Adventures through South America...

October 9, 2009

My First Puma Bite


It´s been a busy couple of weeks here, so I haven´t had much chance to write.

Anyway, I am now at Inti Wara Yassi, the animal refuge. I spent my first day working with the monkeys in the monkey park, and then moved on to a puma. It has definitely been challenging! My puma´s name is Gato. He has been at the park since it opened (12 years ago) and is now about 15. Pumas only live for about 17 years, so he is fairly old. When he was a baby, a farmer killed his mother for her fur and sold him to a circus. At the circus they broke his back legs and made him jump through hoops of fire. The director here caught wind of a circus passing through and went to rescue the animals. Alas, Gato!

He is very docile, and will never be released into the wild, due to being around humans most of his life. He sleeps in a cage in the jungle and I go up daily at 8 am to spend the day with him. We rotate days at the beach with days in the jungle. He LOVES going to the beach and I get to cross the river with him while he swims. We keep him on a cord that is attached to our waist and he basically leads us where he wants to go. So more or less, I´m being walked by a puma. ha ha

He is really mellow, walks slowly and a lot, naps sometimes, loves to drink bottled water from my hand, hisses at me when I wake him up from his naps, hates noise and people talking, is not bothered by other animals (except for tejons...which scare me too!), likes to be petted but not often, doesn´t eat much and grumbles...A LOT!

He is really old and doesn´t like to stop walking. He bit me for the first time last week, but it was not serious, just some bruises. We help feed him grass when we are at the beach (in order to induce vomiting to help his digestion - he gets frustrated when he can´t eat it himself) and after he is done eating the grass, he will come up to us and playfully bite our knees...when we say ¨No mas¨(no more) he will stop and then he will lick our leg until he is ready to vomit.

He has also tried to bite me after getting playful in the shrubs or jungle at the beach, but it is more like he is pretending to bite us until we say No Mas. He´s even lazy when he bites.
We usually try to get back to his cage for dinner around 4:30, but he can be extremely stubborn and slow so sometimes it´s 6 before we get back!

Gato seems to like me. I tried to upload a picture of him and I. Today he came up and lied next to me and put his head on my foot so I could pet him!

Anyway, that is what my days are like. When I get home I try to shower (when there is water), then I go to bed. I slipped in the creek last week and bruised some ribs, so I did a couple of days of construction this week because the trails are really difficult. Some are very steep and slippery, with not much to grab on to on your way down. Everyday always has something exciting usually involving me falling or grabbing a prickly tree....

My photos still don´t work, cause the internet is too slow, but I will try to add more soon!