Last November, I had the privilege of travelling to Argentina to meet our team, animals and the new grounds of Sanctuary Equidad.
As I arrive at Equidad, it is already very late at night and everyone is asleep. The last kilometers of the trip were adventurous. Our long-time employee Santiago Zapata, who picked me up from the airport, turns with his jeep onto a gravel road. For almost an hour we drive on this bumpy road, our only source of light being the headlights of the car. I look fascinated at the road, as every now and then a few glittering pairs of eyes appear. They are scissor-tailed nightjars (Hydropsalis torquata) that sleep on the road at night – at the last moment they fly away.
The next morning, after meeting Alejandra Garcia, the director of Equidad, and the current Argentine volunteers, I go outside. It is a windy day and the grey sky announces a thunderstorm. I go to the paddock right in front of the house as I hear a soft thundering sound that gets louder and louder. And suddenly there they are: a mob of horses gallops out of the bushes, rushes right past me and stops not far in front of me. What grace and power they radiate – an unforgettable moment!
A Bumpy Move
The gravel road described at the beginning is the only way to get to the sanctuary. Hence, a lot of planning and preparation is required to transport the animals. In hard backbreaking work, the roughest bumps in the access road have to be removed over and over again in order for our trailer with the animals to pass. After each rainfall – and at this time of year it rains frequently – time and energy is needed to repair new sections of the road. To add to the hassle, in early December, the local government approved a rally to be held on the road leading to the sanctuary. Apart from the fact that it is unbelievable to organize such an event in the quiet and almost untouched Sierras of Córdoba – how disturbing for the wild animals! – this means again many hours of repair work before we can even start thinking about further transports.
Still a Lot of Work to Do
There is still a lot of work to do, not only to transport the remaining animals, but also to improve the infrastructure. The most important work – fencing the 312 hectares of land – has already been completed. Local gauchos tirelessly setup fences by hand with wooden poles and wire, dividing the area into different sections. In order to have the option to open individual sections to feed the animals and to close them off to allow the fauna to regenerate, we will still need to install gates.
Currently, the gauchos are working on the yard for the goats, pigs, sheep and the water buffalo. Laura and the sheep are inseparable and together, they will get a shaded spot with trees and a place to bathe. The pigs also need an area with moist soil so they can dig as they please. Next to the barn, where the animals’ feed and the work vehicles are stored, a shelter is to be built for the older horses to receive their daily meals.
Infrastructure for the Team
We still need to improve the overall infrastructure. Some of the roofs are leaking; they need to be replaced as soon as possible, because from October to March rainy days are numerous in this region. In addition, parts of the solar system need to be completed or replaced to ensure a steady supply of electricity. To have sufficient drinking water, a bore needs to be drilled and a large water tank put in the ground. To have adequate space for all employees, volunteers and guests in the future, additional small houses need to be built.
To personally meet our team and animals in Argentina was a unique experience for me. It warms my heart to see how strong and graceful these once horribly abused animals have become thanks to our team’s hard work.