UPDATED: “Rewilding” at the Hoja Nueva Center in the Peruvian Amazon

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Back in December 2022, I watched the now award-winning documentary Wildcat (free on Amazon Prime Video).

I’ve since acquired the DVD, and have now watched the documentary several times:

And yes, tears still well up every time. Sometimes it’s out of sadness…sometimes out of happiness…but often out of sheer jealously: the fact that anyone can be so lucky as to be involved in such a wonderful project, with such a purposeful mission, in such a beautiful place with such magnificent animals, and experience the level of success that Hoja Nueva has experienced doing so, is like a fantasy to me!

Or, like I posted on Facebook after watching the film for the first time:

“You know, I watch something like this, and realize there’s a whole big beautiful world out there…that I will never see. And it’s rather disconcerting.”

I’ve always loved wildlife of all types (consider the hundreds of critters—even insects—I’ve saved from drowning in swimming pools over the years), and am especially fond of cats. I am fascinated with big/wild cats, but have never been exposed to them, but would love to have the opportunity. So I am very passionate about the work and mission of Hoja Nueva. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strongly about anything in my life, since watching Wildcat and being totally impassioned with their mission!

Anyway, though the documentary tends to focus on Harry Turner, 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—

(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…

—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 Dr. Samantha Zwicker, that really caught my interest.

So 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.

And the founder Samantha Zwicker was recently interviewed by Tree Hugger, prior to which they shared the following about Samantha:

“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.”

Read the interview with Samantha Zwicker by Tree Hugger here.

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:

Again, Wildcat is free on Amazon Prime Video, and I highly recommend watching it.

UPDATE June 2023:
Hoja Nueva has announced a new Ecology Summer Camp, a workshop focused on research and monitoring methods used to study wildlife in their natural habitat. According to their website, the summer camp offers:

• Learn all about the ecology, biology, and behavior of Amazonian wildlife while living deep in the heart of primary rainforest
• Workshop material focusing on mammals, reptiles, and birds
• 80/20 practical/theory ratio, with additional laboratory analysis
• A combination of hands-on learning and research experience in the rainforest mixed with in-depth presentations and theoretical learning from experts in the field
• We specialize in working with university-age students and young professionals that are beginning their careers in conservation, but our workshops are open to all ages

They have two upcoming workshops, one in July and one in August of 2023.

UPDATE April 2024: 2024 dates to be announced: visit the workshop page on their website for details, and subscribe to their newsletter for notifications.

ALSO: I’ve now written several articles about Dr. Samantha Zwicker‘s work through the Hoja Nueva center, which I’ve compiled here: Hoja Nueva

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Rand Eastwood

Rand Eastwood is an author & blogger, artist & craftsman, and business owner currently residing in Las Vegas, NV. Certified in both nutrition and ancestral health, he is a healthy nutrition & lifestyle advocate. Ideologically, he describes himself as an Individualist, Consensualist, Syncretist, and Autarchist. Under Eastwood Innovations, LLC he owns/operates Lifeology Store, an online store that offers exclusive, unique, specialty printed products & gifts of his own design. Also, much of his fiction—including some award-winners—is included in his book Rolling The Bones. He also has an extensive novel under development (working title Primeval), along with various other writing projects. To follow his work, you can subscribe to this blog (form in sidebar & below each post, or simply use this quick sign-up form), subscribe to INSIGHTS Blog on Substack, friend him on Facebook, like/follow the INSIGHTS Blog FB page, like/follow his Lifeology Store FB page, follow his author page on Amazon and Goodreads for future book releases, and visit/shop his custom designed products in Lifeology Store. His mantra: "To seek, discover, assimilate, and disseminate Truth."

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