Welcome back to Kinkajou Travels! I am officially done with my internship now, and the past few weeks have gone by in a blur. As I write this, I'm sitting on a bus to San Jose for the next leg of my journey (more about that later). It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone at KSTR, and my only consolation is that I know that I'll be back soon in December. I'm not sure how I'm going to say a final goodbye to my jungle home, but I guess I don't have to worry about that quite yet.
This past month, I've lead quite a few tours. We take guests through the sanctuary and tell them about the rescue and rehab work that goes on. Before my first tour, I was naturally a bit nervous, and I questioned whether I would tell them the right things and pace the tour right. However, after my first couple of tours I settled into a rhythm, and I started to really enjoy telling people about the animals and the rainforest. I loved talking about the wildlife, and I found that most of the time, the tour guests had good questions and were genuinely curious about the animals and the conservation projects. For some guests, it was their first time to ever see a sloth or to learn what a kinkajou is, and I was so happy that I was able to share that experience with them and see the joy that crosses their face. At the end of the tours, I often chatted with the guests before returning to work, and a lot of them were very interested to know what I am doing in Costa Rica, how I've liked it so far and what I want to do for a career. On my second to last tour, I was having a nice chat with the guests when one of our kitchen staff came up to me and informed me in Spanish that a man had arrived and was waiting in the parking lot with an animal, an oso hormiguero. I was very confused when I heard this, because I understood the word "oso", which means bear, but not "hormiguero". I excused myself from the guests, then jogged out to the parking lot, all the while trying to figure out where someone had found a bear in Costa Rica! A friendly Tico was waiting in the parking lot with a medium-sized box that was softly squawking, and when I took it from him and looked inside, I saw that it was a baby tamandua, a type of anteater who's name translates to "ant bear" in Spanish!
Although our clinic is not equipped to handle a bear, it is perfectly capable of handling a tamandua! After I brought the squawking box into the clinic, the little anteater was checked over and moved to the nursery. There, she's been given the name Tinker, and she'll grow up for several months before being moved to the pre-release area.
Additionally, I've concluded my internship project and presented the results of my work to the staff at KSTR. As I mentioned previously, I was trying to determine how long it takes for the kinkajous to habituate, or become bored of, enrichments that are put in their cage. From my data, I was able to conclude that interest in enrichments sharply drops off after just one day, which is unsurprising given the intelligence and dexterity of these animals. I recommended an enrichment schedule to the staff in the sanctuary, and now I will be working on writing up a protocol on the enrichments that I used, to provide ideas for future enrichments. I was glad that despite all of the technical difficulties and frustration involved, I was able to get results from my research that are going to help improve the care we are giving the animals.
I want to give a final update on the capuchin training because there is great news! After months of working with Hector, he came into the shift cage during training last week on multiple occasions! This is fantastic because it not only means that the clinic can conduct their physical exams soon, but it also shows that he is learning to trust the people that are taking care of him. With this foundation, we can continue to build on the training we are doing to allow us to more easily treat any medical conditions and provide a stimulating challenge for the capuchins. Moncho's training continues to progress as well; before I left, I went for a walk through the sanctuary and called out to him as I passed the capuchin cage. From the other side of the cage, he turned his head, then leaped and climbed over to where I was standing. This indicates to me that he recognizes his name and associates it with positive rewards, and it was also good to see him one last time before heading out.
Looking forward, I am heading to San Jose because I am going to be spending a week at La Selva biological research station! I am looking forward to seeing all of the different projects going on, and it will be exciting to see the carribean lowland rainforest, an entirely different ecozone than the costal pacific rainforest I've been living in. I'm going to cherish the time I have left in Costa Rica, and I'll be sure to share my adventures here on Kinkajou Travels.
