Wednesday, November 28, 2007

EPISODE NUMBER TWENTY-THREE - DAYS TWENTY TO TWENTY-SEVEN, FLORIDA

EPISODE NUMBER TWENTY-THREE – DAYS TWENTY TO TWENTY-SEVEN – FLORIDA – PHOTOS ATTACHED

THE EVERGLADES

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2007

I had a very restful night at the Collier Seminole State Park. After taking Ripley for another bike run, I unhooked and got underway eastward along the Tamiami Trail. The Everglades itself is a huge part of southern Florida, and is divided up into various sections, some protected and some not, but I have to admit that I was really surprised to see condos going up on the western end. That should not be happening.

There are two major east-west routes through the Everglades – one is Highway 75, known as Alligator Alley, which I traversed earlier, and the other is Highway 41, which I am currently traveling. There are a number of signs for airboat rides along Highway 41. I even stopped to consider taking a ride, but there were a couple of factors that made me decide to give this a pass. One, it was too hot to leave Ripley in the RV. Secondly, the airboats are very noisy, and I couldn’t imagine seeing too much wildlife as a result (other than alligators). So, I opted to stop at the various observation points instead – and I would say that this was a good decision.

My first stop was at the Fakahatchee Strand Boardwalk. There were a number of people either entering or leaving the boardwalk, and I risked taking Ripley with me (again, because it was too hot to leave her in the RV). I kept her on a close leash in case there were any alligators lurking in the bushes.
On the way up the boardwalk, I came across a raccoon who was totally oblivious to people and who was busy checking out an upturned tree for food. But the really exciting highlight was seeing a pair of nesting Bald Eagles!! I got a clear view through the trees, and one of the parents left the nest and flew off as I watched. It’s no wonder the Americans have taken this bird as their national symbol. It was magnificent!

At the observation deck, there were several animals – a large alligator on the opposite bank of a small pond; baby alligators in the pond



wood stork in the


tree; great blue heron fishing in the pond.
And turtles nearby


I stood there for awhile taking photos when a young woman came along, who was also very interested in the wildlife. We began to chat. Deb is from Minnesota, traveling around for a few weeks’ vacation with her kayak attached to the top of her car. She’s a real outdoors, independent type, and we instantly related. She told me that she had kayaked at Kings Bay/Crystal River area where manatees were bumping her kayak, wanting to be scratched. She said they do rent kayaks there, so I will have to check that out on my way back north. When I told her what I was doing, she said that it would be her dream to travel around as I am, so I invited her over to have a look at my RV, and I gave her my email address. It would be great to keep in touch with her.

In the Big Cypress National Reserve, I saw many, many birds perched on trees or by the river along the highway. I stopped at a viewing area where several very large alligators were basking.



From the safe fenced-in boardwalk, I snapped many photos of these large reptiles, as well as a little blue heron, many anhingas, a greater egret



, another wood stork, some ibis and cattle egrets, and a great blue heron.

Further on, I stopped at the Oasis Visitor Center where the boardwalk separates a narrow river from the highway. Many giant alligators were basking on the bank just below the boardwalk and I took several more photos.
I was glad that I was not down at ground level with these monsters,


and I was reminded of the comments made by the alligator keeper back at Disney Animal Kingdom. She said that if you encounter an alligator, the best thing to do is to run as fast as you can because they are fast for only a short burst and your best defense is to get a tree or two between you and the alligator because if they hit the tree, they consider this a solid barrier that it cannot get around. Well, that’s all very well if there are any trees, but what do you do if the land is flat? I can’t run very well at all since my hip surgery. All I could think of was how would I protect Ripley in such a circumstance, as she would make a good dinner for one of these reptiles. The answer, of course, is to avoid getting into a circumstance where this might happen in the first place.

My journey continued along Highway 41, going through a few Indian settlements where the Miccosukee tribe live. I gather they are part of the Seminole Indians who operate a casino at the easterly end, where the north-south highway 997 meets the Tamiami Trail. All, I can say is that they charge a lot for their gas!

