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Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog


Goodbye Missy...(Hugo's Farewell Blog)

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Before I begin I want to make a couple of apologies regarding this blog. I apologise to all readers for the length of it: it’s nine weeks of thoughts and musings regarding travel and animal care that I really need to get off my chest, and should really be thought of more of an essay than anything else; I apologise to any Wildtracks volunteers that read this as I may well have rambled on about something along these lines to you before, suffice to say this has been on my mind a lot recently; finally, to those who don’t care about my ponderings and who just want to get an update on the progression of Missy, I apologise for the philosophical slant of the majority of this blog, I promise my favourite little otter will not be left out and will get a role in this performance.

Volunteering on a project like this is an extremely interesting experience for me. Your day-to-day routine simultaneously reminds you just how far from home you are and just how set you are in your path: how sure you are that what you are doing with your life is what you want to do and what you care about. The things I’ve seen here are stories that I will tell my friends and family about for years to come. The things I’ve DONE here, and got to have an active part of, are things that I’ll tell my children about in decades to come. The amazing thing is doing something life changing isn’t something that’s limited to a select elite, but something that’s available to anyone. All it takes is an email to Wildtracks’ website and a game plan can be put together in a matter of days.

The issue that comes with doing something like this is one of translation:

How can you ever truly relate to people what it’s like? How can you ever make people understand what it’s like not to just look after a monkey, but to interact with an animal that you occasionally understand better than your own brothers (who are monkeys in their own right)? With animals that you have become so attached to and involved with in such a short space of time that you genuinely care what happens to them years down the line. You care about their short-term prospects, whether Charlie will fully integrate with the troop, whether Kofi will start taking her medicine. You also care about their long-term futures: I really do hope Snuffles the coati flourishes in her release site, and isn’t sat waiting on a jetty for us to come back as happened last time, and you want to know whether Izzy ends up as similar to Duma as everyone reckons she will be.

When I get home, I’ll see my friends and they’ll ask “how was it?”, “Was it just playing with monkeys?” I’ll smile and say some of it was. It’s easier than trying to explain how much work actually goes on behind the scenes and how much you miss all of the animals for their own personalities. What someone else will interpret as a generic ‘playing with monkeys’ completely ignores the uniqueness of each individual. You can’t really make someone understand the diversity of the personalities if they’ve never experienced first-hand how eccentric they all are:

How playful and perverted Sultan is, and how his grin means he's planning to
bite imminently.
How aloof Mia is.
How Nikki is the most rock-and-roll little capuchin that ever lived.
How cheeky Spartacus is.
How inquisitive Duma is, how she’ll play with anything within arm reach, and
as I recently found out, how difficult she is to escape from.
How Thomas the peccary will protect his carers from all the other peccarys.
How cute Izzy is but how demanding she can be.
And most importantly how much Missy loves to chew my fingers and toes
and will scream and shout to get the chance.

This list could go on and on; there is so much to say about each animal and such little space to say it in. Suffice to say I will miss all the animals in their own way, but am happy that I can always follow their stories in exactly the same way you are doing now.

I must say though, I am biased. Missy’s future is the one that holds the most interest for me. The Belizean Forestry Department has given Wildtracks’ the go ahead to start looking for possible release sites and a potential one has been found in a protected area adjacent to the Mayan Mountains. Should this prove viable, one of the only tasks that remains is to wait for Missy to reach a suitable age. Neotropical river otters are weaned at 8 months and Missy is now 7 months old. She has most of the skills that she needs to survive in the wild and I have been working on getting the others to a high enough standard. The weight problem that was mentioned in my last blog has been remedied and vets and observers have all commented that in all respects, she is a healthy and happy little otter. While she is still not fully grown at 77cm long, she is big enough to survive, and would be able to do the last of her growing in the wild if she was to be released soon. However, with a building project, a manatee mid-release, two howler monkey troops soon to be released, a horde of new monkeys to be possibly confiscated in the next few weeks, and the plethora of other things that are always going on at Wildtracks, when she will actually get released is still a mystery.

However, it is not just the animals here that are fantastic. The people that run Wildtracks and the volunteers that are forever extending their time here because they can’t get enough of it (including me) have also made this place special. A tiny little microcosm of a universe, a place where seeing people laden with baby monkeys like pack mules as they transfer them from cage to cage is absolutely normal, and where seeing me walking and swimming with an otter, or various girls lying with minute monkeys on the side of the path, is just another part of your daily routine. The friends I’ve made here are ones that I will see again, even if it means travelling to The States, Canada, Devon, some place called Barrow, or God forgive… London. This list is not exhaustive so please don’t be offended if you’re not on it: if you’re ever in Sheffield or Oxford, please look me up, and if I’m ever in your town/country you might as well expect a message.

The animals and the people all contribute to making this an amazing place. I can’t praise Wildtracks’ or its work highly enough.

My final apology is to Paul and Zoe Walker (Mr and Mrs Wildtracks): I apologise for you having to suffer me for two months, and I also apologise for the fact that you will have to suffer me again sometime in the future (if you’ll have me).

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Published by: Zoe Walker at 2013-05-06 12:55:33   [Link to this article]


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