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Monday, April 10, 2017

Laguna de Apoyo at dawn

Laguna de Apoyo is called a "laguna", but this term is neither the generally used term in English, nor in Spanish. It is a water-filled volcanic crater, resulting from a huge, volcanic explosion about 23,000 years ago. The lake that occupies the bottom of the crater has no open-water connection to any other body of water, although the water table flows into and out of the lake, and basically defines the lake level.

The lake and the terrestrial interior of the volcanic crater are designated a protected area by the Nicaraguan government, called Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. There are several natural resource-related issues which justify and focus the conservation issues.

Among the issues that make the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve a special place, are the views. The lake provides recreation for lots of people who benefit from seeing and interacting with the natural features, especially the lake itself. Being on the shore or in the lake gives one a view of water, forest and sky, a perfect combination.

Laguna de Apoyo
Laguna de Apoyo at dawn, from the shore in front of Estacion Biologica. Photo Andras Dorgai.
Especially around holiday periods, the lakeshore becomes a festive gathering spot for locals. The beachfront before Estacion Biologica has always been managed as public-access beach for the benefit of all, in accordance with Nicaraguan law. Many hotels and private properties try to deny locals access to the lakeshore before their properties, in order to provide their clients, usually foreigners and sometimes wealthy Nicaraguans, an exclusive experience, even though laws clearly make all lakeshore public property.

During periods that are less touristic, the beach areas of Laguna de Apoyo may be visited by fewer people. On almost any day, the beach is very quiet at dawn. It's a great moment to see the lake, as light emerges over the edge of the crater, when there is little human activity to distract.

Laguna de Apoyo
Dawn on Lake Apoyo, from a kayak. Photo Andras Dorgai.

There is something special to enjoy personally, alone, and quietly, at dawn on Laguna de Apoyo. The sounds of people, music, cars and the like, are much lower. The wind is usually much lower, too. Birds can be heard from long distances, even monkeys. The shapes of ripples in the water, and the clouds in the sky, help to make a peaceful start to the day.

Lagua de Apoyo
The lake is often calm at dawn. Photo Wendy Van Kooten.

Laguna de Apoyo
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Donations to Gaia

We at GAIA feel honored when people want to donate their time, money or materials to help us in our objectives to protect the wild natural resources of Nicaragua. Some people help with our activities as Eco-Warrior Environmental Volunteers, conducting lots of tasks that are important to nature such as reforestation, maintenance, and assistance with wild animal rescue. We love to share our time and efforts with people who share our opinions about the importance of protecting wild nature.

Not everyone can give a block of time to a project such as reforestation. Some people prefer to help by making a small financial donation, or provide some of the materials that are required for our operations, such as foods for animals and containers for planting trees. We want to express our gratitude to the many people who have given small, or sometimes, not so small, material or financial donations to help us do what we do. A few such donations received during the most recent days are mentioned below.

Seeds were donated by the owners of Apoyo Lodge-thank you!
The great folks at Apoyo Lodge dropped by to share with us and they shared their wealth by donating sunflower seeds. It is worth noting that Apoyo Lodge has changed hands, and the new proprietors are particularly kind and conscientious, as is evidenced by their donation of sunflower seeds for the benefit important nutrients.  Our rescue macaw has a flexible diet but, like all parrots, requires certain components, among them, seeds which carry certain small-scale nutrients that this bird may not obtain from the other foods in its daily diet in captivity.

The kinds veterinarians at WorldVets donated a surgery for Juju the kinkajou, and some juicy fruits which were readily devoured. 
Steve and the team from WorldVets donated a costly treatment of surgeries to Juju, a wild kinkajou that was found badly beaten in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. The animal was given a chance to live by these operations, which included the removal of a foot and an eye, and closure of an open wound on one cheek. The team dropped in a couple of times to see Juju, and they brought the animal some fruit. From all appearances, watermelon ranks highly in the list of preferred foods for a kinkajou. We often receive severely injured wildlife, and sometimes the success of seeing them heal is worth it all!

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Juju the kinkajou likes watermelon. Photo Andras Dorgai. 

There are lots of options for a visit to Laguna de Apoyo these days. The people who visit us often want to be involved in some way in doing something good for the environment. Part of keeping the environment safe for wild nature is patrolling to reduce vandalism, hunting, other bad things that harm the public good. We at Gaia support the local institutions in the ways we can. We had noticed the local patrol motorcycle for the police department was using a completely treadless tire, worn dangerously bald from overuse. Mark Connell, a student of Apoyo Spanish School, took note of our concern and provided a cash donation which covered most of the cost of the tire.

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Mark Connell was a student of Apoyo Spanish School who donated funds to help us purchase a motorcycle tire for the local police motorcycle. Thank you, Mark! Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We compared prices and models and acquired the best fit for the job, and made an official delivery to the police representative. Now he can participate in hot pursuit safely!

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Our local police representative in Laguna de Apoyo desperately needed a new front tire for his patrol motorcycle, which was donated by Mark Connell and funds from Gaia. Here, Juan Carlos presents the new tire along with Pablo and Mileidy from Gaia. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The next time we saw him pass by on the motorcycle, we stopped to ask about the tire, and sure enough, he had already had it mounted on the bike.

