One afternoon, during a seemingly typical Emergency First Response training session, me (Becca), Fiona, Dave and Felician (fellow volunteers) were led by Pepper and Roberto to the beach. We began to re-enact a snake bite scenario and Felician diligently played the injured party. After we had gone through all the steps we strapped him to the stretcher and began to make our way towards the river mouth to await ‘help’.
As we huffed and puffed along the beach something wonderful greeted us with its presence; a nine-banded armadillo or as the Spanish sometimes say, Cusuco.
As our little friend came trotting along the beach, we gently dropped Felician to the ground, (Roberto and I only just managed to remember to un-strap our poor victim amongst the excitement) and stared in amazement at how close the creature was coming towards us.
Dave rushed back to base to grab his camera and on his way told whoever he could about our surprise visitor. Everyone stopped whatever she or he were doing and hurried to the beach; base completely cleared out in a matter of minutes!
It was an extraordinary thing in itself to witness the whole camp gathered around together in awe and marvel at a mammal that has remained unchanged on earth for 80 million years.
Dave getting up close and personal with his new armoured friend
Armadillo’s have poor eyesight and this one was so completely engrossed in its rummaging that our presence on the beach didn’t seem to make any impact, the armadillo was quite oblivious to the fuss he was able to create.
After a couple of laps along the beach, he rushed over to the high tide line and started to burrow for crabs. The burrowing lasted quite a long time so Dave and Pepper managed to capture some up close and personal shots. After a while though, the armadillo stopped burrowing and decided that he’d graced us enough with his presence and was off to pursue greater things.
Although armadillos are abundant in Costa Rica and around Jalova, the GVI team has never seen such an exceptionally long and close up sighting. Pepper told me that you can sometimes catch a glimpse of an armadillo sniffing around the compost heap, however as soon as you approach to get a better view, it quickly flees the scene and all you manage to see is the end of its armoured tail. It is also a nocturnal creature making the daytime viewing even more special. For me personally that was the first time I had ever seen a real life armadillo, let alone a wild one in its natural habitat!
Burrowing for crabs
Dave suggested that I end this blog with a poem about the occasion; however my creative juices don’t seem to be flowing. Perhaps it’s the humidity. So instead I thought I would finish with a poem from Kipling’s Just So Stories from the chapter The Beginning of the Armadillo that I found on the shelf in the base kitchen.
‘Can’t curl, but can swim-
Stickly-Prickely, that’s him!
Curls up, but can’t swim-
Slow-Solid, that’s him!’
– Becca, one month volunteer