I turned south on 997 and made my way to the home of Sian Evans and Bob Cooper, who have 7 ½ acres just down the road from Monkey Jungle, on the southwest outskirts of Miami, surrounded by flower and vegetable nurseries. I first met Sian at the first Gorilla Workshop back in 1990 and have run into her a few times at various conferences, and she had very graciously offered to have me park my RV at their ranch during my visit to Monkey Jungle and the DuMond Conservancy.

I was greeted by Rick, a bird keeper from Monkey Jungle, who lives on the Evans/Cooper property and he helped me set up under some shady trees. Bob came out to greet me, along with their four dogs. Dora is a mixed terrier who may have some Jack Russell; Coco One is an old Chesapeake Bay Retriever; Coco Two is also a retriever; Spot is a funny little white dog with short bowed legs, who had been hit by a car and consequently has some brain damage. Spot is a whole male and instantly fell in love with Ripley. She was not impressed with his overtures and quickly put him in his place.

Spot

When I arrived around 6:00, Sian was still at work, so I chatted briefly with Bob and got myself organized. Bob is a transplanted Californian, with a long

white beard and long white hair and very easy-going manner. He was trained in veterinary medicine and has worked with primates both in the USA as well as in Gabon. We drank sherry while Bob prepared the food for the monkeys at the Conservancy for tomorrow. Sian joined us, and we shared the bottle of wine that I had brought while having a simple but appetizing meal of garlic bread, salad, soup and fruit (papaya and pineapple).

There is one owl monkey in their house, who has a chronic skin infection. They are giving Lucy special attention and treating her, in the hope that she will remain comfortable.

Sian is originally from Wales, and is the managing director of the DuMond Conservancy. Monkey Jungle was started and is owned by the DuMond family, and the Conservancy next door is a separate non-profit organization which “conducts and coordinates behavioral studies, and provides educational programs at Monkey Jungle…….The Conservancy also cares for a small colony of confiscated and retired laboratory primates.” These are mostly marmosets, tamarins, owl monkeys and some gibbons and Sian relies upon her small staff to assist her in caring for the animals, as well as doing her own work in going out to schools and other places to give educational talks, and to supervise the research that is carried out at Monkey Jungle. Consequently, she works long hours and hardly takes any time off. And so, we made it an early night and I retired to my RV.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2007

MONKEY JUNGLE

I know that roosters get up early, but I think that 3:30 is just a bit much to hear at least three competing with one another -- at least for my comfort! It seems that the neighbour owns these noisy birds.

Sean and Bob own one very old pony and board other horses. I met Linda who owns three horses and who works at the local fire department in twelve-hour shifts. She comes in twice a day to take care of her animals.

The property itself is being allowed to return to its natural vegetation, so it is quite lush when walking around.

Sian drove me over to Monkey Jungle which is just a half mile down the road, and introduced me to the staff there. While she continued to her work, I wandered around for several hours, watching the various primates. The crab-eating macaques sit above you as you walk, separated by mesh screening. They are free-ranging within their wooded acres, whereas the visitor is caged. Every

so often there is a dish suspended by a chain. People are invited to put raisins and dried cranberries (available at the gift shop) into the dish. When the monkey sees that food is in the dish, it pulls the chain to raise the dish up and then pulls out the food.

There are a few presentations during the day, the first being at the swimming


pool where the macaques gather to be fed. The presenter talks about the monkeys and throws cut-up fruit into the pool. These particular monkeys actually enjoy swimming and think nothing of going into the water to pick up

the food, making for good photo ops. Their keeper told me that there are three separate groups, each inhabiting their own space, for a total of 143 monkeys.

The next presentation was at the orangutan exhibit, where Mei is put through

her training session by her keeper Tracy. Tracy had been informed of my presence, and introduced me to the visitors. She is an enthusiastic individual, who is still learning her position, but did a creditable job in talking about orangutans in general, and Mei, who was born at Monkey Jungle, and is the only orangutan there. Mei does some sign language and does other training in

exchange for food.

From there, Tracy and I walked over to the Cameroon Jungle exhibit where King lives. King is a 38 year old male gorilla who originally came from the Cameroon as a baby, to be made to perform in Las Vegas.

While there, his canines were taken out. After many years there, he was sent to Monkey Jungle where he originally had two cement and iron bar cages as his living quarters. A few years ago, the 1 ½ acre island was created for his outdoor exhibit. Tracy had just taken over the care of King after his keeper of 18 years had recently retired.

