In Colombia, Villa Lorena Offers Safe Haven for Wildlife
One woman’s determination to help animals leads to a peaceful, unique sanctuary in Cali, Colombia.
Imagine a place where the native wildlife can roam free through lush jungles — creatures so diverse and unique that most humans can only view them in a menagerie. Now imagine that these creatures have been taken from their native habitat and are falling victim to acts of cruelty in captivity.
In Cali, Colombia, for animals as varied as monkeys, lions and tigers, ocelots, elephants and iguanas, mistreatment is an unfortunate reality. And for one woman, Ana Julia Torres, this reality became a call to action.
In Colombia, few regulations exist to safeguard the jungle’s wildlife, resulting in little protection for these animals. Weak regulations allow such individuals as drug traffickers and wildlife smugglers to get away with countless acts of abuse.
The environmental police in Colombia can help the animals that fall prey, but only if the animals are rescued while being transported from one location to another, or are simply abandoned.
To help the situation, Ana Julia Torres, a school principal, created Villa Lorena, a sanctuary where these creatures of the wild can finally live a life of peace. And moreover, she founded Villa Lorena entirely on her own.
At Villa Lorena, a veritable menagerie of monkeys, ocelots, lions, iguanas, toucans, elephants and other species find a safe haven. At their new home, animals get a second lease on life no matter what their history — whether they have missing limbs, burn marks, or severe internal injuries from being fed narcotics or other deadly drugs by their previous owners.
Torres uses her own family’s money for the daily operations of Villa Lorena, which does not receive government assistance. Villa Lorena does not allow the public to visit, in order to allow the abused animals the freedom they need to recover — while not being put on display or used as an exhibit.
Torres also depends on private donations of money, food, veterinary services, medical supplies and medicine to help Villa Lorena and its inhabitants thrive.
At any time, up to 800 animals live at Villa Lorena. Remarkably, Torres has been able to help almost all of them survive since she first opened the sanctuary in 1984. Torres’ passion for each of the animals she treats, as well as her desire to see these victims be treated with compassion, have earned her an esteemed reputation in animal rights circles.
Still, some of Torres’ peers question whether euthanasia might be a more humane option for some of the animals she treats. But despite their concerns, Torres has maintained their support — a support that, along with her passion for helping the animals still out there, keeps sanctuaries like Villa Lorena going.
If you would like to help Torres and the animals at Villa Lorena, by sending supplies or a private donation, please visit Villa Lorena’s Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=107164861013, for more information.
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