Saturday, January 12, 2008

Critter Tales

Belize Zoo Cage Donation
While Tom and Selwyn spent the week continuing progress on the guest cabin, we’ve also had a crew of men here working on removing some of the cages on the property because we are donating them to the Belize Zoo.

When we came here for our last look at the property before we put in our purchase offer, we found a crew from the Zoo removing cages from the back field. At the time, the seller’s agent got us a little worked up about it, because he claimed that the Zoo did not have the seller’s permission to come onto the property and take anything from it. He decided to instigate a law suit on the seller’s behalf, which held up our closing for over a month. He tried to get us involved, but since we didn’t own the property at the time, we stayed out of it, except for telling him that we would like the back field cleaned up so the metal spikes where the cages had been removed weren’t sticking up from the ground. As is probably the case almost everywhere, the courts move slowly in Belize, so we ended up closing on the property with the cage issue still unresolved, and we didn’t worry too much more about it.

Then, shortly after Thanksgiving, we received an email from Sharon Matola, the Director of the Belize Zoo, asking us if we would be interested in donating any of the remaining cages to the Zoo. If you know us, you know that Tom and I both love animals, and the Zoo here in Belize is especially nice by zoo standards because the animals are caged in a very natural, jungle-like setting, and the animals on display always seem content. So, we decided that we’d be happy to donate some of the cages to the Zoo, and invited Sharon out here to talk to us to see what could be arranged.

Our only request was that before any more cages were removed from the property, the spikes from the already-removed cages needed to be removed from the ground. Sharon gladly agreed to this, as well as agreeing that she would put a link to our webpage (when it’s done) on the Zoo’s website. This will be great PR for us, because the Zoo website gets a lot of hits, and the Belize Zoo is a popular tourist attraction here, so this will get Moonracer Farm a lot of name recognition both in Belize, and from Belize tourists.

So, Selwyn rounded up a crew of three guys from San Antonio, and Sharon sent a crew foreman from the Zoo to supervise the cage cleanup and removal, and they worked all of last week. They accomplished an amazing amount of work this week, removing the spikes from all but two out-of-the-way rings in the back field, and removing one of the two big cages we’re donating. They plan to be back next week to remove the remaining cage and to dig up the rest of the spikes before the BFD comes on January 21st to transport the pile of cage panels to the Zoo where they’re going to assist in putting it up as part of the Zoo’s Jaguar Rehabilitation Program. And, we have another couple of small areas of jungle cleared, which will help us in our barn building effort.

This is the cage just behind the guest cabin. Nobody has done any work in or around this cage yet, so next week they’ll clear it, cut down the cage, and then remove the spikes from the ground.

Everything is done here except for making a brush pile in the middle of this ring and burning everything that was chopped down in order to clear enough space to cut the cage down and get it out of the jungle.

Barn Building
Before Sharon Matola came to talk to us, we had already decided that we are going to convert one of the three big cages behind the guest cabin into a horse barn. It will be a very unconventional barn, even by Belize standards, but we think it will be relatively easy to build and will be a safe shelter for the horses who currently have no shelter at all other than a few trees in their pastures. The cage structure is very solid, so we’re going to put a metal roof on the top to reflect the sun and provide a means of catching rainwater for the barn’s water supply. We’re going to put in a few more doors, and then build five stalls in each side by attaching stall walls to the cage structure and adding support posts inside the cage/barn. The total cage is composed of two rings, and we’re still deciding if we’ll put five stalls in each ring, or leave one ring open for hay storage. We don’t need extra room for tack and feed because we’ll be able to use the two-roomed concrete structure between the rings for this purpose. Plus, these concrete structures will remain for the two cages being removed by the Zoo, so we’ll have extra storage not far from the barn. We selected the middle cage of the three because it has the best access to the horse pasture, although since the Zoo cleared the area where the third cage was located, we may even have room to expand our pasture.

While Tom was out getting supplies, Selwyn cleared the area in and around the barn cage, which is near the cage where the Zoo guys were working. While they were working, they saw an anteater they’d disturbed heading for the hills.

Selwyn also found this red-eyed treefrog as he was chopping around the cage. The picture doesn’t really do it justice, and its eyes looked much bigger and redder than they do in this picture.

Well, it happened. Tom got a botfly, also called a beefworm. We’ve heard a couple of different versions of how you get them, but the general theory is that somehow some bug gets its eggs under your skin, the egg turns into a larvae, and the larvae creates a nice little home for itself. We have a neighbor who had one in his back that apparently got quite large and required a trip to a dermatologist when he returned to the States, but because we’ve been getting them off the horses, especially Tony, ever since we’ve been here, we’ve learned what they look like and how to tell a botfly from a regular bug bite before it goes too far through its larvae lifecycle phase. Tom confirmed with Selwyn that the suspicious spot on his arm was a botfly, so Selwyn found a tree with sap that sticks to the skin and covers the larvae’s breathing hole, got a glob of the sap, and stuck it on Tom’s arm with instructions to leave it there for 24 hours. The theory is that the worm will stick its head out to breathe, get stuck in the sap, die, and be able to be pulled out, and as far as we can tell, that’s what happened. The next morning, Selwyn picked the sap off of Tom’s arm, and was able to grab the larvae’s head with a pair of tweezers and pull it out. It was very small – Tom and I both needed glasses to even really see it – but Tom said that when Selwyn was pulling it out, it felt like it was being yanked out the bone in his arm. Now, a few days later, the spot on his arm, which had been less than a half inch in diameter, is probably less than an eighth inch around, and Tom said it stopped hurting or itching as soon as the larvae was out of the skin. And, I even managed to watch the extraction without fainting!

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