As you walk through the rainforest, carefully stepping over roots and dodging hanging liana vines, you hear a rustle off to the side of the path. Something is jumping through the trees, something small and nimble. As the rustling continues, you hear a warbling twitter that sounds like it belongs to a bird. It is answered by other twitters in the trees surrounding you, and as you peer closer to find the animal that is responsible, a pair of close-set, dark eyes stare back at you from a white face. They disappear in a flash of gold, and suddenly you spot a small monkey perched on a branch curiously peering down at you. These monkeys are grey-crowned squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii citrinellus), known locally as the monotiti or just titi. They are an endangered subspecies of the widespread central american squirrel monkey, and are only found in the region around Manuel Antonio National Park. Squirrel monkeys are the smallest of the four primate species native to Costa Rica, and can be found in large troops in primary forest, secondary forest or palm plantations
At Kids Saving the Rainforest, the intelligence and dexterity of these monkeys is on full display, as there is a wild troop living around the sanctuary that has become habituated to humans. They have learned that people carry around big buckets of food for the animals twice a day, and won't hesitate to quickly swipe a piece of fruit when the keepers are distracted. In fact, they even attempt to get into the cages to steal the fruit! I have witnessed a panicked monkey frantically running around the parrot cage after the hole he used to sneak in turned out to be a one-way door! In fact, the combination locks used on all of the cages in the sanctuary are there partly to keep nimble monkey hands from opening the doors up in quest of a snack
There is currently one squirrel monkey, Chicky, in the rehabilitation process. I've mentioned him in previous blog posts, as he has been in the care of KSTR for a while after being admitted for injuries from electrocution. Although he was at first unable to properly sit up and feed himself, he has recovered well so far, and we are currently working with him, doing physical therapy treatments to help him regain all of his mobility. His right arm is stiff and he avoids using it when climbing or feeding, but he needs to regain back it's full use if he is to be released. The jungle is not a kind place for a little monkey, as there are many predators of this species including ocelots, snakes, birds, and other monkeys. His recovery is continuing slowly, and if he gets to the point where he is releasable it will be long after I've returned to Texas.
Chicky shortly after he was received at KSTR laying in a blue bowl that was used to weigh him.
As Chicky has gotten stronger and faster, catching him to deliver medicine or conduct physical therapy gets more difficult.
Occasionally, Chicky needs to be brought into the clinic from his outdoor cage in rehab to receive mediation and check-ups. I'm usually the one to go out with gloves and a basket to catch him, and he always protests with loud alarm calls when he is caught. When bringing him back from rehab to the clinic, I pass by the squirrel monkey cage in the sanctuary. Once as I was passing under this cage, Chicky in hand, I looked up to see not only the captive squirrel monkeys, but also the habituated wild troop staring at me, hostile black eyes following my every movement. Chicky's alarm calls had alerted them to the presence of a threat in their environment, and once it became clear that I was the threat, they immediately put on aggressive and intimidating body language to make sure that I knew I was not welcome!
Skittles and Dewo are intrigued by the target held by a staff member. This small orange ball on a stick is usually used to train the capuchins, but the titis are also fascinated by this strange object.
Skittles, the alpha monkey of our captive troop, stares at the visitors to the cage.
"Epithet after epithet was found too weak to convey to those who have not visited the inter tropical regions, the sensation of delight which the mind experiences… The land is one great wild, untidy luxuriant hothouse, made by nature for herself." -Charles Darwin, Voyages of the Beagle
Welcome back to kinkajou travels! I haven't posted for a while, and I'm sorry to leave all of you guys in the dark for so long! I have had some personal deadlines that needed attention, and there was several busy weeks that were very tiring, both physically and emotionally. My first month here, intakes were fairly sparse, and the work was more centered on healing, rehab, and release. While I learned a lot from this time, I also forgot that I am working at a rescue center, where the worst cases of injured animals come through. I was abruptly reminded of this fact lately when there was a quick succession of severely injured or sick animals coming through the clinic that we were unable to save. Although difficult, these events brought conservation to a personal level. It is one thing to hear about the effects of power lines and roads on wildlife, but it is another thing entirely to see the devastation before your eyes. Although these kinds of things are very tough to witness, I'll never forget the things I've learned and seen, and I was inspired by the teamwork and support of everyone here at Kids Saving the Rainforest.
