May 29, 2008

It's a Jungle Out There

"The cockroach and the bird were both here long before we were. Both could get along very well without us, although it is perhaps significant that of the two the cockroach would miss us more." -- Joseph Wood Krutch, (1893 - 1970) US naturalist, conservationist, writer

We now have a yard; land that we own outright. It feels different. It feels good. It's a bloody jungle out there. But before we get to that, we'd like to introduce you to Buddica, our new family member.

Colette was on the beach walking our other two dogs, Midas and Octavius. This pup came running over. Octavius can be an old grump at times, particularly as this beach used to 'belong' to him. Colette asked some tourists to hold the pup until she passed but then had second thoughts. Colette is one that believes in love at first sight with dogs and it seems this is what happened here.

Buddica a brave warrior princess

Not long before we left the UK, Squidge, the doggy love of Colette's life died of a rare brain disease. He was a handsome chap. She has missed him greatly and it looks like this new pup may fill the void.

Squidge - Gone but never forgotten

Buddica had clearly been neglected and was infested with literally hundreds of ticks. We've never seen anything like it. Honestly, it was like a horror movie. She laid down on the tile floor and they started evacuating her body. Hundreds of them. Before we knew it they were climbing the walls, small black specks all over the walls and rapidly moving upwards. You couldn't walk without hearing a noise like bubble wrap as they popped under your feet, leaving blood stains behind.

We were frantic, killing them individually, spraying them, sweeping them into piles for mass slaughter. As Midas has already had one bout of Tick Fever here (also known as Erlichosis), we were particularly concerned. For those of you who have pets and are thinking of bringing them here, Tick Fever is something you need to educate yourself about. We know of several dogs that have been brought from abroad and have succumbed to this disease because their owner didn't catch the symptoms early enough. You can get some basic info here

Anyway, the horror continued as we discovered that her tick infestation was heaviest in her ears. Maya bravely tackled the ear ticks but there were so many that it was soul destroying, so we decided to take the pup to the local grooming parlour, Pampered Paws. This is run by a lovely woman, Kathy, who has become a friend. We'd also like to thank Sharon (aka Shazza) for lending us her golf cart for emergency puppy issues. They cleaned her up beautifully and she came home with no ticks, but covered in scabs left behind. She perked up amazingly.

Of course we made sure that the grooming parlour/petshop and the local vet/humane society had a picture of her in case anyone had lost her, but so far - no one has claimed her. She's now had her first set of vaccinations and will go in to be 'fixed' as they say around here in a week or so more. More pictures will come in future blogs.

You can never expect the expected in Belize. At least that is what we've discovered. Buddica slept through her second night here and I woke up to find a very happy, proud puppy next to the carcass of a beautiful green iguana that had been living in our trees. Here was the most recent picture of him.

RIP Mr Iguana

Colette was very sad but wanted to dispose of the carcass before Maya woke up. She got a shovel, put it out of the gate and then broke the news to Maya. We were all sad, but Maya went to get on with gardening, arriving back into the house 10 minutes later explaining how she had found the iguana's stomach. Colette had thought the puppy must have eaten the stomach so didn't look for it when she disposed of the rest of the carcass, but poor Maya found it.

Then about two hours later, Colette hears Maya scream from the garden 'GET THE DOGS INSIDE'. Not knowing what was going on, Colette gathered the dogs inside and went back out. Maya says 'There is a huge snake out here'. Colette thinks 'Maya is scared of snakes and exaggerating'. So she wanders down in her bare feet and dressing gown to find this:

Oh dear, this snake is rather large

No exaggeration. This was a big snake. Colette has worked with invertebrates in the past and has handled snakes and lizards and wasn't very frightened. So she pulled the planks off the snake and he suddenly looked even bigger.

What on earth are we going to do with this?

The thick piece of wood next to him is a 4x4 to give you some idea of his thickness. Anyway, Colette has a look at the snake closely and it doesn't look too well. Probably in slough - about to lose its skin. During this period, snakes are vulnerable and blind during part of the process.

Closed eyes and dry skin

We were pretty sure that he wouldn't survive our dogs and anyway we were worried that the area is getting pretty built up. Many Belizeans are understandably scared of snakes. Given that Belize is the home to one of the most deadly snakes, called the Fer de Lance, locally known as the Tommygoff it is hardly surprising. Apparently there are none on Ambergris Caye, but the fear runs deep amongst Belizeans and rather than wait to discover whether a snake is deadly or not, they tend to just 'chop' them all. Machetes being the weapon of choice. We also have a group of horrible little kids (these being exceptions as most children we know in Belize are wonderful) who chase down wildlife in the neighbourhood, torment and kill it. Bored little boy behaviour. So, we thought it was better for the snake if we rescued and relocated him. We're not sure what the snake thought, but by this time, he was getting seriously pissed off and started hissing.

It is amazing how hissing has such a strong primeval effect. It makes your hair stand on end and gets your adrenalin going. Maya is genuinely scared of snakes, so this was going to be very interesting. The first thing Colette did was get a big dog kennel.

Welcome to your temporary home

Then, in true Crocodile Dundee style, she wrangled the snake with a long piece of wood, head first into the crate.