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Our local police motorcycle now sports a fully new front tire! Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We don't have any large bank accounts to fund projects without some sort of financing, which is a cruel reality for most not-for-profits that are really doing things of benefit to our society. We depend on contributions from our allies and friends. Sometimes, the contributions are small, but really, no contribution is ever to small. Every penny can be put to use in the protection of wild nature in Nicaragua. Missie and Stephen Lavergne recently gave us two (yes, two!) animal transporters-not exactly a small contribution. The transporters are in nearly-new condition and capable of handling animals of different sizes. Who said Christmas doesn't come in April? It will now be more feasible to transport animals-both wildlife and pets such as Lassie.

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Lassie tries our our new large-animal transporter, donated by Missy and Stephen Lavergne. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
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The smaller animal transporter donated generously by Stephen and Missy Lavergne is just right for small and medium-sized animals. Thank you! Photo Andras Dorgai.

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Lassie, our newest pet addition, was rescued from the street in Managua. For the next long trip, she now has some very comfortable conditions for traveling. Photo Andras Dorgai.
Andras Dorgai has been learning Spanish and helping as an Eco-Warrior Environmental Volunteer. Not only has he provided lots of great help, he also donated a bag of walnuts to the animals. Anyone who has been in Nicaragua knows that they can be very expensive and the cost can seem even more prohibitive when contrasting to the incomes found in Nicaragua. It is not easy for us to keep the animals fed with high-quality foods that meet their special, nutritional needs without donations. Midorna, our rescue Scarlet Macaw, needs nuts as part of her diet, so she is getting a small quantity daily.

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Dorgai is passing a walnut to Midorna, part of their daily ritual. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Lots of others have donated items and cash recently, particularly in support of our studies of the wild natural resources in the area. The examples mentioned here are presented to demonstrate the diversity of ways to help available. We want to thank everyone who has made a donation. If you would like to donate to Gaia, please click on the "escudo" below or just come by Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo any time!

Gaia
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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Animal Rescue XXI: Jamaican Fruit Bat

Bats give most people a creepy feeling when they intrude into a certain safe-space that people have just for animals that could cause irreparable harm. Seeing bats up in the sky is generally acceptable, because most people have come to terms with bats being "up there" and doing the things bats do, for as long as anyone can remember. But bats in the house, for instance, provoke a concern that comes from the subconscious, that is not easily controlled. Not even great admiration for Batman can dissolve the uneasiness they provoke.

Seeing a bat up close in a safe, controlled situation, however, usually works to endear people to them. Bats, after all, have faces, and they are small, and most of them, we know consciously, don't drink the blood of unfortunate humans. Most bats fall into one or another of three categories of diet: fruit, insects, and nectar. All of those bats provide tremendous environmental services that make our natural world work better. They keep down pesky insects, disperse seeds, and fertilize flowers.

We were recently blessed with a project - a juvenile Jamaican Fruit Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis), not fully grown, that was found on the ground and would not fly. It would, however, drink and chew fruits. We at Gaia decided we would take on the project to rescue and try to bring the bat back to a healthy animal, if there was something we could do.

Artibeus jamaicensis
This little guy did not want to fly, but readily drank milk. Photo Jeffrey McCrary

The bat was still not nearly fully grown. As a mammal, it thoroughly enjoyed drinking milk, and it would suck on watermelon and other juicy fruits. We gave it plenty of food, at intervals of less than two hours over a ten-day period.

Artibeus jamaicensis
Eco-Warrior Volunteers diligently cared for the baby bat, feeding and cleaning the animal at frequent intervals. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 

Our Eco-Warrior Enviromental Volunteers were enthusiastic about the animal. The baby bat had all the expected basic, biological functions, but did not grow or get stronger, and eventually succumbed. Meanwhile, we learned a few things.

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The bat readily sucked milk out of a cloth, but paper was more easily extracted from his mouth after a feeding. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

The first thing we learned, is that a bat is capable of responding positively to human attention and comfort. This little animal evidently enjoyed the attention and drank surprisingly large quantities at times. This all made us feel that the effort was not in vain. The bat did not live long, but it was not suffering and it even seemed to enjoy its life at moments.

Eco-Warrior Enviromental Volunteers
Another feeding session with the baby bat. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We also learned that we can try to do things that may not always succeed. Success is to often defined by the absence of failure. Even though we did not see the bat grow to an independent creature and fly away to live in the wild, we learned and gave, and this one bat also gained a benefit, by living comfortably a few more days. So, we are happy.

The attempted rescue of this little animal also gave us the opportunity to share with others the story of bats as beneficial creatures. Not all animals we rescue survive to return to the wild, but we try to give them all a chance to live and, if it happens, to die with dignity, especially those animals affected by humans. Some, but not all the stories of wild animal rescue are positive, and some are downright tragic. All of us know, sadly, that the antagonistic relationship that humans sustain with wildlife requires new ways to engage people. We hope that this story reaches people who have not considered what happens to wildlife in the vicinity of humans. This little bat has gone on, but here, the story of this animal continues to reach people who may begin to consider that much of the harsh treatment toward wildlife is unnecessary and even counterproductive. Our staff, visitors, local neighbors and volunteers, and now, our readers can consider that even animals such as this little bat deserve both life and death with dignity.