Later on in the day, I will be returning to meet Tracy who will take me into King’s night quarters. In the meantime, I wandered around some more to see all the beautiful birds in the collection. I ran into Rick, who told me that there were 109 different birds, mostly in the parrot family. Many of these beautiful birds were previously pets and were donated; several came from a private collection. There were macaws, including the endangered military macaw, parrots, parakeets and lovebirds. I was reminded of my lovebird Carlos and am thankful that Diane and Les Draper have given him a good home and that he has now bonded with their lovebird Kammi.

It was 1:30 p.m. and time to meet up with Sian and to pick up Bob. We were to meet a friend of theirs, Nigel at a barbecue place. Nigel is a commodities trader and an interesting young man, who happens to adore King the gorilla. He has come out many times just to sit and watch him. He has a West Highland white terrier of whom he is very fond as well. Nigel travels a good deal, to New York and back to England where his family still is.

After lunch, I rode back with Nigel in his Mercedes, to Monkey Jungle and on the way we came across an iguana on the road. I asked Nigel to stop and I ran back to see if it was still alive. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

We met up with Bob and headed towards King’s enclosure where we found Tracy who had just finished up the final talk of the day and was preparing to bring King in for the night. We were privileged to go into his night quarters and sit on the opposite side of his cage. When King saw Nigel, he spat at him – his way of punishing Nigel for not visiting him for a few months. King was not overly interested in me, because Bob is one of his favourite people. The interaction between the two is quite remarkable. Bob can scratch his belly and back and hold King’s hands and feet, and actually play with him while King gives off pleasure grumbles.

After about half an hour, we said our farewells, and I went over to thank Tracy for her kindness. She is very sweet and has the right attitude to be a good keeper – unlike many these days who consider it as only a job. How unfortunate, as it can be so much more.

Sian was still working, so Bob and I headed home. Ripley has been enjoying the time off leash here, as the place is entirely fenced. Spot continues to follow Rip around, in the hope that he might get lucky! The other dogs are quite friendly.

After Sian arrived home, we went to the Redland Grill for supper, a new restaurant which specializes in Cuban food. I had Cuban pot roast, with rice

Sian and Bob

and sweet potato fries. I had actually ordered fried plantains, and the server brought these to me when I pointed out the error, along with a styrofoam container for the left-overs. American restaurants serve very generous portions, and I can never finish them. Bob had another salad (he seems to live on virtually nothing) and Sian only had a sandwich. We had an interesting conversation talking about ourselves. Bob and Sian lived in Gabon for several years, and cared for apes and monkeys at a research facility there, before returning to the USA and to Monkey Jungle. Bob is now retired, but is still quite interested in the primatological world, reading the journals and keeping up on the research. They are friends with Kay and Peter Mehren (Kay was the head vet at the Toronto Zoo until she retired), and Anne Zeller (who is also my friend). Anne is a primatologist who teaches at the University of Waterloo and who has done research at Monkey Jungle. So we had lots to talk about, and I was also able to share some of the experiences that I have had in Indonesia while studying orangutans there with Birute Galdikas, back in 1976.

I took up the offer of Sian and Bob to use their laundry facilities to do two loads of laundry, and then drifted off to an untroubled sleep.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2007 – AMERICAN THANKSGIVING

I had originally thought that I would continue south to the Keys, but the prices there are exorbitant. A campsite can run as high as $89, so I have reluctantly decided that I would not continue south, at least on this particular trip.

BIG TROUBLE

The sad part of seeing old and new friends is that I move on and leave them behind. With promises to keep in touch, I said farewell to Sian and Bob and decided that I would try to find a hotel to connect with their wireless service. This was a fruitless effort, as the few that I found via my GPS Maude in south Miami, had their wireless password protected. And so, I finally gave up and decided to go west to pick up Highway 997 north. All of a sudden, I put my brakes on – and there were none!!! I did this a few times, driving at a slow speed, with the same result and decided that I simply could not continue. There was a KMart shopping mall nearby, so I pulled in there. You can imagine how upset I was!