Another update concerns the capuchin training! In a previous post, I mentioned that we were training them to come into the shift cage so that we could dart them and conduct their biannual check-ups. That training had been going fairly well, but we kept hitting a wall with Hector, the very nervous monkey. Any time we tried to get him to come and do the training inside the shift cage, he would leave and not participate in the training anymore. Luckily, as we were encountering these problems, we had veterinary students from Spain come and stay with us for a week. One of them, Valentina, was conducting a project on medical training for monkeys, and was willing to work with us to revamp our program! We talked with her, and based on her experience and our ideas of where to take the training, we redesigned the entire training plan. To begin, we paired each monkey with someone from the clinic staff so that there would be less problems with monkeys stealing each other's food. I was paired with Moncho, a juvenile male capuchin. Young monkeys act a lot like human children: Moncho is distracted by almost everything, from passing butterflies, to interesting-looking sticks, to a rock another monkey found on the floor. However, he also picks up new tricks very quickly, and I have to constantly think of ways to keep his training engaging. Working with Moncho presents a unique set of challenges, but I enjoy it a lot
After redesigning the training, we started from scratch, beginning with training the monkeys to come when they hear their name and ensuring that they are completely comfortable with the tricks they've already learned before we push them out of their comfort zone. With the redesigned plan, we started to see progress again, and training sessions felt a lot more focused. With their physical exams coming up, it was very gratifying to see the training once again moving forward. However, we knew that once all monkeys were comfortable with going into the shift cage and closing the door, we would lose all of the progress we'd made in training if we darted them to sedate them as was the plan. Capuchins are one of the most intelligent species of monkey, and scary experiences can stay with them for a long time. Therefore, we reevaluated and are talking about switching to an oral sedative. Since the monkeys are already accustomed to taking treats individually, we could give them their sedatives inside the shift cage, where they can go to sleep peacefully without the risk of falling from the tall structure inside the main cage. Additionally, this less-traumatic plan will allow the staff to build trust with the monkeys, and they could continue with training that would allow clinic staff to treat cuts and scrapes and deliver medicine easily. There's a lot of exciting new directions with this training, and I personally find it fascinating to get a chance to see how these monkey's minds work!
Another interesting bit from recent events: a group from KSTR went on a night walk in the back property! I had never been deep in the jungle at night, and it was fascinating to see how the fauna changes once the sun sets. Walking through the dense forest, I could hear the chorus of frogs from nearby puddles as they seek a mate with which to produce their ephemerally aquatic offspring. I watched the slow, deliberate steps of the katydids, insects that are reputed by locals to bring bad luck to any person who kills it. Along the sides of the path, pale, ghostly fungi sprout through the forest floor whose ephemeral beauty will be gone by the morning. One can only wonder what other creatures peer silently down as we noisily pass below, a thought that is both fascinating and eerie
So many other things have been going on! I wish I could go on and on about it all, but to avoid writing a whole novel here I'll add some photos below to summarize the past couple of weeks.
Greetings from the rainforest! I've decided to feature an animal once a week that I'm working with and write up what I've learned about their biology, behavior, and the little quirks that every animal has. Hopefully it will be an effective way to communicate information about species that not everyone encounters on a daily basis.
This week, I've decided to feature the two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), also called the "peresozo de dos dedos" in Spanish (this literally translates to lazy with two fingers). Two-toed sloths are one of the two species of sloths found in Costa Rica; the other species is the three-toed sloth. These names are misleading, because the difference between the two species technically lies in their number of fingers, not toes. All sloths have three toes, but the two toed sloth has two fingers. I'm not sure who decided on such a misleading common name, but they may have been translating from Spanish, where dedo refers to both fingers and toes collectively. The three-toed sloth is diurnal, meaning that they are active during the day, but the two-toed sloth is active at night, or nocturnal. Both species feed mostly on leaves, but will also eat fruit.
