Hello from Debbie

7 07 2010
Hi everyone.  My name is Debbie and I am volunteering here for a couple of weeks.  I will be guest blogging while I’m here and hopefully, I will be providing a different perspective from the other bloggers since I’m very new to this kind of volunteering.  We heard about Paradise Gardens months ago from some other travelers that we met on the road in Honduras.  Honduras is 3 countries away but they were still so excited about this place
My husband and I have been here for about 24 hours but thanks to all of the great folks, we feel so comfortable like we have been here for months.  I’m not sure what I was expecting before I arrived but Paradise Gardens has blown me away with the beauty of the gardens, fountains, animals and people.  I could tell within minutes that a ton of love has been put into the facilities and the animals.  Even without the animals this place is really special but, of course, the animals are the stars of the show and they seem to know it.
I spent the day yesterday getting acquainted with everyone and everything here.  I was immediately taken with some of the big personalities…Sam, Minolo, Muffin.  They seem to thrive on human contact and love to show off.  The cats are great, too, but have that typical feline pretentiousness.  They know that they are gorgeous and seem happy to just prance around like supermodels just looking beautiful and fierce.  Ok, so I’m not a cat person….I’ve just always felt that they think that they are better than me.
So far the highlight of the last 24 hours for me has been my one-on-one time with Minolo, the little Capuchin monkey.  I’ve always loved dogs because they really know how to welcome a person.  Minolo gave me the best welcome that I’ve received in months.  He was literally bouncing off the walls with excitement (and my head, my back and my arms).  He christened me with pee and poo but I’m just going to believe that is his way of showing how much he likes me.  That little guy has a ton of energy.  If we could bottle it and sell it, this place would be rolling in money.
Yesterday afternoon was incredibly busy with visitors.  I was told that this was the busiest day that anyone here has seen.  There were over 50 visitors in one day!  I got the crash course on the visitor introduction and had a trial by fire.  I hope I didnt give anyone too bad of information.  I will keep listening to the experts, though, so that in a few days I will be able to give the whole schpeel myself.
……many hours later
I never had a chance to make my post from earlier so I will continue it.  Today was even more exciting than yesterday.  We were full this afternoon with volunteers and the afternoon ended up being incredibly productive.  We finally got access to a ladder and the guys made the most of it clearing out the aviary.  It looks like a completely different place and now guests will be able to actually see the birds instead of just seeing the shrubbery.
They also put some work in on a new, more permanent cage for muffin.
There was more big excitement when someone brought in a tarantula that they rescued from their garden.  It seemed very healthy so we took it down to the ravine for a big release.  At first, it didnt seem to want to leave the safety of the Tupperware but eventually it crawled away.  Hopefully it will be safe and happy in the ravine.
The checklist is almost completely checked off so Jen will be busy tomorrow morning making a new one.
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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.





Autopsy Results

28 06 2010

Last week was busy. Jojo died on Monday, from what we thought was a spider bite. We found the spiders on Tuesday, two brown recluses. We had moved Mic out of the cage on Monday night, suspecting correctly that the culprit for Jojo’s death might still be at large in the cage. He was in a smaller enclosure, in the garage, all day Tuesday and Wednesday. He was eating, but not eating well, and he wasn’t talking whereas normally he is super talkative. Wednesday afternoon Mic fell off his perch, dead. We had no idea why, but thought maybe we had been wrong about the spider bite and that it had been a virus or bacteria, that killed Jojo and now Mic. We got in touch with several cockatoo experts and rescues and they all said to bring Sam, our third moluccan cockatoo, who had lived right next to Mic and Jojo, inside the house to keep him warm in case he was battling an invisible illness as well. We did that, and kept an eye on Sam. We also started all the birds at Paradise Gardens on a vaccine recommended by several of the vets we talked to.

On Thursday we tried to send Mic and Jojo’s bodies to Panama City for an autopsy to find out what might have killed them and be able to better protect the rest of our birds (and other animals). No go. The airline wouldn’t take dead birds. Friday Jen had to go to Panama City anyway, to renew her passport, so she took the bodies along with her (frozen and on ice). The doctor who looked at their bodies also ran some blood tests and other tests, and we finally heard back today.

Jojo did die of a spider bite, probably the brown recluses that we found under her perch. Mic’s autopsy showed that he had nothing wrong with him. Apparently cockatoos are easily stressed and can die from stress without any other causes or symptoms. And since cockatoos mate for life, Jojo’s death was sure to have caused Mic a lot of stress. Even when Jojo was sick we noticed Mic freaking out, acting strange… but we thought that of course, like anyone who loses a loved one, he would be upset but survive. Apparently not. He died of heartbreak.