After trying to decide what was the best thing to do – continue and pray, or be sensible and stop, I decided on the latter course of action and contacted the Emergency Road Service that I had paid for before leaving Canada. I spoke with Tony, who was very helpful. However, this was Thanksgiving, one of the biggest American holidays and everything shuts down except for the odd store – like Kmart which was open for the bargain hunters. There were certainly no garages open, and Tony suggested that he could try to find a tow truck to take me to a garage, but that it would be closed and probably in an unsecured area of Miami. Having heard of all the crime in this city, I opted to stay where I was overnight. Tony went on to say that it might not even be possible to find an open garage on Friday, as the Americans generally take off until Monday.

KMART HOTEL??

By this time, I was extremely upset, and tried breathing exercises to calm down. I decided that I should find the manager of the KMart store and ask permission to park in the lot overnight. She told me that she had never been asked that before, but had seen other trucks parked overnight, so it should not be a problem. I asked her if it was a safe neighbourhood, and she assured me that it was, adding that she lived here.

So, I tried to make the best of it. I took Ripley for a walk around the parking lot of the large mall. I called my sister-in-law Jennie in Brampton to let her and my brother know what the situation was, and then managed to connect into the T Mobile wireless connection from the mall store to email Sian to tell her what had happened, just in case. I also tried to phone, but they were out, so I didn’t leave a message. I didn’t really want to disturb their Thanksgiving dinner.

While walking around, I started to tune into the bird sounds around me, and realized that there were parrots squawking in the trees. On further investigation, I found many, many parrots. They are not indigenous, so I can only assume that they are offspring of escaped pets. In this climate, they can exist very well. There is plenty of food for them, and the weather never gets cold, so it appears that they thrive.

I used my laptop until the battery died, and realized that I had also better conserve my phone battery.

It had been very hot here (85 degrees F), and I was feeling very grubby with no way of showering. So, on this note, I turned in. I am parked next to the KFC.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2007

I never thought of when chicken gets delivered to the KFC’s before. I can now vouch for the fact that the truck shows up at 3:30 a.m.

When I woke up at 6:00 a.m., I discovered that there were huge line-ups at several stores, waiting for them to open. Apparently, this is Black Friday when bargains galore are available for the consumer, and stores open very early to accommodate them.

I am now very happy that I have my new refrigerator. I don’t have to worry about spoiled food in the present circumstances.

DON’T BREAK DOWN ON A HOLIDAY

At 8:00 a.m. I contacted the Emergency Road Service people in Quebec, and Enoch said he would do some research and get back to me. A little later he called back to tell me that the garages are closed until Monday, but said that he could send out a Roadside Assistance truck. However, the service charge (which they would reimburse me for) is $95, and then I would have to be $170 minimum for labour, plus whatever else was wrong. As there was no way I was going to sit in the parking lot until Monday, I agreed to this service, and I was told that it would be a couple of hours before they could arrive.

In the meantime, I took a copy of my blog over to Kinko’s nearby to have copies made for some of my friends back home who do not have a computer. I thought they might enjoy reading my exploits.

Two men from RC Tire & Mechanical Road Service arrived, and immediately

went to work to see what my problem was. One of the men spoke only Spanish, so Jerry translated for me. He seemed to want to talk about his private life, telling me that he had been married for 14 years (he must have married at a young age), and that his wife had had six miscarriages before finally giving birth prematurely to their daughter. He proudly took out her photo to show to me, and said she was three months old. He then went on to say that he would like to get a divorce but won’t because of his daughter, and that his Jewish mother in law was a problem. I really don’t know why he felt compelled to tell me these things, but I made conciliatory noises.

Meanwhile, his partner found that the brake pump was the culprit and needed to be replaced. It took some effort to remove the old pump, as the screws had corroded and needed some coaxing. Eventually, they went off with the old pump, promising to return within an hour with a new part.

Ripley and I went for another walk around the lot, which was full of cars by this time, and I took her into PetSmart to see about an anti-shedding supplement which I had seen online. After consulting with the resident veterinarian, I bought Linatone (a vitamin and mineral supplement formulated to help with coat condition and shedding), plus I had a new ID tag made for Rip, with my current cell number – just in case.

Shortly thereafter, my two buddies returned with the new part, and again the Spanish- speaking mechanic got to work to replace it, while Jerry continued to whinge about his life. I gather that he is part owner of the company from what he said, telling me about how he liked to dress well and that his dry cleaning bill was $60 every two weeks. He certainly didn’t do much work!