Currently at Kids Saving the Rainforest, there are ten sloths: nine two-toed and one three-toed sloth. Five are in the nursery, where the baby animals are cared for. Three are permanent residents of the sanctuary. Two sloths, one of which is the three toed sloth, are in bootcamp, being prepared to go back into the wild and monitored until their release. There used to be four sloths in bootcamp and rehabilitation, but two two-toed sloths named Patty and Speedy were recently released. On Tuesday, when the interns and vet staff were changing out the sloth food in bootcamp, we saw that Patty was sleeping in a location that was easy to reach. Before any animal is released, the vet staff performs a physical exam to double check that they are in the best condition possible before release, and this was the perfect opportunity to catch her for her physical. Clemence, one of the vet techs, brought up a basket and falconry gloves and warned us that Patty was more of a fighter than her slow movements and easygoing appearance indicated. Sure enough, the moment they grabbed the back of her neck so that she couldn't bite us, she started hissing and swiping at everybody. To get her into the cage, we had to hold her head and grab all four of her limbs while pinning her claws to her paw. Sloths' claws aren't like a dog or a cat's claw; they're growths of the finger bone itself, so they are sharp and very strong. However, we were able to safely and gently contain the angry, hissing sloth to conduct her physical. We were very happy when she passed her physical with flying colors, and we were prepared to release her along with another sloth named Speedy that same day. However, a storm blew in that delayed their release until Friday.
On release day, most of the staff and all the interns hiked out to the back of Kids Saving The Rainforest's property with the sloths in baskets. We found a tree for each sloth that they would easily be able to climb that didn't have bullet ants or other dangers dwelling on it. Ellen, the new vet tech, was releasing Speedy, which would be the first animal she had personally released. She opened the top of the basket and raised it up to a branch. Slowly, a paw with two long claws reached out, grabbed the branch, and Speedy pulled himself up into freedom. Patty was released in a nearby tree by Dani, the head of our nursery who had raised Patty from the moment she was brought into the nursery as an orphan. It was a special moment for everyone, and I was very lucky to be there to watch it. This won't be the last time I see Speedy and Patty though, because both sloths were released with a tracking collar and will be followed for several weeks with telemetry equipment that was bought with a generous donation to KSTR. When following the sloths, we will observe the them and collect post-release behavioral data to double check that the methods we use to rehabilitate these animals are effective and that the animals are surviving and thriving upon release.
After watching and working with sloths for about a week, I finally understand better why they are the way they are. Their most famous trait is their slowness and supposed laziness. Indeed, after observing sloths both in bootcamp and after release, I can confirm that they spend much of their time sleeping. When they do move, they move at an excruciatingly slow pace that is peaceful to watch but could possibly drive some people crazy. Biologically, what they've done is slow down their metabolism so that they have reduced calorie needs, rarely need to defecate, and spend most of their life moving slowly and sleeping. You wouldn't think this is the best strategy in the unforgiving rainforest, but the jungle is so thick and tangled that they easily go unnoticed. Walking through bootcamp, there's been several times that I've walked right under a sloth curled up in a tree without even noticing it until someone pointed it out to me. If there was a sloth slowly climbing high up in a tree, any predator that was not actively looking for a sloth in that area would most likely miss it, which explains why they have survived for so long. I'm very glad that I've gotten the opportunity to learn about them, and I realize how important it is to look at animals in the context of their environment. For right now, I'll be continuing to track Speedy and Patty until we can confirm that they will be fine in the wild. I hope that you enjoyed learning about sloths as much as I have; thanks for reading!
Hello again from Kids Saving The Rainforest!
As promised in the last issue, I would like to introduce you to two very special baby sloths. Dudley and Smokey are growing up together in our nursery. While their stories of how they got here are sad, they are both healthy and have each other to grow up with.
Dudley came to us on July 23rd, 2019 after KSTR received a rescue call at a local hotel. Dudley had fallen from her mother and she was unable to be reunited by hotel staff. Dudley was very weak and her coloring was off when KSTR wildlife personnel arrived. We had to make the tough choice of removing her and taking her to our clinic. We photographed her mother and noted her location.
Our veterinarian and clinic staff did a full exam on Dudley and treated her. She was found with a tick embedded in her fur and her weakness continued. She regained her strength after a couple of days and we made Herculean attempts to reunite her with her mother. Unfortunately, our attempts were unsuccessful and she was brought back to KSTR to be raised until she is ready for release back in the wild.
