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/
The Kids Saving the Rainforest staff