Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Healthy Duke!

I fed Spartacus and Kofie again this morning. Spartacus wasn't fully awake, so he wasn't very crazy. I went back out to the pre-release cage at the 10:30 feed. Livvy was on my shoulders right away again. Nicky was actually coming up to me and after a little while he licked my nose! It was adorable! After that, he just wanted to cuddle and was lying on my arm and just hanging out. Sultan was his usual crazy self, swinging every where and wanting me to swing him around. While we were waiting for lunch, Si chopped up a coconut so we could try it. It tastes so different from the shaved coconut. It was really oily. I didn't like it too much. I fed Paz in the afternoon. He actually wasn't completely antisocial and was throwing himself around his cage. He still didn't really want to interact with me though. Duke is feeling a lot better and he ate four frames of sea grass today, so we had a busy day keeping up with peeling sea grass and filling the frames for him. His feed went well and he's continuing to look better. After Duke's feed was finished it was time to feed Twiggy. She's adorable and I miss feeding her a bottle. She just hugs your legs and doesn't want to leave you. The monkeys are coming tomorrow - I'm pretty excited!

Monkey Monday

My days are filled with monkeys now, but that's definitely not a bad thing. I fed the two howlers this morning and Spartacus was pretty playful. He kept running around and hitting me as he passed me. Luckily he doesn't hit very hard. After breakfast, we had to get more sea grass so we took a canoe out into the lagoon. It was a lighter canoe so steering went a lot better this time around. Although it sounds like a boring task, it's actually really nice sitting the lagoon. The water feels pretty good and it's nice to get a break from constantly sweating. I went back out to the three in the pre-release cage at the 10:30 feed. Livvy got right on my shoulders again and Sultan kept holding my hand and running up the side of my body. Nicky was getting frustrated with him so he started to fight with Sultan. Sultan's pretty small so he gets picked on quite a bit but he's also a lot faster than Nicky. We were running out of fruit for the monkeys, so we made some hard boiled quail eggs for the 2:30 feed. Mattie and Duma, the spider monkeys, had mixed reactions to them but Paz, a howler monkey loved them. We also tried giving them coconut and a lot of the monkeys were not a fan of it. Paul ran into town to get some fruit for the 4:30, so we had a good variety. He picked up a pineapple and all the volunteers were jealous that the monkeys were getting it. A lot of them didn't even like it! It was pretty upset watching them throw it on the ground. We had another Duke feed after the monkeys were finished. We got him into the corner, but then he slipped under the sling! It's amazing how agile a 144 lb manatee can be. Luckily we caught him the next time around. We got a call today that five spider monkeys are coming on Wednesday and apparently one is pretty small! I can't wait to meet them!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cuddling with Monkeys

Twiggy came back! She finally showed up at her gate this morning. I fed Spartacus this morning and he wasn't very happy to see me. He pulled my hair quite a bit because I didn't bring him the greatest browse. After the monkey feed, it was my turn to feed the peccaries again, so I made my way into the mosquito swarms. The peccaries weren't so angry today, so they were pretty cute. Paige made banana pancakes for breakfast, which were delicious! We had another monkey feed at 10:30 and I fed the monkeys in quarantine. Richie is a female howler monkey and she's pretty antisocial or aggressive if you don't bring in browse. Teresa is a spider monkey who used to be on a chain outside a hotel. She's really nice and she loves spending time with people. I sat inside her enclosure with her for a little while and she had me groom her back for a little while. We tanned for a little while after finishing feeding this morning. I have several different tan lines, but hopefully I'll be all evened out by the time I get back. Some government officials came for lunch and to tour the facilities. We had another feed at 2:30 and I did the quarantine again. Teresa had me groom her back again but she also groomed my head. At the last feed, I fed the two spider monkeys so I could learn how to do it. They're adorable and love just sitting on your head and shoulders. I pretty much had a monkey on me at all times while I was in there. Paige had to distract them so I could get out of the enclosure. We had another Duke feed but we managed to get him on the first try. Twiggy was in with Duke and they had little manatee kisses while we were trying to get Duke. It was so cute! We're watching The Help tonight and we made popcorn! So exciting to have some normal food!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Manatee Day

I started the day with another monkey feed. The monkey researchers were still here so the one watched me feed the three in the pre-release cage. It took awhile to get out of the enclosure because they kept trying to go between the double doors to catch a butterfly stuck in there. After breakfast, most of the manatee volunteers went into town for Manatee Day. We got all the supplies from the SACD (Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development) office and then headed to the soccer field. A couple of Wildtracks volunteers have organized a soccer tournament and at each of the past four games have organized an education activity about manatees. There were a bunch of different games and activities for the teams to participate in today, such as a matching game and a manatee maze. Our booth included an activity worksheet with word searches and a crossword. We also asked each player what they can do to protect manatees and they wrote their answer on a cut out manatee and pinned it to the board. All the answers were really good and there were a couple cute ones, like “protect them from being eaten by sharks” (manatees have no natural predators). There was also a poster contest for the teams and then of course the actual soccer tournament. I think all the kids enjoyed it and the local community really supports the manatee conservation efforts. After we walked back, we fed and weighed Duke. He gained four pounds! He’s starting to eat more frames of sea grass and hopefully he continues to improve. Twiggy is still missing even though volunteers searched for her all day. Hopefully she comes back soon because it is not easy to find a gray manatee in murky lagoon water!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lost Manatee

This morning I fed the three monkeys in the pre-release cage. They receive milk in the morning and fight over it quite a bit. You have to feed Sultan through a syringe while supplying the larger male, Nikki, with a bowl of milk, which he promptly throws on the ground after he finishes it. It’s a lot of juggling milk, but Livvy sits on your shoulders the whole time, so you get to cuddle with a monkey. After I pried Livvy off of me, I went back to the house for breakfast. Twiggy didn’t come back this morning or last night and a little before lunch, we found Twiggy’s radio transmitter. It must have somehow fallen of off her tail, but we didn’t see Twiggy anywhere. We had two more monkey feeds, which included Spartacus pulling my hair and Paz ignoring me.  A couple of spider monkey researchers came to tell us more about the monkeys’ behavior. After their tour of the facilities, we had to get Duke for a feed and luckily we got him on the first try. Duke actually ate two frames of sea grass today, so he really is starting to feel better. We’ll weigh him tomorrow to see how much he’s improved. We have a new volunteer and the biologists for dinner so we celebrated with banana milkshakes and rum and cokes. 

Sad Twiggy

Twiggy wouldn’t go out this morning so we kept her in for observation. Zoe said she felt a little underweight, so we gave her a sea grass frame and then had to replace it every half hour. We spent a lot of time peeling sea grass! We ran out pretty quickly since she was eating so fast, so we had to take the boat out to collect some sea grass. The boat we use is basically a wooden canoe and apparently a lot of people don’t know how to canoe. We kept zigzagging instead of staying in a straight line and had a lot of trouble turning. I tried to explain how to steer from the back but no one really understood. We eventually found a patch of sea grass and then spent the next hour and a half picking sea grass. We all got a little sunburnt but we got a large supply of sea grass. After lunch, we had another Duke feed. He only snuck out once this time and his condition is continuing to improve. More monkey volunteers are leaving tomorrow, so I start helping with all monkey feeds tomorrow!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monkey Milk Mustaches

We had another Duke feed yesterday morning. We're getting better at catching him. We only had seven people and it only took us one try! He's continuing to improve but he still isn't eating sea grass. Three monkey volunteers left, so I helped with three of the feeds. At 10:30, I fed the single howler monkey who is getting introduced to another after she is out of quarantine later this week. He's pretty laid back and wasn't really interested in me after I brought his fruit. I fed Spartacus and his adoptive mother at 2:30 and 4:30. Spartacus is kind of crazy and wants his browse as soon as you enter the enclosure. They all receive milk at 4:30 and he kept trying to steal all the milk from me. I also had to feed Twiggy in the afternoon. She left a tiny bit in her bottle for the morning feed, but she only ate two thirds of her bottle in the afternoon and she was acting strange. We're going to check on her today to make sure she feels alright. Tanning Club had another session this afternoon and another volunteer said I look really tan so hopefully that's true! I still have a pretty terrible shorts tan line I need to get rid of.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sneaky Manatees

This morning I got to fed Twiggy alone. She is so cute and I could sit with her all day.  She loves to just hang out and hold out to you after your done feeding her.  It started raining pretty hard so we were stuck inside for most of the morning, but it cleared up pretty quickly. I went back out on the boat to take Twiggy out to the island, but first we had to find Twiggy. We searched the shore and several close islands and eventually the far island but she was nowhere in sight. After searching for two and a half hours we decided to come back for lunch and guess who was waiting for us near the boat dock – Twiggy! Paul and Zoe came back after lunch so we had to catch Duke for another feed. He’s getting really sneaky recently. It took us four tries and nine people to catch him! He’s obviously improving if he’s sneaking past us and he’s looking better too. More monkeys are arriving soon so I helped set up some more cages for them. I had another Twiggy feed in the afternoon. It’s three volunteers last day so we’re having mac and cheese for dinner! We’re all pretty excited!

Manatee Death Grip

Today was my last day of training so I got to feed Twiggy this morning. She’s so cute and I don’t think I’ll every get tired of giving her a bottle. After we let Twiggy out for the morning, we had to feed Duke so Paul and Zoe had time to pick up a surrendered monkey from Belize City. It took us three attempts to get Duke today; he definitely isn’t a fan of the tube feedings. He had some diarrhea, most likely a side effect of the dewormer, so he received some Pepto Bismal. He is starting to improve some and actually ate a little seagrass today. I finally tried the hammock today, I was pretty wary of it since I tend to fall out of hammocks and it looks particularly small but I was actually pretty nice and I managed to stay in it the whole time. The wind really picked up in the afternoon and it rained on and off so we didn’t take Twiggy out to the island. She came back around 4 pm, so I let her in and then fed her. After I had finished feeding her, she was still holding onto my legs, upset I didn’t have another bottle for her. I got my right foot out but she wouldn’t let my left foot go. Who knew manatees were so strong! It was really cute though and I would definitely stay there all day if I could. Another volunteer showed me the movie stash upstairs in the house, so I have a pretty large stack of movies to watch over the next few days. I tried my first shower with the drinking water tonight instead of the lagoon water. My hair was feeling pretty disgusting, but I was avoiding it because it involves a bucket and a cup. It was somewhat annoying but my hair feels a lot cleaner. I came back to change into my pajamas after dinner and when I put my shorts on; a cockroach crawled down my leg! I learned a valuable lesson the tropics – always shake your clothes out before putting them on!!