A few days after Dudley’s arrival, a past KSTR board member brought us Smokey.
He was in the area of Hotel California with his mother when they were both electrocuted on a transformer. Sadly, his mother did not survive and he was left orphaned. Smokey suffered electrical burns under his chin and body. He was treated by our veterinarian and clinic staff and then brought to the nursery.
Dudley and Smokey were introduced
to each other after they received observation and clean health inspections. They hit it off and have become the best of friends. Dudley is a talented climber but prefers to use Smokey’s back, much to his dismay. Smokey is younger than Dudley but bigger than Dudley is so she prefers to hitchhike. I wish I could embed a video into this magazine because we have thee most amazing videos from the first time they met. We will have to settle for the pictures instead.
Tuesday, December 3rd is Giving Tuesday this year. It was started as a day for anyone, anywhere to give and it’s grown into the biggest giving movement in the world. Giving Tuesday harnesses the generosity of millions of people around the world to support the causes they believe in and the communities in which they live. We believe the movement will become the first global day of giving and a year-round platform for strengthening civil society.
Please consider giving to our cause. All Giving Tuesday Donations will go directly to an X-ray machine that is desperately needed at Kids Saving The Rainforest. Most of the animals that KSTR receives come with very serious injuries, trauma, and diseases and require X-rays. Unfortunately, KSTR does not have one on-site and has to travel for one hour to a location that has one. Sloths, monkeys, birds...the stress and trauma of traveling can kill them if their injuries don’t.
They all need YOUR help!
Donations can be made on Giving Tuesday or any time of the year at kstr.org or at www.kidssavingtherainforest.org/givingtuesday.html
Kids Saving the Rainforest is a non-profit animal rescue/sanctuary and reforestation project located in Quepos. Tours are available six days a week by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and volunteer opportunities are available at email@example.com. Please check out our Facebook and Instagram pages as well. Pura Vida from the staff and interns at Kids Saving the Rainforest.
When I arrived, both of the kinkajous were in rehabilitation and almost ready to be released. To ensure that they were ready to go out, I redesigned their enrichments to mimic the ways they would need to find food in the wild, including giving them unpeeled fruit, fruit sealed in a cardboard roll, and pulped fruit in a container that they had to use their tongues to lick out.
A fellow intern and I conducted behavioral observation to ensure that they were climbing well and showing natural activity schedules. Once we were certain they would survive in the wild, we took them out to an isolated patch of forest to release them. We decided to give them a soft release, and provided a nest box and food for them to get adjusted to their new home. When we opened up the doors of their kennel, they quickly climbed out and began to explore the trees and new scents around them. Pink has reappeared around a nearby house, but we hope this is an isolated incident and he will soon dwell solely in the forest where he belongs! Selah is doing great, and I'll be sure to include any updates about them in the future!
In addition to working with the kinkajous in rehab, I've gotten to know the sanctuary kinkajous pretty well. My research project involves putting up camera traps to monitor the two cages in the sanctuary, and when I began my project, I was blissfully unaware of how curious kinkajous are. I walked into Julian and Hillary's enclosure during the day when they were sleeping, and I started setting up the camera trap. A couple minutes later, I saw movement out of the corner of my eyes and suddenly Julian, the kinkajou that was supposed to be fast asleep, was right next to me!
He climbed up to the camera trap that I had so carefully placed inside the cage and began to paw and bite at it, and after he had thoroughly messed up all my hard work, he decided that I was the more interesting object in his enclosure. Moving more quickly than I could imagine, he climbed down a tree branch, crossed the ground to my leg, and promptly climbed up to my shoulder like I was some bizarre tree! Now, the rules of the sanctuary clearly state that interns are not allowed to touch, pet, or cuddle the animals, but I was never told what to do when the animal is on top of you! Unsure of what to do, I just waited, barely suppressing laughter, while he sniffed my hair, pawed at the radio on my belt, and chewed on my shirt. After a short while, he climbed back down to the ground, but since that incident I've learned my lesson and have started putting up the camera traps on the outside of their enclosures! From this close interaction, I also learned that despite the stinky rotting fruit rinds and poop they leave around their enclosure, kinkajous themselves actually smell quite nice! Their fur has a pleasant, nutty smell to it, which I would never have guessed before working with them.
