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Sunday, April 2, 2017

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.

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.

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?

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!

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

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