Our Story | Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY)

Our Story

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Our Story

Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) is a Bolivian non-governmental organisation dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and care of wildlife that has fallen victim to illegal trafficking and other harm.

As Bolivia’s leading organisation in the fight for animal rights and wildlife care, CIWY works to combat the illegal wildlife trade and the destruction of the environment. We collaborate with the Bolivian authorities to enforce the law, to seize and rescue animals from poachers and merchants, as well as zoos when conditions do not meet legal requirements.

CIWY also rehabilitates wild animals that were injured by fires or other disasters. We conduct educational projects locally and nationally, as well as research projects, and scientific dissemination.

CIWY operates three wildlife sanctuaries distributed throughout Bolivia: Machía, Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi. Our sanctuaries are managed by a team of professionals and volunteers from around the world.

Our name reflects the ethnic diversity of Bolivia and our link with nature, by using words from the indigenous languages of the three main ethnic groups in Bolivia. “Inti” means “sun” in Quechua, “Wara” means “star” in Aymara, and “Yassi” means “moon” in Chiriguano-Guaraní. Bringing these languages together symbolises unity.

Mission & Vision

Our mission

CIWY rescues, rehabilitates and cares for wild animals seized from illegal trafficking, and fights to end the animal trade through educational programs, research projects and public actions.
Through this work, we aim to inspire humankind to uphold values that promote conservation and the recuperation of biodiversity.

Our vision

Our vision is a world in which wildlife thrives and lives freely in its natural habitat, free from the dangers of poaching and the destruction of its ecosystems.

Our objectives

Our primary objectives are:

  • To defend the environment and conserve biodiversity.
  • To rescue and rehabilitate wildlife that has fallen victim to trafficking and abuse.
  • To responsibly manage and care for rescued wild animals.
  • To coordinate and conduct research and education programs that support our conservation efforts.
One of CIWY's early conservation efforts against deforestation
One of CIWY's early conservation efforts against deforestation
Founder Nena Baltazar with one of the first of many animals rescued by CIWY
Founder Nena Baltazar with one of the first of many animals rescued by CIWY
Bolivian students march in support of wildlife and conservation in La Paz during the early days of CIWY
Bolivian students march in support of wildlife and conservation in La Paz during the early days of CIWY
One of CIWY's early conservation efforts against deforestation
One of CIWY's early conservation efforts against deforestation

History

CIWY’s seed was sown in the 1980s, when a group of Bolivian volunteers began an initiative to teach trade skills to less privileged youth in La Paz, giving them the means to support themselves. This education program included a field trip to the ‘Choro Trail.’ The youth from the altiplano were amazed by the luscious vegetation and quantity of wildlife that they witnessed in the wilderness outside of La Paz. But as they reached Coroico they witnessed the negative impact that humans were having upon the environment and wildlife, particularly from slash-and-burn agriculture. The sight of the scorched earth deeply affected the youth, and they committed to create an environmental movement to show the public the adverse effects of destroying the rainforest.

On another trip, this time to Rurrenabaque, the youth encountered a spider monkey which some locals at a bar had forced to drink alcohol and dance for the entertainment of patrons. The youth decided to rescue the animal and persuaded the bar owner to give it to them. At the time, there was no sanctuary to take the monkey to, so they brought it to an eco-hostel nearby.

The group began to campaign and raise awareness, expressing the urgent need for environmental legislation to protect the forests and animals of Bolivia. Over the years CIWY’s work evolved and its principal mission is now to help rescued wildlife. However, we have never lost sight of our original mission of supporting children.

Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi was officially founded in 1992, as an environmental activism group. CIWY organised environmental protection brigades, demonstrations, protests, talks at schools, and other actions that raised awareness about the urgent need for change regarding the way humans interact with biodiversity.

One of CIWY´s founders, Tania “Nena” Baltazar, rescued a spider monkey that was being mistreated, and resolved to create a wildlife refuge, to properly rehabilitate and care for the large number of animals that needed help.

In 1996, with 2 spider monkeys, 2 capuchin monkeys, and a squirrel monkey, CIWY created the first wildlife sanctuary in Bolivia: Parque Machía, thanks to an agreement signed by the Municipal Government of Villa Tunari for the use of the land.

In 2002, thanks to financial support from Quest Overseas and FIWY UK, CIWY acquired land for its biggest sanctuary, Ambue Ari, specialising in the care of wild felines.

In 2009, thanks to donations from volunteers through FIWY UK, CIWY established its third sanctuary, Jacj Cuisi, in the outskirts of Rurrenabaque.

CIWY enjoyed the privilege of being visited by the famous primatologist Jane Goodall in 2010. She visited Parque Machía and Parque Ambue Ari to support CIWY’s work with animals and the environment.

In 2017, Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi received the Institutional Merit Recognition through a Governmental Decree of the Department of Cochabamba for its contribution to the defense of the environment and the conservation of biodiversity for 25 years.

Today over 500 wild animals reside in CIWY’s sanctuaries, and many more have been rehabilitated and released into the wild. Nena has been joined by an incredible staff of Bolivian and foreign conservationists, veterinarians, biologists, and sanctuary administrators. Volunteers from around the world contribute to the daily operations of the sanctuaries.

Over time CIWY has not only changed the lives and futures of thousands of animals, but also of thousands of people who belong to the wider CIWY family, people with the same passion and vision of the world, people that fight on a daily basis to improve our planet.

Join us and help us change the world!