I woke today tired, after a bad night's sleep that I blame on the malaria pills and the late night "Invasion of the Frogs." The cuteness I found in my former roommate, little Kermit, is now gone, with the five million cousins he has living at the Fazenda. There are about ten of the little guys in my room at any given time. Their name in Portuguese is "perereca," and I've noticed they like to hang out around the toilet – which is not very comforting since they enjoy jumping on people.
IN PHOTOS: View a photo gallery of frogs and toads
And even worse, there is an army of bigger frogs and toads that swarm the open hallways of the Fazenda every night. They include the practically dog-sized toads found in tropics (okay, maybe not that big, but you get my point). Needless to say, I'm not leaving my room alone late at night for fear of being eaten by one of those monsters.
This morning we went out with the peccary research team and the Earthwatch volunteers who are assisting. The volunteers trap native peccaries and feral pigs, in order to gather information about their health, and determine their impact on one another and the local ecosystem. After they collect the data, the animals are released back into the wild.
ISSUE: Invasive species
Much to their surprise, the team caught a javanteiro two months ago. Alexine, the team leader, is concerned that this new species, much bigger and more aggressive than peccaries or wild pigs, will spread and cause damage to the habitat and native species. So now she is broadening her study to include javanteiros. Eventually, she hopes to develop a management plan for the feral pigs and javanteiro, and a conservation plan for the native peccaries, that will work within the framework of the broader Corridor Project.
ARTICLE: Learn about another corridor project to save Giant Pandas in China
We spend the bulk of the morning talking with a neighboring cattle farmer. Alexine wants to put a peccary trap on his farm; however, she cannot just walk up and ask for this. It is very important that we all listen to the farmer about his experiences with the local wildlife first. Otherwise, he could be insulted, and prevent the Fazenda researchers from using his land. Building strong relationships with community farmers is key to the success of establishing a successful conservation strategy for the region.
ISSUE: Green ranching
After setting two traps for peccaries under fruit trees, we ride back toward the Fazenda. I'm still feeling pretty cocky that I was the one who spotted the giant anteater yesterday and not Julie.
Suddenly, the tractor and flatbed we are riding in pulls to an abrupt stop. Julie rushes to the front of the flatbed, pushes me aside and shouts, "WHAT IS IT!" I lay sprawled on the floor of the flatbed waiting to hear what it was I was looking at before being pushed down.
A wounded baby peccary is struggling to stand up in the middle of the road. Since we are both experienced working with wild animals, Julie and I get it out of the sun and wrap it in a shirt, then take the struggling little guy back with us. It has a bad injury - a tear over its stomach has left a gaping hole exposing its insides, which are infested with maggots. The smell this little critter gives off is not a good sign, but we have to do something for her.
ISSUE: Learn the DOs and DON'Ts of helping wounded wild animals
Julie gives it water and pets it while I pull off the many blood-engorged ticks on its body (Yuck. But this is typical of how Julie and I always end up working together: I get to remove the disgusting parasites while she pets the cute animals). The peccary pees all over me when I put it into the flatbed. Back at camp, Julie and I consult with the ranch staff, then clean the wounds with iodine. I continue de-ticking when we're through, and we feed it some mashed food.
The peccary seems a little better so we put it in a box. Mariza names her Julie in honor of her benefactor (I refrain from reminding everyone who got peed all over and had to de-tick the little pig). We put the box in the shaded classroom with some fruit, oatmeal, and water, and hope for the best.
Later that night, before we head out looking for anteaters, I check in on the little peccary, and discover it has died. We are all very sad about this, but understand that this is part of the normal balance of life and death. I consider not washing my soiled shirt in memory of the little peccary, but I then get a strong smell of the peccary urine, and decide that might not be such a great idea. Instead, I'll just hope that she felt comforted in her last few hours.
<< Day 4 Dispatch | Day 6 Dispatch >>