"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.