Kays R. Gittleman JL. 2001. The social organization of the kinkajou Potos flavus (Procyonidae). Journal of Zoology. 253(4): 491-504.
Kays RW. 1999. Food Preferences of Kinkajous (Potos flavus): A Frugivorous Carnivore. Journal of Mammalogy. 80:589-599. https://doi.org/10.2307/1383303
Karma Saving the Rainforest
By Karma Imagine Casey
Hello fellow Quepolandia readers! It's Karma Casey, the Kids Saving the Rainforest spokeskid! If you haven’t heard of KSTR, it’s a wonderful wildlife rescue and sanctuary non-profit right here in Quepos! They also plant trees and put up wildlife bridges in the area. For the last two years, I have been writing an article each month for Quepolandia, telling you all about KSTR and how to help the planet! This month's article is a little bit different than the rest. This is my farewell article, so you won’t be reading my byline at the top of the page anymore!
Well, let's start from the beginning of my story. I was an eight year old girl who loved animals and wanted to help them, but I was too young to really help them where I lived. I was just reading and researching about the majestic sloth (one of my favorite animals) when I saw the story about Jeannine and Aislin, the two nine year old girls who originally started Kids Saving the Rainforest.
The girls lived in Manuel Antonio, and they could see that the rainforest was beginning to be destroyed. They began by painting rocks and selling other arts and crafts. With the money they raised, they would buy trees to plant. Kids Saving the Rainforest grew and grew, eventually getting permission from the Costa Rican government to open a wildlife sanctuary and veterinary clinic. It has been open for about twenty years now. Wow! That's a long time!
I was so inspired by this story, that I decided to reach out to the amazing Jennifer Rice, the president of Kids Saving the Rainforest. I told her how it was my dream to come and help all the animals there.
I decided to raise money for Kids Saving the Rainforest. So I painted rocks and piggy banks, made inspirational quotes, and sold my toys. I donated the money to them. You guys can can make crafts to sell, or just donate at kstr.org! Me and Jennifer talked for a while, until me and my Mama heard Kids Saving the Rainforest needed a new Volunteer Coordinator! We made a very bold decision and moved to Costa Rica to dedicate our lives to helping KSTR. I arrived when I was nine years old, just like Janine and Aislin when they started the organization!
We spent an amazing two years here, giving tours, helping animals, and inspiring others to respect wildlife. I helped pick leaves for sloths, made enrichments to place in the homes of the sanctuary animals to make their lives better, planted trees, and so much more! I wrote these articles, went to the national park to talk with people about not feeding wildlife, and got to know some truly amazing and wildly wonderful people!
It's amazing here, but sadly I am moving back to the United States. If you are reading this, I am already in the US. I have learned so very much during my two years here, and become so inspired! Kids Saving the Rainforest has inspired so many people over the years, not just me. I am so happy that you got to read my articles. I hope you learned a lot. I know I did!
I learned so many things at Kids Saving the Rainforest, from respecting wildlife, pooping sloths, animal diets, and how I can work hard and grow up to become a biologist or a veterinarian and help even more animals! I also learned things like writing these articles for you all, public speaking, and I have made so many friends, and learned so many life lessons.
Even though I am moving back to the United States, I will still be in touch with Kids Saving the Rainforest, and help the planet. If you would like to contact me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are a few things I learned in my time here that I think you should know.
Even though I'm not going to be writing the articles anymore, the new volunteer coordinator at KSTR will be taking over for now. He also does the radio shows in the Marina outside of Quepos! He is a very knowledgeable biologist! I bet he has a bunch of good stories for you. If you want to donate, volunteer, or look at some animal pictures go to kstr.org!
A big thanks to all the people who help to save the planet. Does that sound anything like you? If not, you can start now! It's not that hard. Don't litter, plant trees, respect the wildlife and much much more. Well I hope you enjoyed this article. I will miss you guys so much. I hope I inspired you at least a little bit.
