Rest in peace, Antonio

11 07 2010

I’m sad to report that Antonio didn’t make it through the night last night.  We loved him a lot and are all heartbroken over it.

He is a true lesson about the negative impact of the exotic pet trade.  He was taken from his mother at way too young an age by people who thought only about money and cared little about his welfare.  For every healthy and happy pet anteater that makes it to live with a family, dozens of babies like Antonio end up dead.


Needed! Managing volunteer(s) for the summer

21 06 2010

Paradise Gardens’ current volunteer managers need a break. Jen and Ryan haven’t seen their families in more than a year. Time for a trip home to Canada! But who will take care of the animals? YOU??

Jen and Ryan would like to visit family for the month of August. They would love love love if someone (or some two friends or a couple or even a whole family) would come and take over for them for the month. It would require that person/people to arrive in July and have a week or two of training and then take over. There would be several long-term, experienced volunteers here helping you out, but they work in Boquete and are only here mornings. Although we usually have at least two full-time volunteers it is possible that you will be solo for the weekends.

You will have the upstairs of the house to live in (2 bedrooms and a bathroom) and the downstairs will be yours unless there are other long-term volunteers in which case you would share the kitchen and living room with them.

Your responsibilities would include feeding baby animals (we have a baby monkey and a baby coati a the moment, but may receive more at any time). During the week the animal feedings will be taken care of by Benjamin, Saturdays and Sundays you will be responsible for feeding all of the animals. You will be responsible for caring for any sick or injured animals, greeting guests, and coordinating other volunteers. You will need to take care of any emergency maintenance of the park (broken cages, etc) but it is unlikely that there will be many maintenance duties for you. We also have a handyman volunteer you can call for any emergencies, and who comes regularly on Thursdays.

Please please please email or call if you are interested and think this might work with you!! or call 507 6657 5555.

Videos! Howler Monkeys, Baby Sloths and Birdies, Oh My!

19 06 2010

Here are some old videos I just discovered from Paradise Gardens.

So this one is Maisie, a rescued howler Monkey we had, greeting Temba, a baby sloth that was brought here. Sorry about the music! But aren’t the adorable? The have both been released. Maisie is now living on her own at Alouatta Lodge, a lodge and a rescue for howler monkeys and tamarins. She is free to wander around but comes back periodically for food or during thunder storms. She has mated with one of the wild howlers (there are several troops that pass through the area regularly) and has a baby! I met her and her baby when I spent the day at Alouatta and also saw the other rescues and a troop of wild howlers. I also got to see the wild male who was courting her, he kept his distance but followed her from above.

Here is another video, Muffin, who still lives here at Paradise Gardens! The narrator here is definitely right, he loves human attention. He always wants to be on someones shoulder and has learned to imitate whistles and also sometimes imitates the sounds of the geckos we have around here. If he gets close to a dollar bill or a note pad he will do his best to shred it.

I hope you enjoy, I will be looking for and posting more videos!

The Coati Kid

3 06 2010

Argento, the baby coati here at Paradise Gardens, checks out a volunteer's ear... nope, no grubs in there!

Just over a month ago a baby coati (a coati kid, hehe, get it??) was brought in by some local children. He was tiny and adorable. We thought he was a she and named “her” Argenta, a few weeks later we discovered our mistake and changed the name to Argento. The two kids who brought him in explained to us his story: his mother was killed for meat and eaten for dinner by our family. Our parents wanted to keep him and raise him to eat. But he’s sooo cute. I don’t want to eat him!

definitely too cute to eat! No more baby coati steaks for me.

So, his cuteness saved him. He got bottle fed here at Paradise Gardens, and now gets fruit, veggies and eggs as well as the bottle. We also take him out the ravine where he gets to run around and use his long nose to root around in the dirt for bugs and worms. Yum! His favorites are beetles, but if they’re dead, or pretend to be, he won’t touch them. He is a climber, and in fact coatis are pretty much made for climbing. They have super flexible ankles and nice long, sharp, tough claws. The claws allow them to latch onto a tree (or in Argentos case, a human leg, his favorite climbing post) and the flexible ankles allow them to climb headfirst down a tree trunk. You know the cliché story about a cat stuck in a tree and the owner calls a fireman to come get the kitty down? Well cats can’t climb down trees well because their ankles aren’t flexible enough. Our kittens here love to climb up trees (they think they can get to the birds that way, they haven’t realized that the birds are not attached to the trees and can just fly away) but then when it comes time to come down they hesitate and meow, and usually try to take one step downward and then crash/jump the rest of the way. Good thing cats always land on their feet. Actually there are two types of cat with tree-descending ankle flexibility – the margay and the Clouded Leapord. Here at PG we have a margay named Lottie, more on her later!

