Jungle Zoo Madness part 3 of 3: El Diablo Macaw!

Wowwee the macaw (photo taken by Declan Burley)

Wowwee in all her splendour (photo taken by Declan Burley)

So far my so called “pet” experience in the jungle has been interesting, you can almost say pleasant.  But the critter that really emphasises the hazards of having a “tame” jungle animal around is Wowwee aka El Diablo Macaw!  This beautiful Scarlet Macaw was one of three rescued macaws.  Unfortunately, the other two died from predation, which left only Wowwee.  I guess the loss of the other two and the result of being the only Macaw has left her in a traumatised state.  This is putting it rather mildly… if I have to be brutally honest about it, I will say that she is an unstable psychopath who finds joy in eliciting tangible fear in others.  She conjurers up images of her dinosaur ancestors as she stalks the grounds of the lodge, as if she owns the place, and over the years, she has developed many OCD tendencies.

One such tendency, is her daily ritual of perusing the kitchen, starting from one corner, shuffling her way across the beams, climbing down the one pole, hopping across the floor, ending on top of the back door from where she would appear to oversee all cooking activities quite critically. The kitchen also seems to be the only neutral ground at the lodge where she will not attack you for no apparent reason.  Well, at least so we thought… Poor Kevin was minding his own business and earlier even gave her some water to drink out of a cup, when she suddenly attacked his big toe.  She clamped down on his unfortunate toe and didn’t even let go when Kevin threw himself on the floor and proceeded to kick the crazy bird out of sheer desperation and out of fear of having his toe decapitated by the flesh-loving maniac with feathers.  Thankfully, both Kevin and Wowwee walked away unharmed from this incident, unless you count post-traumatic stress disorder as a possible side-effect, which is what Kevin seems to be suffering from whenever he hears a macaw call or the flapping of wings.

Wowwee the macaw (photo taken by Declan Burley)

Wowwee… this looks says it all! (photo taken by Declan Burley)

Outside ‘neutral grounds’ she is in full control of the amount of interaction that she might have with you.  These interactions are not the most welcoming, as it will mostly consist of her perched on a chair or railing, sharpening her beak while staring at you with her head turned to the side.  But Wowwee doesn’t hate everyone.  Sometimes she finds an unsuspecting man that has enough qualities that suits her needs, and then promptly falls in-love with him.  She will follow him like a love-sick puppy and become very possessive over him.  Regrettably people don’t tend to stay very long here at Explorer’s Inn which has resulted in several heartbreaks for her and which only seem to add to her already unstable traumatised state.  Broken hearted, she will destroy anything remotely associated with her lost love.  After Gabrielle left – resulting in a major heartbreak – she somehow got into the office, where he used to spend most of his time, and launched into a destructive frenzy of unadulterated abandon.  His sandals were ripped to shreds, papers were scattered everywhere and the mosquito panels were pocked full of Wowwee-sized holes.  After her tirade, she positioned herself in one of these holes, with her head and neck dangling out on the outside of the office.  There she stayed, eyes closed in mourning, possibly contemplating her actions, until she finally left later that evening.

Her next victim was Levi – a very sweet cook with a delicate manner and a quick smile.  She fell in love in a heartbeat, poor thing.  Levi will scratch her belly while she would play-bite his hand like a kitten – a complete personality change.  When we play volleyball, she becomes very jealous, especially if you go too close to Levi.  For some reason, my husband Daniël is not tolerated at all.  Maybe it is something to do with Daniël telling Wowwee to her face that he is NOT HER FRIEND.  Daniël will be playing in Levi’s team, totally engrossed in the game, when Wowwee would suddenly dive-bomb Daniël for no reason other than her jealous dislike of him.  She has done this to me a few times as well.  Believe me, it’s very scary to see a giant bird, claws ready to gouge your eyes out, flying at full speed towards your head, only changing direction at the last possible moment.  All you can do is duck or dive out of the way while you hear a swoosh and feel a gust of wind over your head.

Sadly, for Wowwee, Levi left.  Somehow, she could sense that he was not returning.  The following morning she ripped out a piece of bathroom wall in the dining room.  Now the question is, who will be her next victim…

The photos in this post were taken by Declan Burley.  Please visit his Flicker website at http://flickrock.com/declan_burley as well as the website of the amazing project he is working on currently http://www.unchartedamazon.com/



Jungle Zoo Madness part 2 of 3: Mutualism

Pietie the bat hanging under the bunk bed. (photo taken by Declan Burley)

Petie the bat hanging under the bunk bed. (photo taken by Declan Burley)

Luckily, not all uninvited animal guests have such an unsavoury effect on our lives like the rat infestation we had to endure. In the RN bungalow, we have a pair of very effective pest control assistants; Petie the bat and Denzel the mouse opossum. Petie first arrived on the scene during Declan’s (resident naturist and avid documentary maker) stay here at Explorer’s Inn.  For some or other reason Petie – as Declan fondly named him – decided that sleeping underneath the top bunk right above Declan’s head is the perfect spot for him.  Maybe Declan had just the right amount of unwashed body surface and thus exuded the perfect combination of pleasurable body odours highly conducive to peaceful bat sleep… who knows?  Declan initially had no problem with this arrangement until he sort-of got fed up with waking up every morning with poo on his face.  The fleas probably didn’t add to the comfort either.  Poor Petie was banished to the underside of Declan’s bed where he is now staying in relative comfort in exchange for ridding the RN bungalow of flying insects.

