However, though the documentary focuses on Harry, a soldier who was medically discharged from his tour in Afghanistan due to depression and PTSD, and how working with the cats at Hoja Nueva helped him—a touching story to be sure—it was the Hoja Nueva center’s mission itself, and what they are working to accomplish under the guidance of the founder and co-director of the facility, tropical biologist and wildlife rehabilitation specialist Samantha Zwicker, that really caught my interest.
(Side note: in one insightful scene, Harry describes a horrific incident he experienced while on duty in Afghanistan, saying: “When I was in Afghanistan, I had to stop this person from going to bury his child. And when I lifted up that blanket, and I saw that little girl’s hand, that was just full of blood…then there’s my hands, right? I lifted that blanket up, and I had my gloves on, and I had a gun, and grenades, and everything on me…and then that poor, innocent child was on that bike, and it’s like…I have no right to be here.”)
Precisely. But I digress…
Anyway, I researched the Hoja Nueva center, and, much like my recent discovery of the Logos Hope bookstore & cultural cruise ship, the Hoja Nueva center has now made my bucket list! One day I hope to visit the center, maybe stay awhile, enjoy the rain forest and the wildlife! How cool would that be?
That being the case, I thought I’d share what I learned:
Here’s some info from their website:
We preserve Amazonian ecosystems by protecting over 3,000 hectares [approximately 7,400 acres] of primary rainforest, combating wildlife trafficking, rescuing and rewilding key species, and running a first-of-its-kind ecological research station and education center. Hoja Nueva maintains its U.S. headquarters in Washington State with its field operations, rehabilitation facilities, and research center in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon.
Our rewilding efforts are focused on the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintroduction of keystone species of wildlife in the Peruvian Amazon. We specialize in species that are most common in the illegal trade, have no other centers specialized in their rehabilitation, and are of high importance to local ecosystems.
We became the first and only wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in Peru to specialize in carnivores–specifically felids [wild cats] and other mesopredators.
“Samantha Zwicker had been involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of 260 wild animals across Peru. She works to protect more than 7,400 acres of rainforest and the animals that live there.
Zwicker is the founder of Hoja Nueva, a wildlife rescue and rehab center in Las Piedras, a remote area in the Peruvian Amazon. The name means “new leaf.” She has spent the past seven years living in the Amazon after realizing when she was very young that she wanted to advocate for animals and their habitats.
She grew up on a small, undeveloped island outside of Seattle in a small log house surrounded by forests, wetlands, and wildflowers. They often had deer, cougars, and black bears visit.”
And here’s a quick introductory video about Hoja Nueva and what they do:
Also, for those who may find Samantha Zwicker‘s efforts through Hoja Nueva worthwhile and would like to help, they have a donation page on their website (as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501c3, donations are tax-deductible), as well as an Amazon wish list, wherein items can be purchased and shipped directly to Hoja Nueva‘s shipping address.
You can also follow them on Facebook.
And finally, for those who might want to check it out, here’s the trailer for the Wildcat documentary: