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Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.

While living at Jalova, you witness an abundance of wildlife both big and small. Not all of this wildlife, however, is found on the daily forest and bird boat surveys. In fact, some of my best wildlife stories happened while hanging out on base.

To begin with, there is Trevor. Anyone who has been a volunteer at Jalova knows about Trevor. Trevor is a juvenile Green Iguana that lives in the dorms. He likes to crawl across beds that are left uncovered, climb up mosquito nets and sleep in the rafters. With Trevor around, all boxes and bags must remain closed at all times if you want them to remain clean!

Trevor isn’t the only animal resident of the dorms the volunteers share their space with. Barry the Bat is a small, rather adorable bat that can be found napping in the dorms and staff house alike during the day. We like having Barry around; he’s very cute and eats some of the insects that pester us all night long.

Opposite the volunteer dorms resides a mirror, usually used by the volunteers for various hygiene practices. Of late, however, a Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird has decided it also quite admires its reflection. This hummingbird spent various hours flying over, landing on the string in front of the mirror and buzzing around, all while never taking its eyes off itself in the reflection. This same hummingbird, before discovering its own reflection, also enjoyed breaking through any rope it could find on base.

Aside from Trevor, other rather large Green Iguanas live in the habitat surrounding base. For some bizarre reason, these very big, long and bulky iguanas decide it is a good idea to climb the trees on base that have rather thin branches. This results in not only branches falling on the kitchen roof and ground nearby, but iguanas too. Watching these big iguanas ungracefully slide/fall out of a tree as the thin branch breaks under them is an incredibly funny sight to behold.

The cheekiest animals of them all are the local set of White-Throated Capuchins. These small monkeys are always getting into trouble. There is one that likes to sit in the water apple tree and unceremoniously throw apples to the ground, regardless of who may be standing there. Another spends his time unsuccessfully trying to break into the kitchen. He has luckily yet to find the hole the opossums use to do just that. There are always a few about, ready to make faces at you and jump around in the trees.

All of these guys are rather common around base, but uncommon ones appear on occasion and make a spectacle when they do. Nine-Banded Armadillos are a rare sight both on trails and on base. So you can imagine the shock of the staff member when one ran headlong into her leg while outside one night making a phone call! Unfortunately by the time she called us over, it had run off into the trees nearby and we couldn’t find it.

And finally, let’s not forget the Montezuma Oropendolas. A bizarre bird unique in every way, from its brightly coloured face, to its unique ‘zoom’ like call to its teardrop hanging nests. Unfortunately for us, these Montezumas set up camp in the cocos directly next to base. This means we have a unique Montezuma alarm clock that ‘zoom’s rather loudly for us starting at 4am and ending with the sunset.

While the Montezumas can be annoying, the Capuchins cheeky and Trevor a constant looming feature, the wildlife here is what makes this place incredible. The memories of the animals here are ones that I will cherish forever and what makes it exiting to wake up every day, for everyday is unique because of them.

Helen Young,

March 2017

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