So for the past two weeks I have been at the Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre in Mafra, Portugal. I had a really good time, good to feed the wolves, and did some landscaping as well. Here is a brief account of what we got up to.
Day 1- Domingo (Sunday)
Left the house on Sunday morning at half 3! Got to the airport round 5, flight was at 7:30.Met the people from Impact House picking me up and was taken back to the hostel, where I met one of the people doing the wolf volunteering with me. Some of the TV channels had interpreters for Portuguese Sign Language. Was put in a bunkbed that moved a lot.
Day 2- Segunda-feira (Monday)
In the morning had a presentation about Lisbon and Portugal (3rd safest country in the world has some of the highest waves for surfing). In the afternoon I and four others headed off to the wolf centre, but first we went food shopping. I was quite hard to find the food there was no clear order and none of us knew that much Portuguese to work out what all the food was.
We arrived at the centre and were taken to our houses. I was in the largest, there was two bedrooms; one with two bunk beds, the other two singles, this is the one that we mostly ate lunch and dinner in. After we settled in, we were taken on a tour of the centre and shown how to do the watering which had to be done three times a day. To try to prevent mosquitoes laying eggs in the still water. There was a lot of hills and the ground was very slippery. We were told about the threats wolves face; poaching, decline in their natural pray (deer), and loss of habitat, and the number of Iberian wolves left in Portugal (under 200 is the best estimate).
In the evening after we did the last water round as a group (was 10 of us) we went back to the big house for dinner. Over the two weeks we all contributed in cooking dinner.
Day 3- Terça-feira (Tuesday)
I was on the water round with one of the others today, so did not have to join in with the work as part of the water round was observing the wolves’ behaviour and interactions, and lack of. One of the wolves was very lazy as just laid next to his enclosure watching us.
After dinner, the people who had done the feeding need to wash their clothes. It took four of us to work out how the washing machine worked. We eventually got it working.
Day 4- Quarta-feira (Wednesday)
Woke up and it was raining heavily, luckily I was not on the water round today, so I did not have to go out in it. The rain had stopped by the time the rest of us had to go to work.
Today I had work, and we had to clear a patch of vegetation round one of the enclosures. Pulling up plants and roots with tools and smashing the vines. We were doing this to prevent fires from breaking out, and to remove non-native plants which stop the growth of native Portuguese plants.
After lunch we went back out to continue working. This time some of the smaller saplings were also removed with saws. We all were covered in dirt, which like sand seemed to get everywhere.
Day 5- Quinta-feira (Thursday)
In the morning helped to defrost the meat for tomorrow’s feeding, I had to weigh the meat so we had the right amount for each wolf.
After that we went back to were we were yesterday and mostly finished the bank and destroying things.
After lunch, a small group of us went into the office to make things to be sold in the shop: magnets, pints, notebooks. My job was cutting, and sticking, had to put an agreement form on the adoption forms. Was a very nice afternoon.
Day 6- Sexta-feira (Friday)
Doing feeding this morning, had to cut up and smash meat into small enough pieces that the wolves would not chock on; only for the two old wolves and the three brothers, the rest had larger meat we just had to throw over the fence. Had to make balls of the meat to throw, felt very strange in my hands, I got most of it into the enclosure, but a lot landed on the fence instead of inside.Got to see 12 of the 13 wolves.
After lunch worked in a new area, was easier as the land was flatter so did not feel like would fall down if your foot slipped.
Was given the job of feed the cats over the weakened as it is only volunteers on site during the evenings and weekends. Made shortbread for dessert went down very well.
Day 7- Sábado (Saturday)
Heard the wolves this morning, was a barking sort of howl. Was so wonderful.
Going into Mafria with some of the others today, was going to get the bus but got a lift instead. Saw Mafra Palace, was very pretty but not much different. Had lunch out and went to the shops to buy bread and things for dinner.
Went on a late water round after dinner and saw fireflies. Heard loud music in the distance and went to investigate, got nervous and turned back.
Day 8- Domingo
On morning water round of one the wolves wanted to play and kept bowing down like a dog and racing. The daughter came out of the trees and she ran back, as if she had been told off. Defrosted more meat. Spent afternoon reading and talking.
Day 9- Segunda-feira
Did the feeding in the morning, someone smashed a little too hard and I got blood on my glasses. Wolves starting to recognise us so coming a bit closer.
Went into one of the enclosures after lunch to remove bushes. Was very hard and on a hill, so had to be careful about were stepped.
After dinner we had a Disney sing along, which was so surreal.
Day 10- Terça-feira
Went food shopping in the morning, brought a lot of food. Yesterday the groundsman injured his shoulder, so we were given the afternoon off, so he could rest it. Defrosted meat then went to the shop to buy things, got a t-shirt and key ring.
Dance part while preparing dinner. I almost flooded the kitchen, one of the trays overflowed and water went everywhere.
Went on the water round and saw one of the wolves for the first time, she usually doesn’t approach the fences, she was a beautiful wolf.
Day 11- Quarta-feira
In the morning took down a bramble wall. Saw the three brothers running in their enclosure (the wolves in the photo).
Continued the section after lunch and made a lot of progress. I cut one of the other girls hair before dinner, didn’t go hideously wrong.
Day 12- Quinta-feira
Had the day off so as a group went to Sintra. Went to the Moor Castle, was more of a fort. Was a lot of walking, up more hills and on rocking ground. Went right to the top and looked down at Sintra. For lunch had a Portuguese stake and chips. After lunch went to Quinta da Regaleira, another palace with a large garden, including a cave system which we explored. Had a biscuit ice cream, which although the texture was strange as very nice.
Day 13- Sexta-feira
Two weeks have gone very fast. Did more hacking and destroying, on a steep slope. Managed to clear a lot of the vegetation. After lunch went to the office and got a certificate for volunteering.
Three of us were working in the afternoon cleared the drains of dirt and weeds. Had to move a lot of the vegetation so could be taken by the tractor.
Day 14- Sábado
Feels so unreal to be leaving. Van from ImpactTrip came to pick four of us up to take to the airport. Had a ½ hour delay so had fillet-o-fish and ice-cream for dinner. Sad to be gone, but had a very enjoyable time and met some great people.
I had such a great time at the centre and meet some really interesting people. Here is a link to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IberianWolfRecoveryCentre. I also want to thank the Kempson Rosedale Enterprise Trust for helping to fund my trip.