Few travelers get to see stealthy jaguars, solitary anteaters and rare red uakari monkeys in the jungle, but at the Amazon Animal Orphanage and Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm, you can visit with wildlife and see the fragile insects in all stages of life. Chances are, a gregarious monkey will take a ride on your head during the grand tour.
The Animal Orphanage and Butterfly Farm are separate projects that share the same home on a forest farm on the Nanay River, outside Iquitos.
Owner Austrian Gudrun Sperrer is passionate about the work and educating others about Amazonian flora and fauna. Butterflies fly in a large enclosure. Some animals, like the monkeys and anteaters, are free to roam in their natural element. Here, you get an up-close look and an opportunity to help endangered, uncommon and fragile animals.
The orphan Pedro Bello, or “beautiful Pedro,” was delivered to the Amazon Animal Orphanage by a man who had been trying to sell him, with no luck. The jaguar was emaciated, injured and near death. Sperrer nursed him back to health. Now he’s one of the orphanage’s most popular residents.
The farm is home to some 20 animals, including tapirs, anteaters, turtles, parrots and six species of monkeys, including two red uakaris. All of the animals were abandoned, rescued after their mothers were killed or dropped off at the orphanage as a last resort. You can see the animals easily, at an arm’s distance, or in spacious pens.
Tony the capuchin monkey is the exception. He was raised by children in Iquitos so he’s used to people and mighty curious. He’s got a penchant for climbing up your legs or plunking down out of a tree to perch on your shoulders.
Lucky visitors may see Rose the six-foot-anteater saunter by on her way to look for ants. Full-grown, she prefers to be alone.
More than 40 species of butterflies are raised at Pilpintuwasi, all in full view.
Bright brick-red and yellow caterpillars nibble on leaves as they make their way to adulthood in a small building, along with other juveniles as they go from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis. Once they emerge, the butterflies flutter about in a large enclosure.
Fist-sized, electric-blue morphos twitter beside your head. Green and red swallowtails drink nectar from fruit. Someone with a keen eye can spot eggs the size of pin pricks on the underside of leaves. The enclosure is fenced in with a screen top to protect the butterflies from predators and the monkeys, who like attention and cling to the sides wondering what the guests are doing.