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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rescate Animal XVII: El Milano Chico

Cuando pensamos en la gente de raíces humildes en Nicaragua, tenemos una tendencia de pensar que sea gente sin capacidad de actuar por si misma. En realidad, los nicaragüenses pobres hacen y dicen, escuchan y deciden. El ejemplo de Francisco Aburto, un obrero que vive en el barrio Villa Americas, demuestra como somos los nicaragüenses. 

milano chico
Francisco demuestra el Milano Chico rescatado en la zona oriental de Managua. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
Francisco escuchó una bulla en un predio al lado de su sitio de trabajo en la parte oriental de Managua. Varios zanates pegaban a un animal, otro ave, y Francisco decidió salvar al animal afectado. Al tenerlo al animal golpeado en la mano, se dio cuenta que es algún tipo de ave rapaz. Se encariño con el pequeño animal y decidió buscar ayuda para que se componga y vuelva a tener su vida normal. 

Gampsonyx swainsonii
El deseo de ayudar al animal fue compartido entre toda la familia. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
Francisco lo llevó a su casa y con una jaula prestada, le dio refugio. Probaba comidas, pero vio que el ave prefería ratones vivos! El instinto de cazar dominaba en el pequeño animal! Entre los miembros de su familia surgió un debate sobre qué tipo de animal es. Todos estaban de acuerdo que es un ave rapaz, pero no parece a ninguna especie que ellos conocen. Francisco mismo lanzó la hipótesis de que se trata de un Halcón Peregrino, solo que sea muy pequeño. 

El Milano Chico se ve en excelente estado de salud. Por juvenil, tiene mucho color en el pecho. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
Francisco y su familia mantuvo saludable al animal con muchos ratones, pero sabían que no se trataba de una mascota. El pequeño gavilán es un animal silvestre, y no quiere vivir en una jaula al anotojo de alguna persona. Por esto, buscaban ayuda para que el Milano Chico pudiera volver a vivir en su estado natural. Francisco y su familia desean que ese animalito viva y muera en el bosque, no en una jaula!

El Milano Chico es arisco, pero bello! Foto Jeffrey McCrary
Francisco y su familia no tienen mucho. Viven en un barrio obrero, sin ningún lujo, pero tienen interés en los animales y en su entorno y quieren aprender, hacer, contribuir. Gracias a ellos, este animalito tiene otra oportunidad de vivir y volar libre

animal silvestre
Pronto vas a estar libre! Foto Jeffrey McCrary
El Milano Chico (Gampsonyx swainsonii) es un gavilán muy poco documentado en Nicaragua. Se ven parados sobre los postes al lado del camino sobre la Carretera a León.

Pearl Kite
Por ahora, este animalito tiene una nueva casa. Y luego,  a volar y no regresar. Hasta pronto! Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
Milano Chico
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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Animal Rescue XVI: Macaws in Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Life is good when you are caring for injured animals. Click on the photo to learn more about Bumbelina and Midorna, our most loved members of Estacion Biologica. Photo Jen Moran.
Everyone likes pet animals. Animals bring happiness to our life in a lot of ways, by showing affection, their physical attractiveness, and by humoring us with their actions. Animals like dogs and cats have evolved thousands of years in the presence of humans, to the point that they are incapable of living distant from us. It might even seem that we are co-dependent on them, too, sometimes we can't live without them. 

These two macaws have been rescued from the pet trade, and we care for them at Estacion Biologica in Laguna de Apoyo. Photo Jen Moran.
We humans have a disconcerting tendency to interfere with the other species with whom we share this planet, however. It isn't enough that we eat some, use others to make housing, clothing and utensils. We like the idea of having animals around us, doing our bidding. We see a beautiful animal such as a macaw in the forest, and we think, "I want one". Even the precolombian people were known to capture these majestic animals and keep them as pets. It is difficult for us to accept and appreciate animals in the wild without giving in to the urge to dominate them, by capturing or killing them. 
Feather-plucking is one of several responses to years of captivity for animals that were never meant to be in cages. This bird can never return to the wild, so we are giving her the best treatment we can. Photo Jen Moran. 
Our fascination with wild animals has some perverse consequences. We insist on demonstrating our strength and courage by dominating wild animals by riding wild bulls and roping calves in rodeos, for instance. Ernest Hemingway wrote long and eloquent of his fascination with hunting animals and with the bullfight, a continuing tradition in Spain and Latin America, in which the bullfighter is pitted in a life-and-death struggle with a large, angry animal, albeit armed with deadly lances. We all know this to be an unfair fight, but millions are thrilled when the animal is conquered violently. 

