Volunteer in Brazil

On a journey of discovery to the supported projects in Brazil.
For almost five years, I have been working as an animal keeper with the dolphins of Planète Sauvage, a zoo that has supported YAQU PACHA for many years. My work consists of taking care of the welfare of animals on a daily basis, but also participating in research and science and sensitizing as many people as possible to the protection of these animal species in their habitat,
I communicate with visitors on a daily basis and explain to them the importance of in-situ and ex-situ conservation work. As the problems caused by human activities in the ocean continue to grow, it is becoming more important by the day to find new solutions to protect, help and conserve animal species.
But what about the projects we support on site every day?
I've been asking myself this question for some time. I wanted to see with my own eyes how the projects are implemented locally and where the money goes.
So I got the chance to travel to the south of Brazil, to Rio Grande, for a month to see what the projects of YAQU PACHA are all about. I took part in an internship to get to know the various species conservation projects of YAQU PACHA and the daily work. The whole thing in cooperation with the Federal University of Rio Grande FURG.
My stay began at CRAM FURG (Center for the Care of Marine Animals), where I was able to participate in the following activities.
Care of the animals in the center (turtles, penguins, birds, sea lions), monitoring on the beach, recording of the different seabird species, pollution, strandings and anthropogenic waste, releases, necropsies, haematological / parasitological analyses or more about specific veterinary treatments such as ozone therapy or laser therapy.

cram furg Brazil Traineeship

In a second phase, I was placed in the Laboratory for Ecology and Conservation of Marine Fauna ECOMEGA FURG. There I was able to get to know the various studies and conservation projects, such as the Toninhas project for the Fransiscana dolphin or the Boto project for the Lahille's bottlenose dolphin.
I was allowed to accompany the team of the Boto project on their regular trips into the sea to monitor the population with photo identification and DNA samples.

Photo ID Bottlenose dolphin Brazil Volunteer
Twice a month, beach observations are also carried out, during which stranded animals are counted and various samples (teeth, organs, skin, skulls) are taken from dead animals, which are then analyzed and examined in the laboratory.
For example, I learned that you can study a whole range of biological parameters with a single dolphin tooth.

ecomega furg Brazil Traineeship
After several steps, we make thin toothed discs, which we can use to determine the age of the animal. By extracting material (dentin), we can also study the isotopes present, which give us information about the diet, possible migrations or even the characteristics of the animal's habitat throughout its life.
It is therefore one of the daily tasks of ECOMEGAto study these species, their life expectancy, their distribution, the use of their habitat, the size of their populations or even their habits and diet. Knowing them better will allow us to reinforce the importance of measures to combat the problems caused by human activities in the sea and improve the protection measures already in place (protected areas where fishing is prohibited, pingers in fishing nets).
I returned from this volunteer with all the answers to my questions, with all the keys in my hand to share and pass on my new knowledge acquired on site with my colleagues and the visitors of the park. It was a very enriching experience, both personally and professionally.
I would like to thank everyone I got to know during this stay and thank you for your work. Thanks to the Team from YAQU PACHA for the trust placed in me.
Marie Labourier
"You protect what you love, and you love what you know." J. Cousteau