a result. There were also several white caimans that had been orphaned.
The Amazonian Manatee is the only manatee that lives only in fresh water. There are only about 20,000 left in South America. The manatee is a gentle and friendly creature, easy to capture. People kill them for food and for bait. The manatee feeds on the water lettuce that’s prevalent in the Amazon. Here, at the center, they need to be fed a special “milk” as well, which is very expensive.
Manatees can grow to 10 feet in length, and 1,000 pounds in weight. The males and females look alike. The only way to differentiate them is by the position of their genitals. Females have only one baby every five years. They can live to 75 years of age, but usually do not. The rescued manatees are tagged before release and tracked by GPS. So far, 23 have been released, and all are still alive.
Most animals stay at the center for five years. They are quarantined for two years, closely monitored by the veterinarians before being placed with other animals. Then, they are weaned, meaning they are fed only the food that is available in their natural habitat, so they learn to forage or hunt for those foods when they are released.
The center has educational programs for children, hoping to break the traditions that have been passed down by their parents and grandparents. Hunting these animals has been part of the culture for many, many years, and it is difficult to convince the older people of the need to change, so they are targeting the next generation.
We then flew to Lima for an overnight stay. Before dinner, we visited the Museo Larco (Larco Museum), a privately owned museum of pre-Columbian art. The museum is housed in an 18th century building built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid, with flower laden grounds. There were bougainvillea of several colors, beautiful blue plumbago, cacti and other plants we weren’t familiar with.
The museum was created by Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1926, starting with a collection of vases and other archaeological pieces that had been given to his father. Hoyle purchased two large collections to add to the original collection, bringing the collection to almost 15,000 pieces. It now houses over 45,000 pieces. It’s hard to believe there were so many artifacts that remained intact, not destroyed by the invading Spaniards.
Peru’s history dates back to 10,000 BCE. Since there was no written word, no way of knowing what the various peoples called themselves, they have been given names that coincide with the rivers where artifacts were found, in caves where the people lived. There have been many cultures in the millennia preceding the Incas, among them the Chimu, Moche, Nazca and Huari. These galleries provide an overview of 4,000 years of pre-Columbia’s history, detailing the development of metallurgy, pottery, textiles and agriculture, including elaborate aquaduct systems.
There are several permanent exhibitions with gold, silver and copper jewelry, pottery, figurines, ceramics, metals and sculpture. The metal work was very elaborate, with nose pieces, earrings, necklaces, breastplates and figurines. Elaborate textiles dating back centuries show the skill of these cultures. Some garments were made with feathers, many with beautifully dyed cotton threads. The dyes were all natural, the thread count was very high, as much as 300 per inch. One such fabric, about 1,000 years old, was declared a world record holder for thread count, and second world record for the fineness of the thread.
We also took a quick tour of the Erotic Gallery, which is exactly that. There are many figurines depicting childbirth, genitalia and various forms of sexual intercourse.
After dinner at the museum, we said good-bye to some of the friends we made in the Amazon. I really appreciated the small group, which provided the opportunity.to meet and get to know most of our ship mates.