-The animals in Wild Spirits are all based on real animals that your friend Tracy Wilson has provided a home for. Which one is your favorite in real life?
Rosa: I am crazy about wildcats, and would have to say that Santiago is my favorite. But he is an ornery little cuss, and does like to bite. Radar is much sweeter, and he might be Tracy’s favorite.
- I loved that Wendy’s work rehabbing the animals was not glamorized at all (i.e.: smelling like pee all the time), but I also love that it was also presented as something anyone can do if they set their mind to it. Is this something you had experience in before meeting Tracy Wilson?
Rosa: Yes, I set out to rescue wildcats (margays and ocelots) before I met Tracy. My daughter and I helped a village in Ecuador turn the land they owned into a reserve, so we would have a safe place to release wildcats. You can see pictures of one we rescued on this website: http://walkonthewildside.org/PlayadeOro.html
-You write a lot about animals and animal welfare, it obviously means a great deal to you. Do you have a defining moment or memory of how you got into it or was it a family trait?
Rosa: The defining moment was when a little margay, owned by my daughter and me, was killed. The reason we had the margay kitten in the first place was because a hunter had shot its mother—this was in Mexico—and was going to skin the kitten, too, as soon as it got big. So we saved it, only to have it escape from the house and get run over by a car. That’s when I realized how few safe places there are in the world for wild things. My daughter and I decided that we would either support some habitat protection project, or we would start our own. I mean, you can keep wild animals somewhat safe in a cage, but that’s not much of a life. It’s far better if they can live free in their natural habitat.
-How did you start writing?
Rosa: I wrote my first book when I was five years old. It was a folded piece of paper with “My Book” printed on the front. That’s all there was to it. Later I figured out that a book has to have a story inside. However, people are much more willing to pay you for some kind of service they want, like selling stuff or programming computers. It’s pretty hard to get a job as a writer, especially as a story-telling kind of writer. So I did other things for a long time. I was about 30 before I decided I had to write stories whether I got paid for them or not. It was a VERY long time after that before I actually sold a book.
-Can you tell me about an average writing work day for you?
Rosa: When I am being a “good girl” I spend all morning working on one of my books. When I am not so good, I fool around writing e-mails to my friends. In the afternoons I do active things, like ski or bike or run errands. In the evening, I read. After that, before I fall asleep, I lie in the dark and think about the story I’m working on. Sometimes my characters “talk” to me, and the next morning, I write down what they said and did.
-What are some of the books that made it onto your summer reading list this year?
Rosa: THE WILDLIFE WARS, by Richard Leakey. JAGUAR, by Alan Rabinowitz.
-Who are some of your favorite authors?
Rosa: Beryl Markham, who lived in Africa and wrote WEST WITH THE NIGHT.
Elizabeth Marshall, who wrote THE SECRET LIFE OF DOGS and TRIBE OF TIGER.
-Reading about the Playa de Oro Reserva de Tigrillos I am amazed by both the scope of you and your daughters foundation (currently 25,000 acres of protected Rainforest!) as well as how difficult it must have been to set up. Can you tell us what inspired it, as well as some of what is involved in such an undertaking?
Rosa: It doesn’t belong to us or Earthways Foundation. It belongs to a very poor village of about 350 people. All they really own is this forest, and the small thatched roof huts they live in. (No cars, no bicycles, no telephones, no computers.) We had no money to buy land. It took my daughter and me ten years to find a place where there was some virgin rainforest that could become a protected place for wild animals. Of course loggers wanted the trees in that forest, and offered the village money for the timber. So it was a big decision for the village, to cut their trees and get the money or to say no-thank-you, we want to keep our forest. We told them that if they would not allow anyone to cut the forest and or hunt wildcats or other endangered animals on the land they owned, but make it all into a wildlife sanctuary where animals would be protected, then we would help bring tourists to stay in their village. They agreed to that, because it allowed them to keep their forest and still earn a little money.
-For some of our older readers can you give me some of the details involved in either volunteering or supporting Playa de Oro Reserva de Tigrillos and Touch the Jungle?
Rosa: We are not using volunteers right now, but there are at least 30 other wildlife rescue places in Ecuador alone that do. You can find out about them on the internet. The best way to support the Playa de Oro Reserva de Tigrillos is to go there. You’d fly to Quito, Ecuador, and from there go by car and boat into the rainforest, and stay at the Playa de Oro lodge, which is in the jungle a little distance from the village. Besides that, (which most of us can’t do right this second), we are starting a new wildlife rescue project up in the Andes mountains about two hours from Playa de Oro. Just this month (September 2010) we got our license, so now we can take in orphaned and injured animals, and when they are old enough, or well enough, they can be released back into the rainforest, probably in the Playa de Oro reserve. The best place to see pictures of some of the wildcats we have rescued already, and pictures of the village of Playa de Oro and the rainforest reserve, is: http://walkonthewildside.org/PlayadeOro.html There are also a lot of pictures on: www.touchthejungle.org
If anyone wants to send a donation to help us rescue animals and get them back to the wild where they belong, they can do that by sending a check to: Earthways Foundation, Touch the Jungle, 20178 Rockport Way, Malibu, CA 90265. The money is used for three things. First, we usually have to go get the animal, which might be a long way away, and you can’t very well bring a wild animal on the bus so you have to hire somebody to take you there to get it, and later to take you to the rainforest where you want to let it go. Second, sometimes the animal we rescue is sick or has been injured, and we have to get a veterinarian and medicine. And third, while we’re looking after it, we have to buy food for it. Monkeys don’t cost much to feed because they eat mostly fruit and eggs. But wildcats must have MEAT, and that is expensive.
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