Meet Magali, the conservation warrior who saves the animals of the Peruvian rainforest: video

  • A new award-winning short film by Nick Werber follows Magali Salinas, wildlife rehabilitator and founder of Amazon Shelter, as she discusses her work in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Magali has dedicated the last 16 years of her life to saving animals in an area plagued by illegal logging, mining and the wildlife trade. His center cares for up to 80 animals at a time (including sloths, turtles, parrots, monkeys and more) and releases dozens into the wild each year.
  • The Amazonian refuge specializes in howler monkeys and Magali frees rehabilitated howler troops in protected reserves far from the territories of other howling troops. Finding these places can take days to weeks of research.
  • The film is based on the release of 14 howler monkeys into the wild. “It just shows the difference a person can make,” Werber said. “That’s what inspired me to make the film.”

In the darkness, early in the morning, Magali Salinas drags a troop of howler monkeys through the Amazon rainforest. Magali is particularly invested in this troop. She rehabilitated each monkey, reunited them and released them back into the wild. Now she watches and waits.

“I take care of them as if they were my own children”, Magali Salinas, founder and director of the wildlife rescue center Amazon shelter said in the recently released short Magali by director and producer Nick werber. “When they’re happy, I feel happy. When they are free, healthy and reproducing, I am even happier.

Magali has dedicated the last 16 years of her life to rehabilitating and releasing wildlife in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon, a region plagued by habitat destruction, illegal logging, illegal mining, and illegal wildlife trade.

“This is the first line of conservation,” Werber told Mongabay. “This is where all the casualties occur. It’s like the front line of a battle, but the victims in this case are animals. And this is the Florence Nightingale.

Werber’s film, Magali, won the audience award at Films for the forest and one Jackson Wild Media Award in the short micro category, the Oscar equivalent of nature films.

“I really wanted to show what you can do with the little resources you have,” Werber said. “This person with little money, not a lot of experience, really, by force of his own will, created this center which had a lot of influence… It just shows the difference a person can make. That’s what inspired me to make the film.

Magali Salinas. Photo by Nick Werber.
A baby howler monkey in Magali’s arms. Photo by Nick Werber.
Nick Werber, director and producer of the film Magali. Photo courtesy of Nick Werber.

A former flight attendant and single mother with a passion for animal rescue, Magali, now 65, sold her belongings 16 years ago and bought land about a half hour drive from the city ​​of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Werber said. The first wild animal she cared for was a night monkey given to her by a local vet.

During the last decade and a half, its exploitation has gradually developed. She created an NGO, built pens to keep more animals, hired a veterinarian, and built housing for volunteers to come and help.

The refuge now accommodates up to 80 animals at a time and is currently home to howler monkeys, capuchins, a titi monkey, nocturnal monkeys, an emperor tamarin, woolly monkeys, sloths, turtles, macaws, parrots, deer, a baby tapir, and a coati.

A sloth taken care of by Amazon Shelter. Photo by Nick Werber.
Wildlife rehabilitator Kim Cruz gives an educational workshop to local children in Madre De Dios, Peru. Photo by Nick Werber.
A young howler monkey at Amazon Shelter. Photo by Nick Werber.

Most of the animals that come to Magali are rescued from the illegal pet trade, victims of illegal logging, mining and hunting activities.

For example, said Werber, “You might find out that there is a lumberjack in the forest for several weeks. They eat jungle meat to shoot a howler monkey, often a mother who has a baby clinging to her. They will eat it and then they will take the baby and put it on their shoulder and bring it back, maybe give it to someone or sell it as a pet.

It is illegal to keep wild animals as pets in Peru, so these animals can be reported to the local Peruvian forestry agency (GERFOR), confiscated and turned over to a rescue center. Or, when the owner realizes how difficult it is to care for an adult pet, they may hand it over voluntarily.

A baby howler monkey taken care of by Amazon Shelter. Photo by Nick Werber.

There are several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Madre de Dios, so some have chosen to specialize. Magali’s specialty are howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), well known for their loud calls that can be heard up to five kilometers (three miles) away.

