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martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

A Taman-what???

One the 18th of August we received a call from Malvina – the owner of Laguna Blanca. She had been contacted that morning by the fiscalia (a branch of the police) in Santa Rosa. A family in a community near Santa Rosa called Lima had discovered a tamandua hiding in their garden and had called the police to come and deal with it. Now I can almost hear you asking, as did the volunteers, a taman-WHAT?? A tamandua is a small, arboreal anteater. They are significantly smaller than the giant anteater of the Cerrado and they live in Transitional Forest and Atlantic Forest of Laguna Blanca. They are white with a black “vest” pattern on their fur. They are extremely strong and have large claws used for breaking open termite mounds, digging through hard ground and ripping open rotting logs. The volunteers and I had been in Asuncion the night before and the trip back seemed to take much longer than the normal 5 hours as we all crossed our fingers that we would get to see and release the tamandua in the reserve. We were in luck. The police brought the tamandua to the reserve in a small wooden crate early in the afternoon and when we arrived at the reserve in the afternoon, the tamandua was sound asleep in the chicken coop. It turned out to a female and Jorge described her as “muy pansa” – meaning she had a great big belly! This made me suspect/hope that she may in fact have been pregnant! Tamandua can be nocturnal or diurnal – meaning that they can move either during the day or the night and do not tend to have a strict pattern to their activity. Since it was a hot day we decided to let her sleep until dusk and then release her into the Transitional Forest. As the sun began to set Jorge and I entered the chicken coop to put her back in her box to take her to be released in the Transitional Forest. I was rather apprehensive as we entered, since I have no hands-on experience with any anteater species, and didn’t know whether or not she would be aggressive. This may seem silly as, like the giant anteater, tamandua’s have long, soft mouths that lack teeth but with a long tongue used to collect ants and termites. However, it was not biting I was afraid of. The little female was equipped with large formidable claws and I definitely did not fancy being scratched or having to treat anyone’s wounds! Thankfully my fears were unfounded, as aggression didn’t seem to be a big part of her personality. She continued to sleep, curled into a little ball and only began making hisses of mild protest when Jorge levered her into her box again. Though small, tamanduas are solid muscle and the box wasn’t very light. Jorge and I took a side each and walked her over to the Para La Tierra house where we got the rest of the volunteers and tied up the very confused dogs so they couldn’t follow. We all headed down the Mbopi trail towards the forest. By this point she was completely awake and looking for an escape. She began to walk up and down in the small box making it even harder to carry. Then she started ripping at the wood with her large claws. About halfway down Mbopi, the tamandua decided she had had enough. With one great pull, she broke the wooden box and clambered out onto the path. She made no attempt to run away. She turned to look at us for a minute while everyone’s cameras snapped wildly, then trundled off slowly into the forest. We followed. She climbed into a tree giving everyone the perfect opportunity for some great pictures. Though she hissed at us at first she soon came down from the tree and walked further into the forest where she immediately began foraging – settling in to her new home. Hopefully we will see her again on one of our camera traps soon, maybe even with babies! It definitely was a unique and exciting experience to get so close to one of Laguna Blanca’s more elusive inhabitants! Until next time, Becca