“Hello Beauty” is how Eran, one of Ricos many fans used to greet him every day when he popped in for a visit. Rico just loved this guy and would roll on his back like a little kitten allowing Eran to stroke his belly. Of course if I tried this I would get swiped at, unfaithful feline. But I have to say now we have left the wonders and the horrors of the animal park I have been overcome with a dose of sentimentality. Back in the normal world I now realise what a feast of beauty, danger, fear and drama we had been immersed in for four weeks.
So first up on the thank you list is of course young Rico, otherwise known as "Prince Rico", "Prince of Darkness", "the dark lord", "you little bastard", "No, Rico No!" and of course "Beauty". Gracias Rico, for letting me into your weird feline life for a month, it was interesting, scary, funny and sometimes rather lovely.
I would also like to thank the Spider Monkeys who made my trip through the park everyday a joy. They are surely the most funny, cuddly animal ever - except for Michaela who really seemed to dislike me and spent a lot of her time making horrible noises and faces at me, and grabbing Eds hand and dragging him away from me whenever she had the chance.
Then there are the whipsmart badass Capuchin monkeys who managed to mug all us volunteers of our lunch, money, books and cameras in between being very amusing and kind of disgusting. I realised that I had been at the park for too long when Martin the monkey put his tongue in my mouth one day and I didn't bat an eyelid. Often at mealtimes several volunteers could be seen trying to look delighted as the monkeys "shared" their food by shoving a half sucked piece of corn into their mouths before removing it again to suck off the saliva. These guys just don't have any shame. But then they could be sweet climbing down into your shirt for a cuddle when it was cold and rainy - you just had to cross your fingers and hope they didn't pee on you while in there.
There were the pigs, the baby sloths, the turtles, birds, honey bears, the terrifying Cuchi Cuchis, Tejons and the totally mad monkey on a cord who hissed at me everyday.
Finally there are the Pumas, the kings of the park. Beautiful, big and unpredictable. It was such a treat to see Simba and Gato the Pumas everyday out on the trail, I'd particularly like to thank Gato for not attacking me and Rico the day we accidentally wandered into your rest area and almost right on top of you- Bueno Chico Gato.
Then finally there are all the mad, funny, fearless, hilarious people that worked at the park. A motely collection of travellers and locals who managed to make the transition from everyday citizen to Puma tamer, Ocelot charmer and Monkey miracle worker within days. The stories people came back with each day were a feast and will keep me going for years. Gracias and Adios.