Anyway, back to coatis. They are super adorable. That is my opinion but not only my opinion, pretty much everyone agrees with me. Argento (and all coatis) has a long pointy snout (a nickname for coatis is hog-nosed racoon) and its flexible and moves up and down when he sniffs. Adorable! As you probably guessed from the nickname, coatis are related to the racoon. You can tell when you look at Argento from his circles under the eyes, his coloring and his striped tail, although the stripes are much more subtle than those on a racoon (although some people really can’t see the similarity and ask if he is related to an anteater… nope!).

Argento learning to climb trees in the aviary

We have a whole troupe of coatis back behind the house, they live in the ravine and sometimes come up to grab snacks from the gardens. They (and Argento) love bananas. In fact it seems that all the animals here prefer bananas. Bananas for bananas. No idea why. Someday Argento will be released behind the property so that he can join the troupe that already lives back there. Coatis in the wild nurse for about four months (Argento is only about 2 months old) and then stay with their mothers for up to two years. Males then separate from the troupe and wander solo, only joining back up with the troupe for mating. Males will also eat the baby coatis, usually the mothers defend their babies from the adult males. Since Argento has no mother to defend him from the baby-eating male coatis we will keep him here until he is no longer a baby (up to two years, when he would naturally separate from his troupe, but really we will have to wait and see just how fast he grows and he will be released when he seems ready to not only forage on his own but also to defend himself against full grown male coatis).

They grow up so fast! (possums on their own now)

31 05 2010

So those baby possums that I know y’all thought were just so cute… they only arrived two weeks ago, as infants (or so we thought, but maybe we underestimated their age) and now… they’ve been released, off to the big world. Of course we just released then in the ravine behind the house so they are always welcome back here and they have an abundant supply of fruit and seeds right here (we leave out fruit and seeds for the birds and the other animals that are wondering around… coatis, agoutis, kinkajous and of course mice). Anyway, since Monday they have been eating plenty of solid food, refusing milk and running, crawling, hissing, biting, climbig. All the things baby possums ought to be doing. And of course they have been pooping on their own, an essential skill for anyone moving away from home!

On Wednesday night one of them escaped. We opened the cage to feed them and the girl with the stitch on her back scrambled out. We tried to catch her but she was so fast and just got away… she scrammed out of the cage, under the cage and then hustled up the back and over the coati cage. We ran around the other side of the coati cage but she was already gone. We searched with flashlights (she still seemed so little!) but she was long gone! So a bit of an accidental release but hopefully her skillful escape indicates her readiness to be out in the wild.

The other two were ready to go on Saturday night. We’d been calling them Gracie and Vin Diesel, Gracie after the famed Irish woman pirate and Vin Diesel because of the way the little boy hissed. Such attitude! Wish them well! Goodbye Gracie and Vinnie!

Moving Day!

26 05 2010

Yesterday several of our babies got new homes here at Paradise Gardens!

The possums, as our newest arrivals had been in the nursery (aka the laundry room) for their first week here. But they are beginning to be able to crawl, and they are not needing as much help anymore with pooping, so we decided it was time they had a bigger enclosure as soon as possible. That way they could have some play space when they are ready to play, they could learn to climb and even hunt bugs we put it. The nursery was altogether too small for them to grow much more in. There are always a few empty enclosures around Paradise Gardens, either babies that have gotten big enough to move into a larger enclosure, animals that have been released, or animals that have been switched (for example, soon we will be able to put Manolo in with the other two Capuchin monkeys, Monty and Billy and they will all go into a larger enclosure freeing up two small ones).

There was an empty enclosure perfect for the baby possums. It had been the home of Argento the Coati when he was smaller but he had since been moved into a larger enclosure on the porch where he could run and climb more. His old cage was pretty much perfect for the opossum babies for two reasons: one, it was big enough for them to play and grow for at least another month, maybe two, but not too big for them to get lost in now while they are still so tiny, and two, its in a corner where people don’t go as often and where its a little darker and quieter. They will be able to sleep all day long and wake up and play at night, like they would in the wild!

Possum orphans new home here at Paradise Gardens

We put a box and a blanket for them to sleep in their new enclosure, a few branches and boxes for them to climb and play on, and a plate of milk and banana. They haven’t been eating on their own yet but we thought they might be ready, so we only fed them once in the morning, once in the afternoon and then left our the milk and banana overnight. As nocturnal animals we hoped they would wake up and eat up in the night, while we were asleep. In the morning Jen checked their milk and banana plate… and it was all gone! And they didn’t seem interested in the milk we usually give them first thing in the morning, so it seems they are adjusting to eating almost completely on their own. Now we will need to catch bugs so they can learn to catch and eat those.

