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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Animal Rescue XIII: Variegated Squirrel returns to the wild

Although many attempts at wild animal rescue do not end as one would wish, sometimes there are happy endings. Several days ago, a Variegated squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides) was rescued from illegal hunters in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. This species is abundant in the protected area, and common throughout much of the Pacific region of Nicaragua. Although not endangered, any wild animal inside a protected area is part of the national heritage and therefore is protected.
variegated squirrel
"Mango" nibbles on a cucumber at the dinner table. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
The poor squirrel arrived practically dead. Her injuries were severe, and she was semi-conscious. She could not use the paws of one side at all, and she suffered convulsions, and pain was acute. She slept almost all the first two days. We force-fed her milk the second day, and then she nibbled on a little mango. The third day, she ate more mango, but she was untidy, and covered in her own urine (a good sign, no serious abdominal injuries), and mango pulp. Hence, her nickname.
sciurus variegatoides
Mango plays affectionately. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
The gaping wound on the left side of Mango's neck healed rapidly, helped out by donations of antibiotic ointment from students of Apoyo Spanish School, and lots of rest. Her right eye remains cloudy, and apparently is completely without sight.
sciurus variegatoides
Mango, the Variegated Squirrel, has adopted Jeffrey's shoulder. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Mango began exploring the environment beyond her cage only during the past few days. At first, she was terribly shy, and bonded to Jeffrey, who had rescued her and was handling her daily. She wanted to be climbing on people, not trees. The dogs sniffed her and were reminded to treat her kindly, in case she wandered into their path. Last night, she wandered considerably throughout the house and patio, with the old dog Cuco behind her. After a few rounds, she returned to Jeffrey and stayed attached to him while playing, until she fell asleep on his shoulder. Animal rescue sometimes can have affectionate rewards!
variegated squirrel
Only a week earlier, we thought she would not live! What a miracle. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
The previous day's play must have been sufficient to encourage her to take on more challenges. To think that just two weeks ago, she lived permanently in the trees, but now she did not even look up, was baffling. This morning, Mango was released to the patio again, while the wild squirrels were very active in the trees overhead. She ran in one and another direction, and then disappeared with her friends.
variegated squirrel
Variegated squirrels return to the wild readily, even after being handled by humans. Mango is our fifth successful re-introduction of this species in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Mango has not gone far, but she has made the definitive step back to the wild. This is an easy transition for a squirrel, because it is a social animal, and it feeds on things that are easily found. We only had to give her the opportunity to regain her strength and confidence. She won't be able to jump as before, but she appears to be strong enough and happy. So we, too are happy, because wild animals should live free, not in cages
variegated squirrel
Mango, a Variegated Squirrel, feels very comfortable on Jeffrey's shoulder. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Mango has now found the other squirrels that she knew, so, we are hoping they watch out for her. She has superficial injuries such as damage to her tail and scars on her jaw, as well as more serious injuries such as blindness. To think that only a week ago, neighbors were suggesting we sacrifice her! Additionally, she may have lost the wariness and instinct that is vital to survival as a squirrel in the wild. We have learned a little more about caring for squirrels, and she has a chance to live and die as a wild animal.
Variegated Squirrel
Variegated squirrels are very affectionate, when given the opportunity. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
FUNDECI/GAIA studies and advocates for wildlife in Nicaragua. Both Nicaraguans and foreigners can join forces us to make Nicaragua a better place for wildlife. Biologists and other scientists, veterinarians, and interested folks are welcome, as interns, researchers, and volunteers. You don't have to have a special talent to contribute.
variegated squirrel
Squirrels are asleep before nightfall, so this is past Mango's bedtime. She slept more than an hour on Jeffrey's shoulder. Photo Pablo Somarriba. 
Mango the Miracle Squirrel has gone on to live and die in the forest, not in a cage. We at GAIA receive requests to take other animals daily. We need help, allies who would like to participate in the rescue of wild animals in Nicaragua. If you would like to help with the costs of animal care, we are also grateful for donations. Please contact us if you would like to make a small donation to pay for food, infrastructure, and veterinary care for the rescued wild animals! For just eight dollars, for instance, a bag of cashews feeds our two macaws an entire week.
animal rescue
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