You’re guaranteed to see all manner of jungle wildlife at AmaZOOnico, a well-known animal rehabilitation center located on the grounds of Selva Viva, a 17-sq-km reserve of primary forest on Río Arajuno, a narrow tributary of the Napo about 3km east of Ahuano. A Swiss-Kichwa couple founded the center in 1993 to care for confiscated or displaced rainforest animals.
While it’s great to be able to see toucans, capybaras, monkeys and boas close up, the circumstances betray an ugly reality. These animals have been displaced because illegal traffickers sold them for quick cash or their habitats were destroyed. Some of the stories you’ll hear from the excellent tours are heartbreaking – animals abandoned in hotel rooms, rare birds whose owners died, and severely traumatized ‘pets’ intercepted during trafficking attempts. Some healthy animals are released back into the rainforest, but an unfortunate number of animals arrive too domesticated to be re-released.
Spanish- and English-speaking volunteers, who know the animals intimately, lead all tours. The center is always looking for volunteers (who must pay $250 per month for living expenses), especially veterinarians, for a two-month-minimum stay.
Get in touch via the website to give advance warning if you want to visit; phone reception is unreliable, and there is no phone number to call.