This bird's broken wing has doomed her to a long lifetime in captivity. The pet trade in wild animals is extremely cruel, and should never be supported. Please do not ever pay for a wild animal! Photo Jen Moran.
Among most of us today, bullfights and rodeos are not popular. But our fascination with wild animals is such that having a wild animal as a pet is common and few people criticize this practice. However, unlike dogs and cats, wild animals suffer greatly in captivity, in ways that we may ignore as pet owners. 

These two birds are best friends and inseparable. Both are severely psychologically and physically scarred by their handling in the pet trade. Photo Jen Moran.
The pet trade in wild animals has been devastating to wildlife in Nicaragua. Today, very few people have ever seen a macaw in the wild. Nicaragua has two species, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus). Until about 1983, a flock of Scarlet Macaws was easily spotted flying over urban Managua, during the day, returning to roost in the Chiltepe Peninsula before dark. The pet trade took that flock away. Along the Pacific region of Nicaragua, all of which is native habitat for this glorious animal, only perhaps ten or fifteen animals remain, in the northwest corner, in the Cosiguina Peninsula. It is sad that one can not enjoy these majestic animals by birdwatching, but rather, we have to watch them through the bars of cages in zoos and the homes of wealthy individuals. 

Although both these birds suffer dramatic psychological effects from captivity, they are dying for attention. Our Eco-Warrior Volunteers at Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo help with their care. Photo Jen Moran.
Most of the wild animals we rescue at GAIA end up getting released into the wild, if all goes well, and they have their opportunity to live and die in the forest, not in a cage as subjects of the whims of humans. These two animals, however, will never return, thanks to the horrible abuse they have received in captivity. We are giving them the wildest experience possible, with cages that look to the forest, lots of space, and as diversified a set of experiences as we can manage. We hope that through our small efforts, Nicaragua is a better place for wild animals and humans, alike.

These macaws will love you!! But they still bite! Photo Jen Moran.
Would you like to help us care for rescued wild animals? Please consider volunteering with GAIA or making a donation. We need spare cages, money for food and veterinary costs, and volunteers to spend time serving them! Please contact us.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Animal Rescue XV: Life behind bars

We are amazed and saddened when we hear yet another story of "wild animal rescue" with an all-too common thread. The story begins with a person with a wild animal in a cage, accompanied by photography thanks to Jen Moran. Not just any type of person, however; this story begins with a person who pretends to be socially and environmentally concerned and conscious. That's the hook that makes the rest of this archetypal story so sad. 

This Collared Aracari never asked to be put in a cage. Photo Jen Moran.
This bird is called a Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus). It is one of the two species of toucans found in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, and by far the most common. Collared Aracari tend to be seen in the forest canopy, flying about in family groups. Their diet is principally fruits, but their long bill with razor-edge sides provide toucans with an effective tool for predation. Small birds, especially chicks in the nest, can be consumed by the toucans. Their size, bright colors and substantial bill warn other birds, and they are generally feared by the smaller birds in the forest. 

Collared aracari
It is obvious that this Collared Aracari seeks freedom! Photo Jen Moran.
Those same bright colors and distinctive body that make the Collared Aracari a prominent member of the forests here, also bring its attention to its most dangerous predator: Homo sapiens. As if life in the forest is not complicated enough, toucans attract the attention of humans, who have learned that people will pay money for them. Although the Collared Aracari rarely descends to the lower levels of the forest, it is particularly vulnerable to capture, because it roosts and nests in tree cavities, where humans participating in the illegal trade in wild animals can spot them and reach them with relative ease. 

illegal pet trade
Such a majestic animal should never be forced to live in captivity. Photo Jen Moran.
Lots of birds live in accessible places, but when the birds are as spectacular as a Collared Aracari, someone is likely to follow them, learn their habits, capture them, and then sell them for money. That is where the supposedly well-meaning, well-educated and conscientious people of this world come in. Just seeing a toucan-any of the several species existing in Nicaragua-brings a state of awe to the observer. Its grace and beauty are elusive in nature, to be valued only by the hardiest and most disciplined and prepared birdwatchers. Suddenly The Discovery Channel is live and before us, when we see this bird up close. And as is often depicted on The Discovery Channel, our imagination is inspired to dream of becoming the toucan whisperer. We are all motivated by our consumer culture, to acquire what is attractive. We may go to perverse lengths to justify our desire to possess and control. Some people end up justifying the payment of money to a person engaging in illegal trafficking of wild animals, in spite of all their knowledge and perspective. It is sad to see birds like this little toucan in the pet trade, because they are obviously happier free and not in a cage.