Taricaya, another wildlife rescue center in the area, specializes in spider monkeys. When they get a howler monkey, they take it to Amazon Shelter and Magali brings her rescued spider monkeys to Taricaya.

Amazon Shelter is “very good and professional” at what they do, Taricaya founder Fernando Rosemberg said in an email to Mongabay. He said most of the monkeys they rescue come from hunting and the centers help each other out when needed.

Magali with a rescue. Photo by Nick Werber.

Most of Amazon Shelter’s financial support comes from volunteers who pay to stay, care for, and learn about the animals. Thus, the loss of ecotourism and volunteers due to travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 has hit the center hard. However, despite the tight budget, Amazon Shelter still employs a full-time veterinarian who performs routine checks for disease and parasites. The animals are given a diet of fruits, vegetables and wild plants designed by a nutritionist. Feeding all the animals can cost up to US $ 2,500 per month.

“It’s a very good level of care,” Christian Tirapelle, a veterinarian who has worked with Amazon Shelter, told Mongabay. This care, the refuge’s collaboration with scientists, and their commitment to safely reintroducing animals into the wild make Amazon Shelter stand out, says Tirapelle.

Veterinarian Christian Tirapelle is helping Magali and Amazon Shelter with their howler monkey release program. Photo by Nick Werber.
Volunteer with a tapir at Amazon Shelter. Photo by Nick Werber.

While it is impossible to safely release some of the animals into the wild (like birds with broken wings or those that have been too domesticated), “any animals that can be released are released,” Werber said. Amazon Shelter releases dozens of animals to protected reserves each year.

Releasing these animals is not only good for them, it is also good for the forest. A forest cannot survive without animals to distribute seeds, make fertilizers, and maintain a balanced food web. As a pioneer of these reintroduction programs, Amazon Shelter hopes to regenerate some areas of forest that were logged in the past and are recovering now.

Magali and her crew typically take care of 25 to 45 howler monkeys at a time. Because howler monkeys are very social, living in a group is beneficial for their recovery. Being released as a troop is crucial for their success and survival in the wild.

Once a group of rehabilitated monkeys are deemed ready for release (meaning that all members are healthy and behaving like part of the troop), it takes about six months to get the proper clearances from the government. to release them. All animals must be checked for disease and parasites and these tests can be expensive. Rosemberg, the director of Taricaya, says one of the biggest challenges they face with reintroductions is navigating unstable and often changing government protocols.

Amazon Shelter volunteers release rehabilitated howler monkeys into the forest. Photo by Nick Werber.
Howler monkeys return to the forest after rehabilitation at Amazon Shelter. Photo by Nick Werber.

Another difficulty is finding the right location. Magali only releases howler monkeys in healthy forests with suitable habitats that are not already occupied by wild howler monkeys. To find these places, she and her team spend three days to a week walking six to eight hours a day to search, Werber says.

Once the animals are released, Magali gets up at 3 a.m. to watch them for at least a week to make sure they are surviving, are in good health and are exhibiting the right behaviors for themselves. flourish in nature.

“The jungle made me a lot harder. Rather a warrior you might say. I don’t have a day off. I’m not resting, ”said Magali. “It’s for really tough people. It is not for everyone.

“Magali is very fearless,” Werber said. “Not only does she work from 5 am to 7 pm every day at the refuge, but she often goes to do this work in the forest. I’ve never seen her take a day off… And that’s why in the movie her name is a will fight, a warrior.”

Magali Salinas, Founder and Director of Amazon Shelter. Photo by Nick Werber.

Banner image baby howler monkey by Nick werber.

Liz kimbrough is a writer for Mongabay. Find her on Twitter @lizkimbrough_

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Animal rescue, Animals, Biodiversity, Conservation, Deforestation, Endangered species, Environment, Forests, Green, Joyful environment, Mammals, Monkeys, Protected areas, Rainforest destruction, Tropical forests, Tropical forests, Wildlife, Rescue wildlife, wildlife trade

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