Summer Journeys: Faith Graziano ’24, A Passion for Primates

Faith Graziano ’24 has always been fascinated by primates—always. Throughout her life, she spent hours watching documentaries on their behaviors, lifestyles, and habitats, and came to an important conclusion: conservation work would be central to her commitment to service. Last summer, Faith turned her passion into action by joining Proyecto Carayá, a primate rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation program tucked into the Sierra de Córdoba mountain range outside La Cumbre, Argentina.

Founded more than 25 years ago, Proyecto Carayá is the first and only primate center in Argentina; their work has been recognized by the Great Ape Project (GAP) and Dr. Jane Goodall. Their primate work focuses on howler monkeys, which are hunted and sold illegally; they are the most illegally marketed animal in all of Argentina. Proyecto Carayá works to recover, rescue, and rehabilitate the trafficked mammals in their own sanctuary. There are currently 170 monkeys under their care. They also rescue pumas, dogs, and capuchin monkeys.

For two weeks, Faith worked alongside the sanctuary’s biologists and conservation staff learning how to rehabilitate and socialize primates.

“As an NGO, Proyecto Carayá receives zero government funding,” Faith explains. “Volunteers are essential to keeping the project running smoothly and assuring that the animals are living in a safe environment.”

Faith’s workday typically spanned nine hours and changed each day to meet the most pressing needs of the facility and to broaden the range of her knowledge and experience.

“Some of the work was simple and straightforward, like preparing meals for the monkeys and feeding them,” says Faith. “Other tasks were more demanding, like pick-axing the brush away from cages to help prevent the animals from being harmed in the event of a fire.”

Faith would also sometimes need to throw water into the puma cages, and bathe the baby monkeys (the cutest animals on the planet, she notes.)

“We did many, many little jobs throughout each day, all of them designed to benefit the project.”

Living 10 miles from the nearest town inside the Tiu Mayu nature reserve was not without its challenges: Faith had no cellphone, internet, and limited access to running water and modern facilities during her stay; it could take up to two hours to build a fire and heat water for a shower.

“This way of living was a difficult adjustment, but nonetheless an eye-opening experience,” says Faith. “But I came to the significant realization that living conditions are not that important when it comes to doing something you love. The woman who founded and runs the project, Alejandra Juarez, has a true passion for conserving the environment and helping endangered species. She is living in less-than-ideal conditions and rarely leaves the project other than for necessity. I hope that one day I will be able to find fulfillment in my work the same way that Alejandra has.”

Faith’s travel was supported in part by a Robert Keyes Poole ’50 Fellowship.

Established in memory of Robert Keyes Poole '50, Taft teacher from 1956 to 1962, Poole Fellowships are awarded each year to enable Taft students to engage in travel or in projects consistent with Mr. Poole's lifetime interest in wildlife and the environment.