The Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary is a privately-owned, family-run organization in the Sacred Valley of Peru that rescues exotic animals that have been injured or have been used for cruel entertainment purposes.
When my friend Kim asked me to come on a field trip with her Advanced English class to help them practice English, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to help. (Okay, let’s be real, I was totally in it for the animals.)
Somehow, despite my relentless chants of, “Puedo tocarlo? Puedo tocarlo?” (“Can I touch it? Can I touch it?”), I didn’t get kicked out!
Now, feast your eyes upon the various exotic–and friendly–animals at the sanctuary:
The Peruvian Hairless Dog
Now, you know I love dogs, but I admit that upon first spotting this hairless dog, my stomach turned and I may have made a very disgusted and offensive face. But, eventually, I warmed up to it, just like with any dog.
The Peruvian Hairless dog is revered here in Peru and is a pet with a big price tag. Their breed dates back to Pre-Incan civilization.
I tried to touch this cute, little, furry animal, but was told it would bite me.
Easily the crown jewel of the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, these breathtaking Andean Condors are a national symbol of Peru and are, sadly, on the brink of extinction. A combination of illegal trafficking for their highly-valued feathers, farmers killing them because they mistakenly think the birds kill livestock (not true; condors prey only on animals that are already dead), and the birds’ monogamy and long gestation period have reduced its numbers to fewer than 100 in the wild.
Though my plea of “CAN I TOUCH IT?” was met with a tired, “No. They will bite you.” I was surprised we were allowed into the enclosure with these giant birds.
The employees had the condors fly from one end of the enclosure to the other to demonstrate the birds’ deftness and massive 10-foot wingspan.
A Very Loving Llama
Again, I was surprised I was actually allowed to, not only get really close, but also hug and pet this loving llama. My friend had a very special connection with it, even feeding it from her mouth, “Lady and the Tramp” style.
An Alpaca With Fabulous Hair
The World’s Friendliest Deer
This deer really liked to lick us, especially Jose. When I said, “Oh, she must like the salt on our skin,” Jose (pictured below) countered with, “No, she loves me.” Okay.
Pumas (Mountain Lions)
There are two pumas at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary that were rescued from a nightclub in Lima, where they were being exploited for entertainment purposes. At the time they were rescued, they were in pretty bad condition, but they’ve recovered and are healthy now.
Of the three falcons at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, only one is strong enough to be released back into the wild.
A Domestic Cat
Sure, there are plenty of wild and exotic animals at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, but nothing won over my heart so much as their domestic cat, Giaco. He came right up to me, climbed into my lap, and promptly fell asleep. So I had to walk around with him in my arms.
How to Visit Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary in Peru
Location: Sacred Valley of the Incas in Cusco Pisac Via Km 22, Cusco, Peru
Transportation: You can take a private taxi, but the cheapest option is a shared bus or colectivo. Just tell the driver you’re going to the sanctuary, and they will tell you when to get off. We took a bus there for 3 soles. On the way back, we stood on the side of the road and caught a colectivo (big shared van) for 2 soles.
Cost: Free! But they do accept donations.