A day in paradise

13 07 2010

My decision to travel to Panama happened by default. I had taken a 35 foot fall while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, which resulted in a contusion to my left foot and thus out me on crutches. Having been proudfully conquered, I returned home and began to ponder alternatives. “Hmmm, I’ve been wanting to travel and improve my Spanish,” I said to myself. Of course, this was the opportunity I needed. I almost always go climbing as a first option, thus I’d postponed such a culture and language-rich voyage. Somehow too, I thought I would be able to see monkeys and bright birds in a jungle thick rain forest. How I was going to do that was undetermined, nevertheless, it was a dream of mine. Plus, Panama was more affordable than Costa Rica and cost less to fly there. Plans were hatched with Habal Ya Spanish School and I was on my way!

When I arrived, (taking buses and taxis straight to Boquete), one of my taxi drivers told me about “un refugio para los animales,” explaining that I could see monkeys and other animals there. He of curse said the key word and that was all I needed to hear. The very next day, I went  to check it out for myself. It was a Sunday and they’re typically closed then, but by the graces of Jen, they let me in. I had a thorough briefing by a helpful and obviously enthusiastic volunteer (thanks Fidel!) and then was off to discover Paradise.

I began to walk down a little corridor with beautiful green hanging vines and delicate white flowers. I rounded a corner and was pleasantly surprised to have my first ever face to face encounter with a Capuchin Monkey.  The little guy was in a nicely constructed shelter, with plenty of room. In it were big branches, a wooden box he seemed to like to play on, a tree house, a small and bright hanging toy and plenty of green matter. The flora was so nice all around me that I thought I was literally in the jungle! I stayed with the monkey, who’s cage had a sign in front explaining that he’d been rescued from an unfortunate situation and that his name was Manolo. I was scared at first at how he’d react to me, but he kept coming over inquisitively and turned his back to me as if he wanted me to reach through the chicken wire walls and scratch his back. I nervously stuck my finger in there and was relieved when he didn’t bite it off. Then Manolo turned around and grabbed my finger with his soft black hand and held it like a child would.

That’s when I fell in love with Paradise gardens! I stayed with Manolo for two hours, then walked around taking photos and introducing myself to the other animals for another couple of animals. It was amazing to be in a spot that had many of the same animals and vegetation as the jungle, but the guarantee of being able to see them, and all while hobbling around on one foot! That encounter so touched me that I decided immediately to volunteer in the mornings three days a week. Then I could return to this Paradise as long as I was in Boquete, taking my Spanish classes! I don’t know in the end if it was fate or a coincidence that put me here, but I feel really blessed for this amazing opportunity! Me encanta El Jadin Paraiso!

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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.




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.





Volunteers

21 06 2010

Paradise Gardens is completely run by volunteers. We are always looking for new volunteers, especially longer term volunteers (who we offer a place to live on-site!). We’ve recently posted on HelpX, a network of volunteer opportunities and volunteers all around the world. They have already sent us several volunteers and we’ve only been up for 3 weeks! If you’re looking to volunteer they also have loads of other opportunities you can browse.

One of the hostels in town, Mamallenas, also regularly sends us volunteers. In fact all three of our current volunteers living on site came through Mamallenas. They also sponsor our capuchin monkeys (Monty, Billy and Manolo) and send us visitors almost everyday!

Most recently we have posted on Christian Volunteering and Go Abroad. Hopefully we will have a steady influx of volunteers from them soon as well!

Without volunteers Paradise Gardens Wildlife Rescue would cease to function. Volunteers feed and care for the animals, keep the park clean and well maintained, greet visitors, write this blog, treat injured or sick animals, build new shelters for animals, rehabilitate abused animals. In short, volunteers do it all.

If you are interested in volunteering here, get in touch! Email us at paradisegardensboquete@gmail.com or just stop by if you are in Boquete, we are located on Volcancito Road, just past Fresas Mary.





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.





Check out our photos!

4 06 2010

Hey dear readers, check out our photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/paradisegardensboquete
Enjoy for now, more to be added soon!