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/


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