Remember, if you find injured orphaned wildlife, send a WhatsApp message to the KSTR veterinary clinic team at 88-ANIMAL, and they’ll come to the rescue. Farewell!
Gradually, he has grown more alert to his surroundings and more mobile, however, due to his injuries, he doesn't use his right hand and spins in a circle when he tries to move. The brain damage that causes behaviors such as these takes a while to heal, but his improvement so far gives us hope that he will eventually make a full recovery. The clinic staff names all the animals who come in, and we decided to name him Chicky, the name of a certain type of Costa Rican cookie that has been all the rage at Kids Saving the Rainforest recently.
I also went to Manuel Antonio National Park this week with a group from Kids Saving the Rainforest. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll put the highlights below! Thanks for tuning in!
Greetings from the rainforest! This week, I'll be talking about porcupines; more specifically, the Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine! When I first came to Costa Rica, I was surprised that there were porcupines endemic, or native, to this area. I'd only known about the North American porcupine, which is only found as far south as northern Mexico. I'm sure you've seen photos of this species, with their long fur and quills. The Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine is found from Mexico to Panama, and looks quite different than its northern relative. About four and a half pounds as an adult, they're covered in short brown fur with patches of yellow quills throughout their body that are most concentrated around their face. As a mostly arboreal species, they have a long, prehensile, naked tail that aids them when climbing through trees. Many rainforest mammals have prehensile tails, including porcupines, opossums, kinkajous, and several species of monkey. This is an interesting example of convergent evolution, a word used in biology to describe when animals from different lineages evolve similar features. One example of this is the evolution of flight in both birds and bats: the ancestor of birds and bats couldn't fly, yet modern day species of both lineages have evolved flight to access food and avoid predators. In the rainforest, the thick canopy makes arboreal locomotion the easiest way to take advantage of the fruit, insects, and prey found in the tree tops, and it also allows animals to avoid large terrestrial predators. Moving through branches and trees is much easier if your tail can grasp branches and assist in climbing. Therefore, many rainforest animals in different families, including primates, rodents, carnivores, and marsupials, have evolved a similar tail.
There is currently one porcupine at Kids Saving the Rainforest named Patrick. He was found near a hotel, and after a search of the area failed to find his mother, he was brought to Kids Saving the Rainforest and raised in the nursery. He has since been moved into rehabilitation so that he can learn skills to survive in the wild and to undo his imprinting. Imprinting is a common problem with animals from the pet trade and those raised in nurseries, and it refers to unnatural dependency on and desire to be around humans. If you release an imprinted animal into the wild, they will seek out human companionship as soon as possible, which could lead to them getting recaptured for a pet, injured, or even killed. The methods used to raise and rehab animals try to avoid imprinting, but it is sometimes inevitable that they become too used to humans through their frequent interactions necessary to provide for them the best care possible. This happens often in species that are susceptible to imprinting such as porcupines, and Patrick has had a problem with attention-seeking behaviors. Imprinted animals go through an extensive rehabilitation process where their contact with people is restricted to allow their natural wild instincts, including a fear of humans, to return. Therefore, when Patrick was moved into rehabilitation, he was placed into a cage inside boot camp, so that he would have as little contact with humans as possible. When I arrived, Patrick would come out of his nest box as soon as he heard us approaching his cage. He would frantically climb on the tree limbs and sides of the cage, trying to climb onto you as you changed his food and water. Although every instinct told me to hold him and give him attention, I knew that it was in his best interest to dislike and fear humans. Additionally, a porcupine is not exactly the type of animal that you want crawling over you and cuddling up with you!
In order to undo his imprinting, we would give a harmless but unpleasant deterrent when he approached and reached out to climb onto us. These include squirting water in his face, blowing in his face, or making a sudden sound like finger snaps or shushing. As bad as I felt about doing this, Patrick ensured that I felt even worse by climbing to a corner of the cage and whining to himself after he was chased off. Sometimes, doing what's best for the animals is unpleasant for both you and the animal in the short term, but it will ultimately ensure that they can live a life without cages in the wild.
