Saturday, March 7, 2009

Leoncio y Vanesso

I´ve been at the park now for 2 weeks and Im having a great time! It´s hard work, but definately worth it. People are always arriving and leaving because some only volunteer for 2 weeks and others stay for a year. I was a little sad that some of my friends left last weekend but I´ve met lots of new people. Now I´m working with two cats, Leoncio (the puma) and Vanesso, an ocelot. There´s only about 25 people here now so most of the cats are on half days. Vanesso´s owners thought he was female so they named him Vanessa but when he arrived at the park they changed his name because they realized he was male!

Working with an ocelot has actually been more dificult than working with a puma because he´s really small and likes to go off trail into the bush which is really diofficult to walk through unless your a small cat! He also enjoys hunting reptiles ... and unfourtenately there are tons near his trails. The first day he found a lizard and I got to witness his usual routine ... he carried the animal to an open spot (keeping it alive) and then ¨plays¨ with it, which is basically tourture until a slow death! He loves it thought.

The challenge with Vanesso is that when walking him you have to also protect him. There are a lot of things in the jungle that can injure an ocelot like chanchos (wild pigs) for example. A wild ocelot knows what its predetors are and can easilly run up a tree to escape them but since Vanesso has always lived in captivity he could easilly try to chase something that would normally eat him. Today he got ahold of a snake and I tried unsucessfully for an hour and a half to get it away from him ... this was interesting. At first I tried to fling it away with a stick. No chance Vanesso was letting the snake escape. I was getting worried because every few minutes he would bat at it too hard and it would bite him. After another unsucessful attempt at tug of war (me and the snake vs. Vanesso) I decided the safest thing would be to just kill it then at least it wouldnt bite eaither of us. He finally got bored of the dead snake (after another 45 min of waiting and being eaten by mosquitos!) I checked with the vet when I got back to camp and now I know how to tell a venomous snake from a harmless one. It was an eventful day :)

New volenteers came, so I´m training one guy from Austrailia to work with Leoncio. Some of the cats require two people to walk for saftey but Leo was actually trained to walk by following someone who is walking ahead of him on the trail. He is very well behaved and the worst he´s done so far is nap for an hour on the trail when he gets lazy or it´s too hot out. I took a video of him but the internet is so slow it´s taking forever to upload a few pictures. There is a small village about 15minutes away from the park that we go to sometimes during the week. The park owns a house there that they use to house extra volunteers during the dry season when there are more people here. Tonight we´re going to have a bbq there because we dont eat dinner at the park on Saturdays since its only a half day and a lot of people leave for the afternoon. It should be fun and it was great to eat some ice cream in town today because its really hot and theres no electricity at the park which means no cold drinking water!

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