RIP Mic and Jojo





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!! paradisegardensboquete@gmail.com 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!





Truth or Poison! Poinsettias Face the Facts.

17 06 2010

Walking around Paradise Gardens you will see a variety of beautiful plants. Some are deadly. Some are just pretty. So which ones pose a threat? I have already mentioned the trumpet flower, also known as angels trumpet, devils trumpet and, if your into Latin, Brugmansia (actually, that is a pretty cool name, I expect to see it popping up in the next vampire series. Edward and Bella meet Dracula and Brugmansia, sounds oh-so vampiresque, dontcha think?).

So the next one I was planning on writing about was poinsettias, that Christmas plant that everyone kills once a year (they are year round, they will live if you take care of them). I mean, everyone knows poinsettias are poisonous to cats, right?? And babies? So we can only assume they ought not be fed to capuchins or tamarins, or even the coati or the tayra. Not that the tayra would be willing to eat it anyway.

But wait… the internet, omniscient fountain of facts, tells me otherwise!

Poinsettias, it seems, got a bad rap way back in 1919 and have stuck with it since then (well, I would too if it kept me from being gnawed on by cats and babies). Apparently a baby died in 1919 after eating some poinsettia and ever since everyone has it in their head that they are poisonous. But no one proved that baby actually died from the poinsettia, and research now indicates that there is almost no way it could have. Nothing before or since has died from poinsettia poison. In fact out of 23,000 kids brought in for poinsettia exposure, none had any toxicity. The American Society of Florists tried to kill a rat with poinsettia but no luck there either. (If it had worked that would have given a new meaning to the line: ’twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… yeah, ’cause they’d all eaten those poinsettia that were decorating windowsills.)

In fact, the florists (along with some Ohio State researchers) tested quantities so large that they decided a kid weighing 50 pounds would have to eat five to six hundred leaves in order to exceed the doses they tested in their research. So unless you have a lot of poinsettia plants and one very determined child poinsettia seem to be perfectly safe. And even if some kid ate 600 poinsettia leaves, there is no evidence that it would prove toxic or cause any problems other than indigestion and a freaky red stain around the mouth. Which, by the way, is what poinsettias were originally used for, red dye.





Introductions Galore: Athena, the jaguarundi kitten

4 06 2010

Remember, I mentioned last week that we were writing new introductions for all the animals? We prettied them up and posted them on all the enclosures so people could read about the animals as they saw them. We are also working on a new guidebook as the one we have now is very out of date, many of the animals in it have been released or passed away and we have many new animals that are not mentioned in it.

But while we are working on that I will share with you a few more of the introductions we have written up…

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Hestia, the calico kitten and Athena, the jaguarundi cub, asleep on their perch.

Hi! My name is Athena!

I am a jaguarundi, a relative of the Ocelot and Jaguar, just a little smaller.

A farmer near Boquete was plowing his land for a new field and accidentally ran over my den. When he noticed that he had run over my den he immediately stopped the tractor and turned off his headlights. My mother had carried off my other brothers and sisters (we were too small to walk) but she was too scared to come back for me. The farmer waited nearby watching to be sure no other animals hurt me but my mother didn’t come.

The next day the farmer took me to Paradise Gardens. At first I had to be bottle fed but now I eat raw meat. I will be released when I am bigger so I need as little human contact as possible. Please don’t talk to me or come close to my cage! Since I have no human interaction I have 2 house kittens as companions. They are older than me and we play together. We are also learning to hunt by chasing mice in the aviary. We have caught a few. Luckily we are small enough that we can’t catch the birds (although we’d like to!).

When I grow up I will be a solitary hunter until I am a mother. Then I will be a caring mother and feed my young until I have taught them to hunt on their own. I will live 10 to 20 years.

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Athena is growing much bigger and more fierce now, although she is still smaller than the kittens she lives with. They are all becoming fierce hunters and although the kittens are faster and more adept Athena is fiercer. She will go after birds without hesitation whereas the kittens are cautious, and she dominates the food bowl… the kittens don’t get to eat until Athena has chosen her piece of meat and dragged it off.  However Athena is also very attached to her kitten friends (they are named Artemis and Hestia) and she cries when they are both out of the cage. Her cry is this tiny peep, again and again, not at all like a cat’s meow. It’s earned her the nickname “Peeps.”