Patrick has improved a lot recently, but he is still showing behaviors that indicated he is imprinted. To help with this and to allow him to learn more survival skills before being fully released, the clinic staff decided to release him from his smaller cage into the main boot camp area so that he would have a larger terrain to explore. Since porcupines are nocturnal, we released him in the late afternoon, closer to the start of his "day". We woke him up by tapping gently on his nesting box, then opening the door of his cage so he could walk out into boot camp. Hesitant at first, he climbed on top of the open door and spent a while looking around. Eventually, he climbed down and trotted out of his cage. As we expected, he immediately made his way to the three of us standing close by, determined to get the cuddles he so desperately wants. We spent a couple of minutes walking away from him (baby porcupines are thankfully not very fast!) until he got distracted by the sights and smells of the forest around him and ambled off into the bushes. Since then, we've seen him several times when feeding the sloths, and have always had to quickly walk away to avoid prickly porcupine cuddles. He still has a way to go before he is able to be released, but we were all very happy that he completed the next step towards freedom.
Miller, M. 2009. "Sphiggurus mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 02, 2019 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sphiggurus_mexicanus/
Electrocuted howler monkey – September 7
Kids Saving The Rainforest received a call earlier this week of an electrocuted howler monkey in the Villa Lirio area. A KSTR ambulance responded but the howler had left prior to our arrival. We searched the area and were unable to locate it. The neighbor who called (Inigo) was concerned about the electrocutions and said they happen weekly in the area. Inigo said he wanted to sponsor a wildlife bridge and was put in contact with Jennifer at KSTR.
The power company ICE was contacted the same day.
The following day KSTR received another call from Inigo of a second electrocuted howler monkey at the same spot. Our ambulance arrived to find ICE employees on scene installing the wildlife bridge. The second adult howler was on the ground in front of Canyon Verde. As our ambulance driver neared the howler with a kennel and other equipment, the howler climbed up the fence near where it was laying on the ground. An ICE employee lowered a tree branch and the howler quickly jumped into the tree. It appeared to be strong again as it jumped from tree to tree.
Both of these monkeys were electrocuted by the 110v lines which delivered a lesser shock than the higher powered lines. It is believed they were both stunned from the falls and were possibly in shock from a combination of the shocks and falls.
Inigo continues to be very involved with KSTR and we are looking at installing more wildlife bridges in the area. This area has some power lines that are not insulated and continue to be a danger to the wildlife. Thank you Inigo for bringing this big problem to our attention and ICE for their quick response. KSTR will continue to be vigilant in the Villa Lirio area.
Daisy The Duck – September 7
Little Daisy, the black-bellied whistling duck, came in at just 23 grams, after being found alone away from her family.
She was growing up really fast and doing well, but she needed to be with other ducks, so she could have the best chance for a proper rehabilitation and release...so now she has been moved where she can socialize with other ducks!
We will miss her and wish her the best of ‘duck’!
ITV NEWS article – September 12
ITV News: Costa Rican children saving the planet one tree at a time.
Click here to view the article and video on their website
Associated Press Visit – September 13
The Associated Press (AP) came to visit Kids Saving the Rainforest.
Click here for a summary and video on Youtube
DW GLOBAL video – September 13
DW Global: Children saving the rainforest in Costa Rica
Click here to view the video on Facebook
Luna – September 14
Luna is getting to be a proper raccoon these days! She is still pretty clumsy & needs assistance with feeding & toileting for a little longer, but she is making great progress!
Photo credits: Lis Penhearow
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Bloomberg NEWS video - September 15
Bloomberg TicToc: Kids Plant 10,000 Trees
Click here to view the video on their website
UN ENVIRONMENT Press release - SEPTEMBER 20
Costa Rica named ‘UN Champion of the Earth’ for pioneering role in fighting climate change
Click here to view the article on their website
Rainforest 5k Run
Come and run with us. For every person who participates we will plant a tree.
Vengan a correr por el bosque. Por cada corredor q participe sembraremos un árbol.
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