ARCAS Rescue Center in Petén
The ARCAS Rescue Center is situated on a forested 45 hectare protected area on the shores of Lake Petén Itza next to the Peténcito Zoo. Volunteers live in a spacious two story wooden building with open, screened walls, situated in the middle of a beautiful tropical forest with comfortable wooden bunk beds, "western" shower and toilet facilities and US-style 110V electricity. Volunteers eat and socialize at a separate spacious kitchen/dining room rancho; there is a games room plus a very nice floating dock for late afternoon swims.
Depending on the time of year, the Rescue Center in Petén hosts anywhere between 5 and 25 mostly international volunteers, ranging from veterinary students looking to gain practical experience working with tropical animals, graduate students carrying out research in wildlife management and rehabilitation, and backpack travelers (mochileros) who simply want to contribute their tourist dollars and sweat to the conservation of Guatemalan wildlife.
The Rescue Center gives these volunteers the hand-on opportunity to work with such beautiful tropical animals as scarlet macaws, mealy parrots, kinkajous, spider and howler monkeys, peccaries, coatimundis, margays and jaguars. See the animal inventory in Wildlife Rescue section for a more complete list of the animals we work with. Volunteers need to realize that the priority at the ARCAS Rescue Center is the welfare, rehabilitation and reintroduction of the wild animals received there. Volunteers should be willing to adjust their schedules, habits and attitudes to meet the needs of these animals. For example, it is often not in the animal’s long-term best interest to be handled or showered with attention.
There are certain responsibilities at the Rescue Center and everyone is expected to pull their own weight and work as a team. The animals do not work on our schedule, rather they follow their own internal clock which insists that they eat early in the day. The time for your rest and relaxation is later in the day when high temperatures usually demand it.
A typical day at the Rescue Center might consist of the following.
ARCAS TIME DUTY - example
6:30 Animal Husbandry and Care
9:00-11:00 Chores around the Peten Center
11:00 Animal Husbandry
12:00 Finish up Chores
2:00 Animal Husbandry
3:00 Individual projects, Relaxing, Trips to Flores, Swimming, Hiking.
6:00 Dinner & socializing
Much of the work that takes place at the Rescue Center is in the Quarantine Clinic and cages, where recently-received animals need immediate attention and special diets and medicines. Parrot chicks must be fed with syringes by hand. Baby monkeys still in shock and depressed by their separation from their mother must be cuddled and fed by hand.
In addition to the regular daily feeding and care of the animals, ARCAS usually has special on-going activities in which volunteers can participate. These activities include:
- Construction of cages or extra buildings.
- Gathering of wild foods for the animals.
- Research into the wild diets of the animals.
- Giving tours and creating educational exhibits at Kinkajou Kingdom.
- Participating in additional environmental education activities and community projects
Volunteers also make cage and enclosure improvements or “enrichments” by adding toys, perches and other stimuli that help the animal in their rehabilitation process.
Depending on your experience and skills, you may also be asked to help in veterinary medical treatment and operations and well as in the periodic blood and feces samples we must take to monitor the health of the animals.
Perhaps the most satisfying work we carry out at the Center are the animal releases which we carry out 2-4 times per year. Volunteers may assist in these releases, but participation depends on space on the vehicles and many of the releases entail time commitments of 1 or 2 weeks.
In general, we expect volunteers to become a willing part of the Rescue Center team and to take an integral part in the day-to-day operations of the Center. We also expect that, barring physical limitations, all volunteers take an equal part in performing all tasks at the Center regardless of background, training or educational level. At times there is a lot of work, especially during the breeding season (April-July) when we receive the majority of our seized animals; other times there is very little to do.
Likewise, at times we have 15 or more volunteers and you will have little to do; other times you will be the sole volunteer and will be asked to carry a heavier load. We ask for your understanding and cooperation in these matters.
In addition, volunteers are encouraged to develop their own individual projects. If you see potential for such a special project, let us know and we will work with you to translate that idea into practice. In the past, volunteers have taken on projects such as developing interpretive exhibits and trails, studying the behaviors of animals in the Center and conducting educational activities in neighboring schools. It’s great to have ideas, but sometimes the difficult part is translating those ideas into practice.
Please read our "Peten Volunteers Guidelines" for more Information about Volunteering in Peten.