We had two other big moves yesterday. The kittens have been too big for their cage for a week or two now, they had room to crawl and climb and jump but not to all out run. We had somewhat remedied this by getting them out into the aviary from eight to ten every morning, before guests arrived, and letting them run, chase each other, perhaps maybe someday actually catch a mouse. And we had a new enclosure in mind for them, we just had to get it ready. There were some holes in the mesh wiring that had to be repaired, and then we used black mesh fabric, saved from a destroyed trampoline, to block the kittens (and jaguarundi cub, of course) from view. This way visitors touring Paradise Gardens wont be tempted to talk to the kittens of stick their fingers in and pet them. And the kittens wont have a view of people. It not important for the two house kittens but for the jaguarundi it is essential that he get as little exposure as possible to humans. If he is too accustomed to humans he is likely to approach them in the wild expecting them to provide food or shelter, and instead be killed or injured. Humans are the biggest threat that exists for large wild cats, both because we are their main predators and because of the habitat loss incurred by human settlement and consumption.

The kittens new enclosure... only visible from inside their old enclosure and perfect for climbing, running, playing and learning to hunt!

These tarps protect the Jaguarundi and the kittens from seeing people... unless those people are over 9 feet tall!

Inside of the kittens and jaguarundi's new enclosure: plenty of room for running and climbing!

Our third rehoused animal was Arjento, our baby white-nosed coati. He had been at first in the possums new enclosure, then in another enclosure near the house but larger and with more light. But he is getting to be a great climber and is so active, he needed more space. We moved him into a larger and very tall enclosure out by the garage. It is important that he has a tall cage as he is a tree climber in the wild and he does love to climb, so now his new cage is about nine feet high.

Inside of Arjento the coatis new enclosure.

New Arrivals! Three Baby Possums!

23 05 2010

Yesterday someone called from Boquete. “We have three baby possums for you, the mother was killed by a dog.” Three hours later a local couple arrived with a box of three tiny possums. Apparently when they are born possums are no bigger than a honey bee. These ones were much bigger than a bee, or any insect I’ve seen around here. I would say they were about the size of the tarantulas I saw between Boquete and Bocas del Toro. So about the size of my hand.

Orphaned Opossums

The three baby possums in their faux pouch

There were two girls (you can tell because they have pouches, at this stage their genitals all appear about the same) and one boy. Opossum liters range from one to 13 and we don’t know if these were the only three in the liter or if there were others. Since their mother had been mauled and carried off by a dog it is possible that there were other babies that were still in her pouch and carried off with her. Of the three we got they had only minor injuries from the dog attack. One had an eye popped out, probably from being squeezed too hard either in the jaws of the dog or underfoot (either stepped on by the dog or by the mother possum, it has been known that baby possums die from their mothers accidently treading on them). Another one needed a small stitch in her back left side, probably scratched by the dog, and the third, a boy was doing just fine. They were all very cold. We discovered that the normal body temperature for opossums was around the body temperature of human and that babies need help to maintain that temperature. Normally opossums grow until they can walk in their mothers pouches, like a kangaroo. This keeps them warm in the wild but in the case of orphan opossums raised by humans we have to resort to other methods. We wrapped them in a fleece blanket and put an electric heating pad under their box. An hour later they were warm and moving around a little, although mostly to try and borough deeper into the folds of the fleece. The veterinarian we had called came and stitched up the girl with the back wound (she only needed one stitch!). The girl with the popped out eye had to have her eye snipped off so that she could heal. Luckily she didn’t even seem to feel it.

Baby possums diet

Baby opossum gets her syringe of formula

Now they need very close attention and are fed every 2-3 hours. Once they can stand and walk on their own they will be able to start taking solid food, like mashed up egg and fruit. The boy is already trying to walk around, so he’ll be getting some mashed fruit soon! We hope once they are strong enough they can even start playing with Arjento, our baby coati.
Many people have said “Why are you rescuing an opossum? They are such pests!” They get into garbage, hiss loudly (even as babies) and are considered ugly. But the truth is opossums are pretty awesome animals. They have “semi-prehensile” tails (like monkeys and kinkajous they use their tails for climbing and holding things) and they are the largest marsupials in the western hemisphere. They are immune to the venom of pit vipers and they are eight times less likely than stray dogs to have rabies.They are omnivorous and solitary, and they are considered the “trashmen” of the natural world. They will eat almost anything… fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, bugs and dead animals. In North America they are known for eating roadkill. They are important for cleaning up the carrion in their natural environments as well. In truth though, even if they were not extremely cool, we would take them in. Paradise Gardens is a wildlife rescue, we don’t just rescue the “cute” or “beautiful,” “rare” or “expensive” animals. We do our best to rescue all animals that are in need.
These baby opossum orphans are an illustration of why humans need to be responsible for their dogs. Dogs off their leashes loosed on the native wildlife can wreak havoc. These baby ‘possums are not the only dog-induced orphans we have here, and we also have several adult animals that survived dog attacks and came here to recover, if they can. Feral dogs are a threat not only to humans but they also threaten wildlife.