Pteroglossus torquatus
The Collared Aracari is common and prominent in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. This rescue bird daily hears the calls of his free friends. Soon, when ready, this bird will meet them up close! Photo Jen Moran.
With astonishing frequency, we are contacted by people with animals such as this one. A few people are honest about their mistake: they bought an animal that really needed to be free and not in a cage. The majority, however, try to justify their purchase of a captured and caged animal, by claiming that by purchasing the animal, they can help to rescue it. It's as if these people had never taken a simple course in economics, on the law of supply and demand. Simply put, by investing money into the supply chain for the illegal pet trade in wild animals, these supposedly well-meaning individuals empower the people who destroy the natural resource base, guaranteeing doom for this toucan's relatives. 

animal rescue
This is not the way to live! Wild animals should live and die in the forest, not in a cage. Photo Jen Moran.
This is where we come in at GAIA: We receive, care for, rehabilitate, and release wild animals. This process has included lots of type of animals, from monkeys to wrens, over the years. We have made a small contribution to the process of educating people about the wild animal trade, as we go along. The animals receive the best humane treatment we can give, and when appropriate, they are released where they have the best opportunity to reintegrate themselves into the wild. 

Soon, this bird will return to the wild, to live and die as nature intended, free from its greatest menace. Meanwhile, we are learning from this bird, especially we are learning how misguided and destructive is the the illegal traffic in wild animals. Every day we find yet another well-educated person in Nicaragua with some monkey, parrot, or other animal that deserves to be away from the claws of humans. We tell them this practice needs to end and they need to be involved in ending it, although not everyone wants to hear such a message.

We at GAIA would like to do more, too. We have hungry mouths to feed and transport and infrastructure costs. We need your help. Your donation can provide a second chance for many animals, and help to put an end to the illegal trade in wild animals in Nicaragua. We want to build more cages and make a bigger impact. There are many animals that we can not take, because we do not have the resources to do so. You can volunteer to help us with wild animal rescue. Our animals need people to feed and clean cages, and perform repairs and maintenance on cages, and help to keep the animals happy and every day coming closer to returning to the wild. Not everyone can come and give their time, however. By making a ten-dollar donation, you can provide fresh fruit and other appropriate foods to this toucan for an entire month. By donating eighty dollars, you can provide the materials for another large enclosure which would aid in the preparation of animals for release. Please donate to GAIA for this worthy cause. 

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Day in the Life at Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo

The first component of a visit to Estacion Biologica, no matter how you look at it, is Laguna de Apoyo. It is not enough to see it from afar. One must get in and live the lake in all its warmth. Laguna de Apoyo is important to conservation and biodiversity specialists because of its fish, but any visitor to the lake must simply get in and experience it. Swimming is an essential activity to any visit.

Where would you rather be?
At Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo, something is always going on, beyond just being pretty. People are studying the Spanish language and Nicaraguan culture, caring for injured and rescued wild animals, studying the wild nature and social aspects of the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, or just relaxing and getting ready for the next big event. Meals are a great time to come by, because there is always a story to share. Come and study Spanish with us, volunteer, or just share some time and conversation.
Reading on the patio at Estacion Biologica, with macaws and laundry, just another day.
We try to live as close to nature as possible. We don't use lots of harsh chemicals, and the trees literally drape over us. Sometimes monkeys awaken us at night, driven by a full moon when they are foraging for a hard-to-reach mango. A component of the wild nature that sometimes unsettles the uninitiated is the occasional tarantula. These animals are around and eliminate small vermin, but do not bite humans unprovoked. We don't kill them, we simply encourage them to take their hunts for food outside.


The monkeys are to be experienced in any trip to Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. The most common monkey species is the Golden-mantled Howler Monkey, but White-faced Capuchin Monkeys are also found in the reserve. Neither wants to be a pet, and wild animals should be allowed to be born, live and die in the forest, not in a cage.
howler monkey
Howler monkeys eat leaves and some ripe fruits.
Butterflies count among the most lovely aspects of the forest inside Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Some are brilliantly colored, others with subtle colors and patterns that hide them, but on closer inspection, their designs are noted for complexity and elegance.
A Hamadryas butterfly rests in its typical wings-down pose.
Any visitor to Nicaragua notes that dogs are ubiquitous and often, poorly treated. GAIA is working with the National Assembly of Nicaragua to implement better laws and regulations to enforce humane treatment of animals, both domesticated and wild. Our beloved Bella is always willing to go for a walk or some intimate discussion.
Bella is a beloved member of our family at Estacion Biologica.
The forest in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is fabulous, but under constant threat. GAIA has planted thousands of trees and husbanded them to mature sizes. These forests are habitat to wild cats, monkeys, iguanas, and many more animals.
You never know who you might see at Laguna de Apoyo. Photo Jen Moran. 
We want you to visit, to chat and learn, and if you would like, to stay and share more. Come and visit, study Spanish, or help us save wild nature in Nicaragua. Please come by!
GAIA volunteer Jen Moran (photo credit) joins the HEAT crew in scaling a tree. 
You can help us keep nature wild in Nicaragua, by volunteering your time with us or making a small donation to support our projects in wild nature conservation.

Laguna de Apoyo
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