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.