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.

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Jaguarundi Kitten Learns to Hunt

22 05 2010
The Most Adorable Kitten Ever

A baby jaguarundi cub in her kennel, her new home in Boquete

About a month ago Paradise Gardens received a baby jaguarundi. He had been found by a farmer in a field. The cub’s den had been run over by a tractor and it appeared that the mother had escaped with the other cubs (there are one to four cubs in a litter) but had been unable to carry them all and left this one behind. The farmer waited, watching the baby to see if the mother might return and protecting the baby from other possible predators in the interim. The mother never returned, and the farmer collected the cub and brought him to us to care for.

He arrived so tiny he had to be bottle fed. We had to make a decision quickly though: was he going to be released or would he be staying with us at Paradise Gardens for the rest of his life? Obviously it would be best for him and us if he could be released. He had arrived to us very young and with very little human contact, no injuries and no sickness. He could be released.

For a successful release we must minimize his contact with humans. Big cats are tricky because if he will stay his human contact must be maximized but for a cat in the wild to be comfortable with humans is a death sentence. Jaguarundis are smallish versions of the well-known big cats, slightly smaller than an ocelot. Yet they are still considered a danger to humans.If a cat is released after having too much human contact he or she will approach humans for attention (think of a cat purring and weaving around your legs… now imagine a big, wild cat doing that) or food and probably be killed or injured. Cats that have to remain here and will never be released, on the other hand, have to have loads of human attention and interaction. Lottie, the margay (looks similar to an ocelot), arrived as a three-month old who had spent her whole life, after being taken from her mother, in a human home. She had been kept in a two-foot by four-foot box, not nearly big enough for her body, and without the proper space her tail had grown kinked. Because she had no muscle tone she was unable to walk on her own. These three factors led Paradise Gardens to decide that she would never be able to be released. Living in such close quarters to humans she had grown accustomed to them. With a kinked tail she would never be able to hunt properly. And she needed a lot of human contact in order to heal her atrophied muscles.

In the case of the jaguarundi, it is impossible to completely cut out human contact. He had to be bottle fed at first and even now putting food into his cage involves brief human contact. However humans do not play with him, talk to him or touch him. He is unavailable for visitors to view. But he has to learn to hunt. And jaguarundis are raised by their parents with their siblings, although they are generally solitary for the rest of their lives. So we gave him some siblings: two house kittens! They have all been eating raw meat and are learning to catch chicks and mice. The kittens trump the jaguarundi at catching the mice but they are cautious of the chicks while the jaguarundi pounces as soon as he notices them.

As for the margay who lives here, she does hunt some. Every now and then a fish from the stream that runs through her enclosure is a nice snack and sometimes even the pigeons that get in are devoured. So maybe not a good enough hunter to be released into the wild but she does better than my house cat.