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A post for Pablo

March 13, 2012
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Pablo, in all his glory

For the most part, we observe the wildlife around Las Tangaras with a scientific mania for classification and understanding.  In a few cases– particularly the hummingbirds, whose species-specific quirks and soap-opera-style interactions entertain us during rainy afternoons on the front porch– we stray a little from strict objectivity and start to imagine personalities and histories for the individual birds.  However, there’s nobody quite like Pablo the Armadillo, the only animal on the reserve that has his own name (and, now, his very own blog post!).

We named Pablo because, unlike most of the birds, lizards, butterflies, and mammals we see, he is identifiable by sight.  In much the same way as a CSI detective identifies his victim, we can identify Pablo by the massive scar on his right side: a relic of some predator’s fruitless attempt to tear through Pablo’s impressive armor.  Clearly, he is a survivor.  Though his scar commands respect, Pablo himself is unassuming: cat-sized, composed of an ugly grey hill of plated flesh topped with a scaly conical head, leathery ears, peering eyes, hairy feet and a lumpy trail scraggling to a point.

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Pablo's battle scars

The other day I came across Pablo foraging in a trail near the river.  I stood still, and he continued his imperturbable quest for insects, making his way down the trail toward me.  Reaching me, he poked his snout around the sole of my boot, and I lifted my foot a few inches to let him probe underneath,  Satisfied and seeing nothing amiss, he continued his slow passage.  It occurred to me then that maybe Pablo, despite his formidable survival skills, is not the brightest crayon in the box.

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Close encounters of the armadillo kind

As humans, we tend to value quickness, whether in the functioning of our own lightening-fast brains or the spectacle of a cheetah chasing a gazelle across the Serengheti.  Looking at Pablo’s scar, though, I can’t help but wonder if we underestimate the value of thickness.  In the cloud forest, where the dense vegetation makes speed somewhat less of an advantage than on African plains, why not just curl up into a ball and let your armor do the work?  Looking at the broad pink slash across Pablo’s belly plates, I can’t help but think he would agree.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lindsay Dimitri permalink
    April 11, 2012 4:33 pm

    So cute! I was calling the motmot around the house Marty, so there are 2 animals at the reserve with names. I miss Marty and all of the lovely tanagers and hummingbirds.

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