The Amazon rainforest is an essential ecosystem to the planet, but it’s becoming more endangered through the years. Without the rainforest, it will be difficult for the Earth to store carbon dioxide, regulate climate, and accommodate various animal species. There will be a massive loss of natural resources that are mainly used for livelihood and human survival. For instance, most prescribed drugs for heart illnesses, leukemia, and glaucoma are produced with plants from the Amazon rainforest. The world will have a terrifying domino effect if humans fail to protect such ecosystems.
NGOs and conservationists have reached a helping hand to save the Amazon rainforest. They continue to spread awareness about the threats of climate change, huge-scale farming, infrastructures, logging, and mining. Some groups and people personally took action to make changes. Samantha Zwicker is one of those incredible people who protect the forest by rescuing its beloved animals. As different species benefit from the Amazon rainforest, the ecosystem also needs those animals. They have contributed to the rainforest — keeping the environment healthy and flourishing.
Before Samantha Zwicker decided to move to Peru, she graduated with multiple degrees from the University of Washington. Then, at 22 years old, she joined wildlife ecology research in the Peruvian rainforest. “You know, when I first came to Peru, I never really thought of myself as staying here permanently. It’s this huge, beautiful — it’s one of the largest swaths of intact forest left in the lower Peruvian Amazon. And it’s vital as a connection between the different protected national parks, but it remains completely unprotected,” she explained.
Due to being environmentally aware, Samantha started an organization called Hoja Nueva, which translates to “new leaf.” Their objective is to help people understand threats to biodiversity and how humans hugely contribute to such dangers. During Samantha’s stay in Peru for over nine years, Hoja Nueva has already established a rewilding center and rescued 270 animals. “We focus heavily on relying on the surrounding environment to really kind of help these animals to become wild again. So a typical day is very much dictated by the schedule that revolves around the current animals that we have,” Samantha shared.
Hoja Nueva provides rescue animals rehabilitation, feeding, cleaning, and enrichment. They are also the first carnivore rewilding center in Peru, mainly focusing on wild cats. This is due to the fact that pet trading is extremely practiced in Peru, and it immensely threatens biodiversity. Felines are in demand in the pet trading industry, most of which are ocelots, jaguars, and margays. Other animals, such as coatis, woodpeckers, kinkajous, and tapirs are also accommodated in the rewilding center. For this reason, filmmakers Melissa Leah and Trevor Frost featured her story in “Wildcat” — an Amazon Prime Video documentary.
The story revolves around a veteran named Harry Turner, who had a life-changing experience rescuing an ocelot. Samantha’s rescued ocelots, Khan and Keanu, also starred in the documentary. Before they could start filming, Samantha had to ask the Peruvian government for permission to involve an ocelot in her research — an experiment focusing on rewilding the wildcat at a young age. As soon as the legalities were accomplished, she and Harry worked together to rewild ocelots and document the whole procedure.
Most of the clips included in the film were shot by Harry and Samantha, as other humans were not allowed to get in contact with the ocelots. According to the conservationist, “It was much more this science research perspective of documenting every little thing so that it could potentially be replicated and we could show what worked and the things that we did wrong that people could [learn from] in the future.”
Aside from successfully garnering data, the whole process was a beautiful experience for both Harry and Samantha. She also mentioned that letting go was hard, especially when Harry had built a connection with Keanu.
“Wildcat” finished filming in 2019 and premiered on December 30, 2022, on Prime Video. Watch their story if you are up for an environmentally informative and eye-opening film. Learn more about rewilding as Harry and the ocelots impact each other’s lives for the better. You could also get involved with Hoja Nueva by visiting their website. Find more information to reach out for a helping hand and be a rainforest guardian. Anyone can help the planet in their own genuine ways — being part of Hoja Nueva might be yours.Whizzco