Shirley, an EVS experience in Villena. Part #3
Part #3 - Barbary Macaques World
The last three months I have been working in module C, where the Barbary macaque socialization takes place. I was really curious about this module, because my friends (the other volunteers) told me it is a fantastic module to work in. You can learn a lot but it is also a module where change is quite normal and it can be hectic sometimes. In this module you have the lower and the upper floor. I started in the upper floor, which means taking care of animals inside and outside. In module C you only work with Barbary macaques and even if some groups are together for a while, things can change.
There are several experienced caregivers working in Module C. Maybe it is also interesting to know that I have a good bond with all the keepers so far and that I enjoy my time with them. I don't tell this because I know they are going to read my story but because I mean it and I think it is really important. You will always meet people that you are closer to, but I think it is good to know that the people here are really nice and can help you learn and grow (off course you have to do your part, be nice as well, work hard and take an interest).
In the upper floor I worked mainly with Pedro. The cleaning routine I knew from other modules but, before you can start with that, you have some challenges. The animals are in close proximity and you have to open enclosures with them around. They can extend their arms out of their enclosures, so you need to pay attention. Pedro takes time and patience teaching you the routine. He taught me how to open and move animals and showed me how to put trust between me and the animals. You have to be patient and confident (whilst always maintaining respect). Nowadays, I have improved a lot and I know what to do.
What I like about the upper floor is that you have the diversity of Barbary's inside and bigger groups can have access to the large outside enclosures. You spend your time in both places (inside and outside) and feeding time is always something special as you can observe them meanwhile, which makes me happy. I also notice I got more feeling with working with animals. I have learned more about identifying different behaviours, how ranking works, eating routines etc. and if they are doing fine for instance.
After 6 to 8 weeks I changed from the upper floor to the lower floor, again something new, because there are a lot of Barbary's and when you are there, they are more or less around you, in every position that you take, you have to pay attention at all times. I can remember I mopped the floor for the first time and it reminded me the computer game called Pac Man. If you are not fully focused in the job at hand, it means you can get grabbed. I was aware of the risks, because I had some experience by then and knew I had to go with caution. In the beginning Sergio (caregiver) opened/moved the animals. After some time he let me do it by myself, which made me proud and grateful. I am always thankful if I get responsibility from a keeper. For me personally the lower floor is more complicated but very interesting to!
Module C is amazing and the animals in this module are FANTASTIC. I will never forget Sarita who brushes her hair with a stick or Boris who sits in his enclosure like he is a member of the Chippendales. Little Juma who is always playing around, Luella so enthusiastic with her envelope (enrichment), Chumachi being a thief traying to steal what he can and, last but not least, Agapito always trying to grab me and ripped my t-shirt. Don't be scared… I am fine. We must be very careful and take precautions not to be grabbed by them. These are intelligent and fast animals so it is important to keep our eyes open and pay attention!
Module C is the module of introductions and this is what makes module C really interesting. New animals come in, and little by little groups are formed. The introductions are necessary because the Barbary macaques are social animals and those who have abnormal behaviours, can reduce it by being with conspecifics. Abnormal behaviour can be hitting/biting themselves for instance, caused by the traumatic past that they had before coming in AAP. I saw several introductions and it is the best thing to see if they get along. They can hug or groom each other for instance. On the other hand, they can also fight and if you don't have some background knowledge it is quite distressing to see. It got me emotional several times, but later you realise it is an unfortunate repercussion of the past but it is for a good end reason. The decisions for intro's are made by a carefully though out plan, by experienced people.
My EVS (European Voluntary Service) experience is amazing so far, as you can tell from my stories, I guess. But, I'm not going to lie… it's really hard work, physical and mentally. The work on his own, but also being around people 24/7 and not having any privacy, also, I didn't expect that I would have a big problem with people leaving, but I have. You form a bond and it can be very sad to say goodbye to them. The combination of work, heat, no privacy, people coming and going, a busy agenda after work, was in the last three months a little too much for me at times. I felt a little anxious and with that I felt a little homesick. That's why I decided to go to Holland for a week which I hadn´t previously planned. At the end I think it is good to experience to have different feelings because you can grow as a person and wherever you are… it cannot be perfect all the time.
If you are thinking about EVS, don't let this story scare you. I have a great time here and did a lot of fun things in the past last three months!
I have been to several beaches, the swimming pool in Villena and surprising but true… Villena organises a lot of activities in the summer. I went too other cities in the province and some cities which are a little bit further, like Altea. Altea, felt like a holiday and is really pretty, also Bocairent, closer to Villena is well worth the effort. My parents came to visit me and we did a wine tour in Villena, which was super nice! I celebrated my 26th birthday and my colleagues sung for me in three languages. I went to Hogueras de San Juan a festival in Alicante, to see the mascletá and other things you can experience there. I also realised that practising Flamenco is not really my thing, I never felt so Dutch and to be honest I thought I had some moves…apparently not really for flamenco, but for a few lessons it was fun ;-)
Shirley Kok, EVS volunteer at AAP Primadomus.