Pietie snoozing above Declan (illustration done by Chrissie)

Petie snoozing above Declan (illustration done by Chrissie)

Denzel the mouse opossum was first discovered in the bottom of the RN bungalow trash can, where he managed to get himself trapped after greedily searching for food.  Declan and Charlie (Declan’s room mate, aka Capuchin) fondly remember that first meeting whereby they found a dishevelled opossum at the bottom of the trash can covered in wet food, his fur standing up in all directions and the little guy showing his numerous tiny razor sharp teeth at them in defiance.  From that day forward Denzel seems to have a strange truce with the humans staying in his bungalow. Every evening he would show up moving dexterously from one surface to the next, hunting for cockroaches and bits of half eaten snacks left by the messy naturalists.

Denzel showing some teeth shortly after his rescue from the dustbin (photo taken by Declan Burley)

Denzel showing some teeth shortly after his rescue from the trash can (photo taken by Declan Burley)

One evening we were all sitting in the RN bungalow busy with our nightly data entry and photo editing activities, when I saw Denzel from the corner of my eye, running past.  He climbed up the book case, not bothering to conceal himself – which already set off alarm bells in my head – whereby he promptly made a beeline straight towards Charlie.  He jumped up the chair next to Charlie and went directly for the leftover boxed lunch container.

This was certainly strange behaviour for Denzel.  Denzel was used to us, but would always remain in the shadows where he thought we could not see him.  On closer inspection, we realised that Denzel did not look at all like himself.  He was skinny, wild-eyed, and seemed to have lost some of his fur.  We carefully tried to catch him, realising that there is a possibility that he might have rabies, especially after he jumped towards us, spraying saliva in his wake.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we failed miserably in our task and he got away leaving us all to move around very carefully and just a little bit paranoid.

Denzel the mouse opossum.

Denzel the mouse opossum.

The following evening, Charlie and Declan woke up due to a scratching sound in their dorm room.  When they turned their flashlight in the direction of the noise, they discovered the “real” Denzel – complete with a healthy complexion and a full body of luscious fur that any self respecting mouse opossums would be envious of.  He was attempting to cross the room by using the makeshift washing line.  He would walk a few steps showing off his skills as a trapeze artist and then fail dismally by losing his balance and twirling at a nauseating speed in a seemingly endless circle around the rope until he gingerly regained his balance and moved forward again.  This continued all the way across the room, which caused hysterical laughter from Charlie and Declan who appreciated the fact that they were being entertained by Denzel the trapeze artist rather than Denzel the rabid Zombie.  Maybe the rabid mouse opossum was Denzel-turned-zombie or maybe not, but we are glad to see he is back and healthy as ever, at least until the next full moon…


Denzel attempting to cross the room on a makeshift washing line (illustration by Chrissie aka me).

Some of these photos were taken by Declan Burley.  Please visit his Flicker website at http://flickrock.com/declan_burley as well as the website of the amazing project he is working on currently http://www.unchartedamazon.com/

Jungle Zoo Madness Part 1 of 3: Uninvited Guests

Saddle-backed Tamarins feasting on the bananas in the store room.

Saddle-backed Tamarins feasting on the bananas in the store room (photo taken by Anouk-Lisa Taucher).

When you live in the middle of the jungle, it is inevitable that some wild animals will in some way or another make their home amongst you.  In many cases, this is not really based on anything that can be seen to resemble a mutual understanding.  Some we adopt, whilst some “adopt” us, without us having much of a say in the matter.  Some animals “pay” for their accommodation while others just expect to be accommodated like the Saddle-backed Tamarins that raid the banana store every afternoon.  There are also always the kind that initially appear to be so “cute” and “adorable”, but soon their true colours are revealed and their deviousness and impure intentions are unmasked for all to see.

One such instance was when we moved into our new room next door to Kevin and Anouk (the other Resident Naturalist couple).  They have been telling us about the very ‘adorable’ rats that live in their wall.  Adorable only because they have babies that “meep-meep” in the night.  Seems harmless enough…  During their stay in our walls, they have engineered a network of entry points into both our bungalows – gaping holes that they seem to love gnawing on in the middle of the night.  The turning point for me was when I first encountered one of these critters in my bathroom.  Instead of running away from me like any decent rat would do, it just stared at me as if I was the one intruding on its space – the nerve! I started lobbying for the removal and, if possible, the destruction of these intruders; especially because they kept me awake all night with their incessant gnawing and squeaking.

Regrettably, I did not receive much support from our neighbours.  That was until the night of the Snickerbar… Anouk gave Kevin half of her Snickerbar when they worked in the field, but Kevin decided to save this precious snack for later.  When he finally decided that it was time to reward himself with this chocolate delight, he discovered that the rats devoured his Snickerbar.  They climbed into his backpack and STOLE HIS SNICKER!  Kevin made the very wise decision there and then, that the rats need to go and that the only way to achieve that is to burn down the entire bungalow with the rats still inside – they deserve no less!  DIE EVIL SCUM OF SATAN!  Fortunately, Arles, our trusted friend and local super hero, came to the rescue and simply closed up all the holes, which, strangely enough, kept the rats at bay so far.  The only sign that they have ever been there are the fleas they left behind in Kevin and Anouk’s bed…