Snake snacks

1 07 2010

Yesterday Arjento, the baby coati, and I went down for some play time in the crimson fronted parakeets’ old cage. He doesn’t really like to play around in new places by himself so I went into the cage with him and sat down. He climbed around my shoulder for a minute, bit my nose, ear and finger, and then decided that the dirt was tastier than I and started burrowing his nose into it.

The cage is full of worms and nuts and rich dirt, but also has several mouse holes, mice burrowing in to get the seeds that the parakeets so carelessly dropped. I sat super still, watching Arjento stick his nose into the dirt and then scrape with his claws until the found something he deemed tasty. And then in a second there was a snake whooshing across the ground straight towards him. I screamed and the snake stopped, I grabbed Arjento and rushed out of the enclosure, ran to the aviary looking for Jen. She had finished the scrubbing and was somewhere else so I kept running, Arjento trying to bite my fingers the whole time. Aren’t animals supposed to have good instincts? Shouldn’t he be a bit more upset that a snake just tried to eat him? No, apparently I was the only one with a racing heart from a near snake attack.

I passed Billy and Monty’s cage. Evan and Eric, two volunteers, were inside rearranging the cage. Earlier in the day Evan had been telling me about snakes, something like the ones we saw here were probably not the dangerous ones and probably just ate the mice. I told them I just saw a snake, and it tried to eat Arjento. They ran down to look for it but it was gone. I described it: grey, bigger than I could encircle with my thumb and forefinger, but not much bigger than that, and long. I didn’t know how long because it was partially covered by grass, but the part I saw was as long as my arm.

After investigating the area around the enclosure they said it was probably just a ratsnake and probably couldn’t eat Arjento anyway. But I know a snake heading for a nice chubby meal when I see one.

Anyway, Arjento is in a new enclosure now, between Limpet, Biscuit and the yet unnamed tamarin on the right and Sam on the left. He gets to play there during the day, he seems to love love love it. And in the mornings and evenings he comes back to his old enclosure and gets to play in the aviary for a few hours. Sans snakes.

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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 clich√© 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).