In the meantime, I was contacted by their office to confirm the price of $464 on my credit card. The balance on my credit card is steadily creeping up, and I can only hope that I receive payment for my lawn tractor soon. It won’t cover the entire amount, but it will help.

They finished up around 1:00 p.m. and I was thankfully on my way again. I stopped for gas and the price is now $3.39/gallon!! I suspect that it has risen because it is a holiday.

SUNSHINE RV RESORT, LAKE PLACID

I made my way up Highway 997 and then across Highway 27 to Lake Placid, and 150 miles after leaving Miami, I chose another Passport America location – the Sunshine RV Resort. John, the camp host, led me in his golf cart to my site and helped me hook up. He is from Indiana and works two days a week and every other Sunday, in exchange for a break in his rent. He and his wife Betty have a large Winnebago which they park here. This is a 55+ resort and many people have permanent homes here that they live in during the winter, returning to their homes all over the country, and Canada, for the summer. True snowbirds. John said to contact him if I had any problems and went off home for his supper.

This is an upscale resort. There are plenty of manicured lawns, a waterfall at the gate, a swimming pool, clean rec room, lending library, basketball court, petanque, shuffleboard and horseshoe courts, and generally is a very appealing location, set next to an orange grove. All the permanent places are well cared for, with landscaping and assorted lawn furniture in their relatively large yards. I have decided to stay two days here before heading up to the Center for Great Apes, and contacted Patti Ragan to explain my breakdown.

John invited me to the bingo that evening, which I thought would be fun. I took Ripley for her walk, and then settled down to make supper. However, I had no hot water and when I went to investigate, I found that the plug to the tank was leaking. In my effort to tighten it, I broke it and water sprayed out all over me. I quickly turned the tap off, and went to find John, to see if he could help.

A short while later, John showed up to see what the problem was. He saw that the plastic plug was broken, and drained the rest of the tank. He said that these plugs often break off after awhile and that the nearest RV dealer was about 30 miles away in Sebring. It was late Friday, so there was no possibility of going there. He went off to the Resort shop to see what he could find, and returned shortly with a plastic pipe that fit. However, the rest of the plug was still solidly in the opening. I suggested that he wait until tomorrow, as it was getting late and I didn’t want him to miss the bingo. So, we agreed that he would return in the morning and that I would just make do without water overnight. Thankfully, the Resort’s restrooms are nearby and I had a very refreshing shower there.

It seems so anachronous to me to see Christmas decorations in front of the rigs here, since the temperature is around 80 degrees F.







By this time, after having my supper, it was too late for me to go to the bingo, so I opted to watch TV. Cable TV is an extra $2.50/night here, but it was great to relax in relative comfort after my harrowing experience. I watched Extreme Makeover – Home Edition. I enjoy watching Ty Pennington and his crew transform the lives of people. The movie that followed was Saturday Night Fever. It is hard to imagine that this movie is thirty years old! John Travolta certainly was trim and fit back then.

Did you know that Antonio Banderas has his own cologne? His suggestive commercial came on several times during the evening.

I took Ripley for a late-night walk around the resort, noting the Christmas decorations.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2007

John arrived around 8:00 a.m., and in no time had fixed and improved the plug on the hot water tank. It is now much easier to access and works like a charm. What a nice man!

Today is my friend Donna’s birthday, so I surprised her with an early-morning birthday song, calling her in Canada. At first she didn’t know who was singing to her, and was very surprised when she realized it was me. She turns 65 today – a big event and is celebrating with her various family members on different days. She is going to visit friends in Costa Rica for Christmas, of which I am very envious.

After about half an hour, we said goodbye, with the hope that Donna can come down and join me in New Mexico or Arizona later in the spring.

I took Rip for a bike run around the resort, and then checked out the library, exchanging some of my books for new ones.

I had a very relaxing day, napping, taking a swim and then another bike ride. I tried to access the wireless connection here, but was unsuccessful. There is an external company that handles it, and it is necessary to click on and pay the $4.95 daily service fee by credit card. However, they have only made accommodation for American addresses, and the application would not accept my credit card. How ridiculous! There are many Canadians here at the resort. And so, I am unable to access my email or update my blog once again.