Arrghh he's coming back out again

He was a big snake, he was an angry snake and it was no easy task. Finally Colette managed to get the rest of his body in. Colette did all of this in her dressing gown.
Gratuitous picture showing Colette's lovely Gap dressing gown (thanks to Smiley and Kate for the gift)

We then carried the crate into the office. Maya was nearly having a heart attack. So, Mr. Snake went to live in our office for the next few days for observation and Colette got some advice from people in the know.

You would think that was simply enough excitement for one day. So did we. But at about 9 at night we heard the puppy yelling in the garden as if she had been hurt. She was also barking like crazy. So out we go, at this time of night in our underwear and bare feet. Out into the dark.

Puppy has cornered one of our Giant Blue Land Crabs. These buggers are big and very aggressive. They are also rather comical. When we moved onto this land, we were aware that there were 20 - 30 large crabs living here. They dig big, deep burrows, which are a nuisance. Otherwise, they aren't much trouble. We had been talking to people and gathering advice for dealing with them. Our Belizean friends told us that they were good to eat. Some told us to wait up at night and shoot them with a pellet gun. Others recommended digging them out. And yet other advice said to fill their holes with water forcing them out. Maya had taken on the rather passive aggressive method of filling their holes every day to make their lives difficult.

So now it is night time, we have three over excited dogs who all want to earn their bravery awards by taking on a crab. Eventually we decide to use a shovel. So between Maya and Colette screaming at the dogs to back off, giggling hysterically, shrieking ocassionally it must have been quite a sight to behold. Colette finally got the crab onto the shovel and then flung him over the fence. Upon doing so, both Colette and Maya covered their heads as Colette has notorious bad aim and we both expected the crab to land on us. Fortunately the technique worked. It was only afterwards that we wondered if we had thrown the crab into our neighbour's truck. Whoops.

Actually, they are interesting creatures and here is a good story about them They are eaten commonly here but unfortunately we are two scared of them to try to get one into the pot.

Well over the past week, with the new pup developing her killer crab hunting skills, we have evicted another four crabs. Last night we scored two. One of them was the biggest crab in the universe. We are sure of it. He was so big that the shovel method wouldn't work as he was too big to sit in the scoop. So Colette had to get him to grab the shovel and then quickly fling him into the mop bucket. Unfortunately, the mop bucket was not big enough to allow us to get hold of the handle without being attacked by the vicious land crab - who we had been alerted to by the puppy's pained shrieks as she bravely fought him. So we had to use the shovel to get the bucket out of the gate. Here is a picture of a crab caught earlier this week in the daytime, to give you an idea.

The poor puppy now looks like we enter her in dog fights. She's got little pincer wounds all over her face. She seems ever so proud of her new vocation though and we have committed to going down whenever we hear her bark as she is very reliable. Once we got rid of the gigantic monsterous crab, the dogs discovered a gigantic monsterous toad. Toads can be toxic here and dogs can die if they eat them. So we had to escort Mr. Toad off the premises. Trying the shovel method proved pointless as the toad just jumped off, clearly higher on the evolutionary scale than a land crab. So we employed gentle toad herding methods that seemed to work. For those of you reading this and worrying, we won't mention that we haven't evicted our resident tarantula as he seems to be able to stay so still when the dogs are around that he is virtually invisible. If they discover him and start bothering him, he'll have to go too.

In between all of this, we monitored the snake, who seemed to improve although he never shed his skin. We decided that since he seemed stronger, we would relocate him. Our lovely neighbour, Wade, used his truck to assist in the project. Yes, this is the same truck we thought we had landed our crab in earlier in the week. Wade confirmed that no crab had been discovered. So we're safe. Although we're sure we hit our other neighbour's house with one last night as it was flung over the fence.

So, we covered the cage, loaded it, hissing loudly into the truck and then drove to a heavily wooded area near the dump. We thought that a dump would be a place teeming with rats and that this would make our serpenty guest very happy.

Colette says soothing words to Mr. Snake

We tipped him out of the box and then stood and watched as he slithered into the woods looking back and hissing at us for effect. Just for those who don't know, Boas can and do bite when threatened. They are not venomous, but can cause a nasty bite with fangs at the back of their mouth, designed for holding prey in place.

Bye bye Mr. Snake. Have a great life.

So, special thanks to Mother Nature for keeping us busy and entertained.


Anonymous said...

Life there is much more exciting than it is here. How big is that crab?


Mikeywaz said...

What a great entry! Thanks for sharing your adventures. I'm so happy that you have a new member of the family. One of the most distressing things about our visit to AC was all the stray dogs covered in fleas and ticks. Thanks for taking her in! Lovely to hear of your adventures in the Wild Kingdom (or Queendom!)
P.S. That's great picture of the blue crab.


Leah-Ann said...

Ah, ladies, the house is beautiful! I am so looking forward to my up close and personal view of the new furniture arrangements! ;) Thanks for the peek!


Alli said...

I have heard that you can drop a marble into the hole of a crab, cover the hole, then the crab will spend eternity/until it dies trying to get it out of the hole. It may take two for the size of the crabs in your yard.

arachesostufo said...

wow.. you live in a paradise..

ciao da scorzè.