Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alone. Below the gate. With friends.

When my shift is over and I don't have to get home immediately, I take my camera below the gate to see what I can see. I'm able to think about the hows and whys of things (mostly about the whys) and just Be, without obligation or promise.

The herd of sheep, a few goats, donkeys and a mule or two gather around a large round hay bale or just hang and ruminate. I always wonder about these guys. They travel from one end of the sanctuary to the other, sometimes in single file, sometimes in twos and threes, trotting to another round hay bale. I don't think anyone has quite figured out if there's a timetable or if it's just one sheep's whim that starts the procession. However, when they do migrate, they do so with their tails wagging behind them.

I find that I want to meld with them, to become part of the herd but I know with only two legs I am forever denied entry into their club. Within the group I find silence save for the sounds of hay being ground by ovine molars. Many pairs of eyes watch me as I stand and watch. They know all of the secrets of the pastures. They know who comes and goes. I am just passing through their world.

They disperse as soon as I walk through, watching.

I wander towards the lemurs. They are a fascinating bunch and I have to say that the animators of Madagascar really captured their mannerisms. I sing the "move it, move it" song under my breath as I watch several sit on their haunches, arms resting on knees, facing the afternoon sun, slowing closing their eyes in meditation.... so very cool.

The black and white ruffed lemur boys watch me approach and silently decide who will greet me. Inevitably one will greet and the other will sulk in the back ground. The guy pictured here is the one who did not greet me. Instead, he hunkered down on a platform and watched as I photographed the group. (click on any of the images for a really huge look).

The young mountain lions are doing well. They've calmed down considerably and now have two rooms in which to live. It took them several minutes to come out from hiding when I arrived but with some snarling from brother and crouching from sister, they realized I wasn't going to do anything but watch so they both stood up, side by side. They will soon have access to the smaller mountain lion yard beside all of the resident mountain lions and eventually will be part of the family.

This is the male african lion.

When I first arrived at the enclosure I didn't see either him or sister girl at first. I walked along the side of the enclosure and came upon a turtle. The top of her shell was covered in dried mud and dirt (from our almost year long drought) and it looked like she had hauled herself up a rocky incline from below. I picked her up and noticed the underside of her shell and the sides were a gleaming, polished mahogany color. She withdrew into her shell, compact and tight. She was light to hold and I bet she dug herself out of hibernation to find water. I left her where she was so I could visit with the lions. I knew she wouldn't go very far very fast. I knew exactly where water was for her.

I found the female african lion beside the water trough. She was looking into the brush. She gave me a cursory glance and the directed her gaze back into the brush. It took me a minute to see what she was intent on watching.

He was guarding a meal and though wasn't actively eating the meal, he wasn't going to give it up either. And she wasn't letting on (much) that she was interested. She came over to where I sat and laid down not 2 feet away. Her large hands reached out and touched the fencing. She is so much more personable than I originally thought--direct eye contact, not really threatening but seeing where my boundaries were. We were eye to eye (as much as one can be outside an enclosure, she inside, and a sturdy fence and live wire between) and when I thought our souls had connected, she opens her mouth wide and exhales... not quite a growl, nothing near a roar, but it sits me up straight and breathless.

We continue watching one another as the male got up and retired from his meal. Oh she wanted what he guarded so badly but she continued to lay in front of me.

She eventually sauntered around his cache, behind, around, and ended up beside him. She rubbed her head beneath his chin, wanting attention, and he couldn't be bothered. She laid down not far away and eyed his left overs. What a girl that one.

My afternoon taking pictures came to an end. I left with an inner peace I rarely find elsewhere. I have been allowed to see a bit into the lives of animals. No one animal was lording over another; not one was pressuring another how to believe, what to believe, how to act... there was an unspoken harmony, an acceptance, among and between breeds and species.

I figure that is why I am so drawn to working with animals. I am who I am and that's ok.

What a breath of fresh air.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kissable. Lips.

I thought these were the most kissable lips ever.

This is Phillip. He lives and roams below the gate at the sanctuary and always looks as if he's ready to kiss any girl that he meets. "Swoon" comes to mind when I look at him. He is so very handsome.

However, today this little one changed my mind.

This baby found his way to the sanctuary via a woman who bought him in a parking lot. Apparently he was being sold--as food. Cabrito. Barely taller than two rail road ties on top of one another and full of nothing but LUV!!!

Cabrito. Really???

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gatita y Gatito

This brother and sister were found wandering a neighborhood in California (exactly where I'm not sure.) The thought was that the mother was killed and these babies were orphans and needed a safe place to grow up. Much paperwork later they arrived at the sanctuary two days before Valentines day. They were both scared and ready to get out of their crates

Curious adult mountain lions lounged nearby as Sister was wrangled out of her crate and into the lockout.

Her fear was obvious as she snarled and hissed and growled at the gathered adults. In turn, the adults sniffed and nosed the new arrival. Each adult in turn greeted the girl nose to nose. She would hiss, they would hiss, and the introduction would be over.

Brother was next.

He came out much more subservient. He immediately crouched and rolled onto his back showing his belly to the onlookers. Although he snarled and growled at them, he stayed on his back. (Yes, they look very much alike and you might wonder how I can tell them apart (and am I really just showing photos of the same cub.) Brother has a nick in his right ear and Sister's does not.)

Here Brother is giving Sister some comfort. I was so lucky to be able to watch them interact after being separated for over 24 hours. Now they will be able to grow up in a family of their own kind and really know what it means to be a mountain lion.

Unfortunately they are unable to be released into the wild. Public outcry of releasing "big, dangerous" animals back into the wild prohibits it. Apparently the Public is entirely unaware of where these babies came from.

At least they have one another, the sanctuary, and a new family.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blonde Perfection

Back in June I wrote about a leucistic opossum who came in with her siblings and was ready to be released. Not long after that post, she was released. (see Once upon a time... )

Several months ago a leucistic raccoon came in as an orphan. Somehow she was captured (she was wild and crazy and hard to hold--a girl after my own heart!) and we've been feeding her ever since. She be living with all of the other raccoons her age peacefully in our raccoon runs.

It's entirely fascinating to see an animal with unfamiliar markings. Where I'm used to seeing black hands and feet, hers are pink. Where raccoon noses are black and shiny, hers is almost a milk chocolate color. Where I'm used to seeing a grey and black ringed tail, hers is cinnamon and vanilla.

There are some that question the reasoning behind releasing an animal so seemingly defenseless--having no 'natural' camouflage. However, her demeanor and character would, as far as I'm concerned, render any opponent either shredded or turning tail in fear. Some fear she'd be easier to spot by predators.

Doesn't she deserve the chance at her own wild life?