Most of the people here have not been terribly friendly, but one exception is the couple near me, who have a permanent single wide mobile home. They are from Sauble Beach, Ontario and spend six months down here. Helene and Francis have come here for many years now and truly enjoy it. I can understand it. Life is very slow and relaxing here. Helene told me about the bargains she picked up today, so perhaps I’ll have a quick look on my way north tomorrow. However, I am on a very tight budget now.

The radio is playing Christmas carols. I can’t take it, so switched to CD’s.

For supper, I made Hamburger Helper and baked cornbread muffins and drank my last Corona.

The resort recycles, but in Florida that means only cans and cardboard/newspapers. No plastic or glass, unless you happen to live in one of the cities, as I understand it.

It rained hard here for a few minutes, and the temperature here is much more comfortable than in Miami. Today it was a high of 75 degrees F, with a low of 60 degrees. Donna told me that there had been a huge snowstorm in Toronto the other day. That is very early, and of course the traffic was at a standstill. I am sooooo glad to be here instead of up there, right now!

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2007

ON THE ROAD AGAIN


When I woke up this morning, I could hear the call of a crane nearby. I looked out my bedroom window, and there were two sandhill cranes on the grass not more than twenty feet away, inside the resort! These birds are considered endangered, and it has been a thrill to see them here in Florida (along with the wood stork). Unfortunately, they flew away before I could get a photo.

After breakfast, we hit the road again, traveling north on Highway 27 through Sebring, where I stopped to hook up to the wireless service at a Holiday Inn.

Beall’s is an outlet store similar to our Winners in Canada and as they were having a 40% off sale, I thought that I would have a look. I was very frugal and only bought a baking sheet and a Christmas ornament of a dog in a stocking.

CENTER FOR GREAT APES, WAUCHULA, FLORIDA

When I visited the Center For Great Apes in Wauchula earlier this month, I was only able to have a short two-hour visit, and Patti Ragan had invited me to come back. And so, the Center was my next stop. Tina, the office assistant, took me around to a five-acre piece away from the chimps and orangutans and I set up my RV under some huge shady trees, and she gave me a key for the gates. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was electricity and water here, so I
was all set.

An interesting spider near the RV
Since Tina was taking out a family on a tour (it was an anniversary present to the wife), I decided to tag along to re-familiarize myself with the set-up and the individual animals. She has worked at the Center for eight years and easily identified each chimp and orangutan, giving their background; some came from biomedical research; some had been entertainment animals, appearing in movies, commercials and TV; some had been pets who outgrew their owners’ houses and were then dumped into tiny cages in the backyard or dark garage. She went on to describe how wonderful it was to see these animals come out of their crates into the sunlight, sometimes for the first time in years. All of these animals have a horrific history and many still bear psychological and physical scars as a result.
One of the orangutan enclosures
Back in the office area, I ran into Bennett Schwartz who asked me if I knew Suzanne MacDonald, a professor at York University who has been doing cognitive behaviour studies in primates and other animals for many years, and who has appeared on TV many times. Suzanne was one of the first board directors of COTERC, so of course I knew her.
chimp enclosure

As it was getting late, I made my way back through the compound to where the RV was parked, and listened to two barred owls calling to each other.

Ripley is enjoying this fenced in area because I can let her run free, and she is finding all kinds of lizards to chase. She never tires of this “sport” and I doubt if she will ever be fast enough to actually catch one. There is also an interesting spider in its web nearby.

Melanie Bond, my old friend from the Washington National Zoo and orangutan expert, came by and invited me to go for dinner with her. As she says, she lives one mile from nowhere, so we drove about 20 miles away to Sebring to the Outback restaurant. I can’t remember when I last had a steak, so I indulged, along with a very nice rum and berry juice drink. Melanie had a peach concoction that looked very good too. Melanie and I talked about orangutans, people we knew and how we are each enjoying our retirement. As I have mentioned previously, Melanie volunteers at the Center three days per week, to help with Knuckles, the chimp with cerebral palsy. She lucked in on getting a part-time job at Beall’s two days a week as well, to supplement her pension. She has purchased a house next to the Center and seems quite happy in her new life.

