FAQ - Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY)





What does the name Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) mean?

Our name reflects the ethnic diversity of Bolivia and our link to nature using words from the indigenous languages of the three main ethnic groups in Bolivia, symbolizing unity. “Comunidad” means “Community” in Spanish, “Inti” means “Sun” in Quechua, “Wara” means “Star” in Aymara, and “Yassi” means “Moon” in Chiriguano-Guaraní.

How is CIWY managed?

CIWY is a Bolivian non-governmental organization (NGO) with international support. An elected president and a board of directors are responsible for the management of the Organization. Each sanctuary is managed by a Director and a multidisciplinary team of professionals, who work under the supervision of the board of directors.

CIWY receives support from its international arms of Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY). FIWY UK is registered as a charity with the British Charities Commission. FIWY Australia is registered as a charity with Australia’s Register of Environmental Organizations.

How is CIWY financed?

CIWY was initially funded by personal contributions from its founders. Today the volunteer program provides much of the funding to operate the sanctuaries. Past volunteers and other supporters around the world support CIWY through our Sponsor-an-Animal Program and monthly donations. We also receive support from international organizations that align with our work, such as the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), the Bolivian Land Trust Alliance (BALTA), the Jane Goodall Institute, the International Primatological Society, Wild Futures, Lush Cosmetics, and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation. FIWY UK organizes periodic fundraising campaigns as needed, through GlobalGiving and other streams.

How will my donation be spent?

Donations support the care expenses of the animals in our sanctuaries (including food and veterinary care, as well as construction and maintenance of the enclosures). For more detailed information, you can access our annual reports, where you will find a breakdown of expenses.

If you would like to donate towards a specific project, let us know. To support a certain animal, see the Sponsor-an-Animal program.

The Animals

Where do the animals come from?

The vast majority of our animals are rescued from illegal wildlife trafficking. Poachers often kill mother animals and sell their babies. They arrive at our centers after they have been seized by the authorities or surrendered by their captors (often from markets, circuses, zoos, local families, hotels and restaurants that use them as tourist attractions). Most arrive in appalling hygienic, psychological and health conditions.

Why can't all the animals be released?

Most of the animals we receive have been separated from their mothers at a very young age, have a strong attachment to humans, and come in very poor psychological and health conditions. Many of them need supplements or medication for life.

Babies separated from their mothers do not develop the skills necessary to survive in the wild (they cannot hunt, defend themselves, mark their territory or relate to other animals of the same species). Furthermore, constant destruction and fragmentation of habitat limit the areas where they can be released and make populations more unstable.

As much as possible, we limit human contact with rescued animals and group conspecifics together, to encourage the learning of natural behaviors in social groups. This has proven most successful with howler monkeys, whom we often release as troops.

When an animal is unable to learn survival skills, we provide life-long sanctuary in an environment as close as possible to its natural habitat.

What does "rehabilitate" mean?

Rehabilitation is often confused with release of animals in the wild. Rehabilitation is the process of restoring the physical and mental health of an animal. This process is different for each individual and includes actions that promote the development of natural behaviors. We work to rehabilitate every animal that comes under our care, regardless of whether they will eventually be released or remain in life-long sanctuary.

Who owns the animals?

Under Bolivian law, all wild animals belong to the State of Bolivia, and the trade or capture of wild animals is illegal. CIWY is officially authorized to house and rehabilitate rescued wildlife.


Can I volunteer if I don’t have experience?

Yes! You just need to be committed and eager to learn and work. We provide you with the necessary training to work in the assigned management areas.

Do I need to notify CIWY before arriving?

No, although we recommend it. Some of our volunteers arrive without prior notice, others prefer to notify us and others even reserve a place. We advise you to try to arrive before 18:00, which is when it gets dark. Knowing in advance that you are coming helps us with the organization of work in the management areas.

Why do I need to pay to volunteer?

We appreciate that volunteers donate their time to support the animals, but we must collect a modest payment in order to provide room and board. The volunteer packages include accommodation and lunch at all of our sanctuaries. In addition, volunteers receive breakfast and dinner at Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi (not at Machía). Staff time is devoted to organizing and training volunteers, which comes at a cost to CIWY.

Most volunteers find the fee well worth the once-in-a-lifetime experience that CIWY facilitates, and many continue to donate monthly or sponsor an animal after they have returned home.

CIWY is a non-profit organization with no governmental funding. Any income generated from merchandise, donations, etc. helps us to continue rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals in need. Proceeds of the Volunteer Program provide a vital source of income for the operation of the sanctuaries.

Can I choose to work in a specific area or with a particular animal?

We take into account the preferences of volunteers, but we cannot guarantee a specific area or animal. Your assignment is made according to the needs of the animals and the sanctuary.

Let us know if you have any phobia, fear, allergy or impediment, so that we take it into account.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

It is not mandatory, although it is recommended. At CIWY we receive volunteers from all over the world who speak different languages and general communication is usually in Spanish and English. We recommend that you have knowledge of some of these two languages, although we always try to adapt to people who do not speak them.

I would like to stay for a long period. Is that possible? What are the visa requirements?

Absolutely! Long-stay volunteers are a fundamental part of our organization.
Upon entry into Bolivia, a 30-day tourist visa is normally received, which can be easily extended up to 90 days at the immigration offices. Depending on your country of origin this may change, so we recommend that you contact the Bolivian consulate in your country in advance.

If you want to stay more than 90 days, you can apply for a residence visa for 6 months or more. This procedure begins once you are in Bolivia and CIWY can guide you through the steps to follow.

If you exceed the period of your visa during your stay, you will have to pay a fine when you leave the country.

Consult the Bolivian embassy or consulate in your country or visit the website of the Bolivian General Directorate of Migration for more information on how you can obtain a visa.

Other Questions

I don't have time to volunteer. How else can I help?

There are many ways to support CIWY apart from volunteering at the sanctuaries. You can sponsor an animal, make a donation, buy items in our online store, or spread the word about our work.

If you have a project in mind, contact us so we can help you.

Can I visit any of the sanctuaries?

To ensure the welfare and stability of the animals, our sanctuaries are not open to the public. You can only visit a part of Parque Machía where groups of free monkeys reside who were released by CIWY and which is administered by the local government.

This area of Parque Machía is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, except Mondays and days with heavy rains. To enter you pay a fee which goes entirely to the mayor’s office. CIWY does not receive any financial contribution from these entries nor from the municipality. For more information, contact their offices directly (tel. 4 413-7521).

I still have questions. Who can I ask?

Write to us at info@intiwarrayassi.org. We will be happy to answer all your questions.