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Everyone loves a late-night banana feast

February 21, 2012

by Juliet and Yvan

Our best photo of the culprit

When you live an hour and a half’s walk from civilization, fresh fruits and vegetables take on a new significance.  We buy ours every Tuesday from the kind Quechua lady near the square, who always gives us a handful of plums or a bag of small potatoes, asking how the weather is where we come from as though we’re ambassadors from a parallel universe.  Otherwise, we rely on the few things that grow around the cabin during the rainy season– sour naranjillas, lemongrass, citrus fruits midway between limes and oranges, and the occasional banana.

Before their departure, Armando and Tita found a large bunch of bananas alongside one of the trails and left them suspended from the eaves of the porch to ripen.  After nearly two weeks, they finally did… all at once.  Loath to waste a single one, we ate banana pancakes, banana bread, banana muffins, flaming bananas, bananas with granola, and still they remained.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we paid a visit to El Quetzal, Mindo’s finest (and only) chocolatier, coming away with a slab of dense, unsweetened cocoa, and dessert that night was banana fondue.  A few hours later, curled up on our makeshift couch and watching a lightening storm flicker over Mindo, we heard a scrape-thump on the wall of the lodge.  A moment later it came again, closer and more deliberate.  We darted over to the window and shined a flashlight into the darkness.  A pair of lamplike eyes glowed back, set in a pointed face and followed by a muscular body and a trailing tail.

“Kinkajou!”, I diagnosed; never mind that my exposure to kinkajous was limited to the drawings in our mammal guide and a childhood alphabet book of obscure animals (which has since proved an invaluable reference on several occasions).  Something about the lean body and pointy face were unmistakeable.  For its part, the kinkajou was unperturbed– after a brief glance our way, it returned to its object: the bananas.  Lining up its target, it leapt, scaled the rope, grasped the eave with its tail, and in seconds was inverted with its head at the level of the upper bananas.

Too entraced to react, we watched it grasp the banana and dig in, gnawing through the skin and eviscerating the fruit efficiently, moving on immediately to a second.  By the time it  reached its third, our protective instincts kicked in, and Yvan went out on the porch to evict it.  After a brief staredown– the kinkajou seemed less afraid of the human standing three feet away than it was annoyed that its snack had been interrupted– our guest climbed back up the rope and into the rafters, making its way across the low wall of the second floor before descending a post and disappearing into a nearby tree.  When we went upstairs, we found that it had left us a parting gift: a fresh scat atop the wall.

So that’s the story of the St. Valentine’s Day banana thief.  Hopefully our next guest will be a bit more civilized.

Another mammalian visitor- Nine-banded armadillo

And another!

***

A note to previous managers and other friends of the reserve: per Bex and Jamie’s suggestion, we are presently at work on a self-guided brochure including trail maps and descriptions, information about the reserve and LifeNet, and six pages of commonly-seen birds, mammals, plants, insects, etc.  If you have any suggestions or contributions, please leave them in the comments.  We’d love to hear them!

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