The steak of course was much too large, so I had a nice doggy bag to take with me.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2007

I can’t even have one drink without suffering, it seems. I had a terrible migraine during the night and spent most of the morning in bed.

When I finally struggled up and took some medication, I decided to wander over to the compound and just sit beside the enclosures that house the orangutans and chimps. It was really great just to be around them.

Since Patti has been really kind, I invited her out for supper, but she cannot leave the compound. So we settled on my going to get a pizza, and she very kindly loaned me her Suburban wagon so that I wouldn’t have to drive my RV into Sebring. Patti lives in one of the geodesic houses on the property and has decorated it with various pieces of ape art. Her deceased mother’s parrot greeted me as he made his way around the staircase, but Patti warned me against trying to pick him up. He has quite a vocabulary. She also shares her house with three dogs of mixed breeds, as well as Knuckles, the chimp with cerebral palsy. As he has many seizures, she wants to be close by in case he has one during the night.

We talked of many things, including our mutual experiences at Camp Leakey, the orangutan research camp operated by Birute Galdikas in Indonesia, and Patti told me more about the history of the sanctuary and how it came to be. She started off deciding to provide a permanent home for five chimpanzees after she sold her employment agency business, and things have grown from there. As with all animal sanctuaries, there is always more of a need for homes than there are homes to go to.
Patti has very kindly sent me some great photos of some of the orangutans, and I would like to share them with you.
Pongo
Sammy and Geri (Sammy was
known as Dunstan in the movie)
Orangutans like to play!
Linus (my favourite) He was
a former pet who grew too large
and was confined to a small cage
in a basement garage before coming
to the Center
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2007

Ripley found a cecropia moth caterpillar buried in the dirt beside the RV, and this of course was a new experience for her. She barked and jumped at it for awhile, until something near the water tank caught her attention. I didn’t see what it was, but the creature there held her attention for much of the day when she was allowed out.

She also enjoyed investigating the woodpile where I expect many lizards lived. She really is having an exciting time here!

After Ripley went back into the RV, I headed over to the compound where I just hung out near the various ape cages, talking quietly to the occupants, who all
Part of the chute system that encompasses
the facility
seemed quite interested in a new face. One chimp offered me his blanket from the chute above, but it didn’t quite reach far enough down for me to touch it to leave my scent, and eventually he spat at me! The orangutans Pongo, Sammi and Linus are all quite beautiful, each in their own way. I especially enjoyed Linus who is a very gentle adult male. Linus was a woman’s pet along with two chimps and a female orangutan. She kept them in her house and treated them like children until they grew too large. And then she confined each one of them to a small cage, side by side inside a dark basement garage. Linus in particular seems to have been traumatized by this sudden shift from being cosseted to being feared by this woman, once he matured. When he arrived at the sanctuary, Linus was covered in feces because no one would clean out his tiny cage, and he was quite fearful of being touched. Today, he has a magnificent long coat and gently reaches out to Patti and Melanie (the only two who are allowed to touch him).

When I learned that the sanctuary has a wireless connection, I brought my laptop over to the education center and spent some time adding photos to my previous blog.

By this time, it was growing dark, and I could hear some of the chimps who had decided not to go into their night quarters. It is another beautiful day here in Florida, with temperatures in the high 70’s, sunny with a slight breeze. Who could blame the apes for not wanting to go indoors?

As this is my last evening here, I suggested to Melanie that we go out for a burger, and she suggested RJ Gators, a local restaurant that holds an annual fundraiser for the sanctuary. Again, this is another 20-mile trip into town, but it was worth it. The burgers were excellent. It also gave us another opportunity to chat about this and that, before Melanie drove me back to the doorstep of my RV.

As I sit here, I can hear a barred owl calling in the trees nearby, with the occasional vocalization from a chimp.

It would be lovely to stay in this serene spot for awhile, but as usual I will be pressing on tomorrow. But I am glad that I had an opportunity to spend more time here at the Center For Great Apes and to get to know Patti and the work that she does. She is an astute businesswoman and seems to have things well in hand, especially with regard to cultivating donors.

1 comment:

Philoso-her said...

I love Sian and Bob. I used to help out with an Arabian who was boarded there. Nice to stumble upon your post and read about a visit with them!

Ann,

Miami