A bat adorns the wall in Laguna de Apoyo. Photo Pablo Somarriba.

We are engaged in different types of activities at Gaia, not only wild animal rescue. Please read through our blog and visit us, to discuss with us the ways we can protect wild natural resources in Nicaragua. We hope you are engaged, too. If you would like to help us with cages, food, time, or money, to provide care for wild animals in distress, we would be grateful. Please contact us or drop by at Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, any time.


Artibeus jamaicensis
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Animal rescue XX: Kinkajou (honey bear)

Animal rescue
The kinkajou is much more inclined to walk upright, after surgery. Thanks to the team of veterinarians who donated their time and resources to this animal. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.

For some people, seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is a marvel that should be cherished. Unfortunately, we as humans have been conditioned to react to the sight of a wild animal by trying to kill it. The urge to manifest one's dominance over weaker individuals can be seen all too often where wild animals and humans meet. Far too often, when some wild animal appears near people, someone takes it upon himself to try to cause the animal pain or death.

This scenario recently occurred in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, resulting in a wounded wild animal of a species not often seen. A kinkajou (Potos flavus) was recently brought to us at Estación Biológica by the park guards in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. The animal had been severely injured, with deep cuts and abrasions to the face, both eyes badly damaged, and one paw almost completely severed. We placed it into a cage where it rested and soon arose to the smell of fruit. The animal devoured an entire banana and part of a watermelon, then went back into a trance.

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A wounded kinkajou was recently found in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Jeffrey McCrary
The injuries that the animal suffered could not have been given by another wild animal; some person or persons who meant the animal harm. His face had been struck with a hard object, perhaps a rock. A leg was nearly severed. The animal was blinded and lame, with deep wounds on the face and leg. Nonetheless, the animal was hungry and strong when it arrived at Estación Biológica.


We observed the animal for a day, and sought a veterinarian. Soon enough, a veterinarian volunteered the extensive services necessary to give the kinkajou an opportunity to survive. An eye was amputated, as was a foot. A badly infected wound on the cheek was cleaned and closed.


The enormous appetite of the kinkajou was manifested from the day it arrived. In spite of his extensive injuries to his nose and face, its sense of smell would lead him to any fruit placed in the cage. It ate ravenously.


The poor kinkajou was taken to a clinic where kind and caring veterinarians gave it a second chance at life. Without a paw and an eye, it is not clear what quality of life it may have in the future. The animal will be observed to see how it recovers, how much eyesight remains, and what conditions could be provided that will be good for the animal.

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Gaia Program Director Jeffrey McCrary gives a banana to the wounded kinkajou, which is eaten quickly. Photo Andras Dorgai. 

The kinkajou (Potus flavus) is also called, in English, honey bear, for its rounded face, solid color, and tendency to eat sweet fruits. The species is found over a wide range in the tropics of the Americas, but is little seen because of its strongly nocturnal and arboreal tendencies. Its prehensile tail and feet make it at home in the trees. The kinkajou is superficially similar to monkeys and even cats, but is a close relative to the raccoon, both in the Family Mustelidae. Its diet is mostly fruit, in spite of long fangs and sharp claws which are used by other members of the same family to hunt. Although not particularly stealthy, its habits make it largely unknown to people who live with them nearby. Even the park guards at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve had never seen a kinkajou before!

We can only speculate on the motivations of the culprits that harmed this poor animal. Perhaps they wanted to make it a pet, given that some famous people today even think having kinkajous as pets is a good thing. Perhaps it was a simple act of savagery, of anger and machismo that was not diluted by any other emotion than to show one's power over a harmless animal. Harming animals in the forest seems to be a pastime for far too many people.

The staff and Eco-Warrior Volunteers at Gaia are caring for it, giving the wounded animal food and cleaning up. We are in need of food-bananas, papayas, watermelon, dog food, beans and rice.... all of which require funding. We also need caregivers to spend there time as volunteers. More enclosures, cages, and even fencing materials are needed. You are welcome to scan through our blog entries to find more animal rescue accounts. Can you donate a small amount of your time or money to help us to care for this animal?

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The kinkajou relaxes among the remains of several slices of watermelon after a feast. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We at Gaia think that providing a small refuge for wounded or mistreated,wild animals is vital to a protected, natural area. Many animals become injured or in need as a result of conflicts with humans over habitat that is supposedly dedicated for their use. Although the actual number of animals saved is low, they can provide the foundations for conversations and start people on the thought processes that may challenge one's view of nature here.

We need your participation to accomplish this. Please visit us at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo, and meet the kinkajou and other rescue animals that we may helping. We want your support and participation, so please visit us!

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Juju, as the kinkajou has been named, devours a banana within moments of sensing its presence. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

kinkajou
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