Sunday, February 22, 2015

Porcupines and more porcupines

2 Feb 2015
We have an old porcupine which we had from a baby and brought here from Rovieng.  He has been penned up with the two remaining deer and we would see him (or her) daily when we feed them. Then we didn’t see him for a few days and a porcupine showed up in the camera trap one night, about a kilometre from the pen. Ben was thinking that just maybe our Porky had escaped since villagers have not seen any porcupines in the area for a while. We weren’t sure. Then one night Soon after, Ben was feeding the deer in the pen and who should be there but Porky and running off into the grass was another porcupine, rattling his pines as he trotted away. We had just read a story on CNN about a lone porcupine in the zoo in Israel. Every night, they found porcupine droppings outside the porcupine enclosure and they were baffled.  When they put a camera trap up, they discovered that there was another porcupine who would come to visit the one in the cage—every night. How sweet. They couldn’t work out where he came from as they zoo is in the middle of town. But apparently, porcupines like friends, and ours now has a friend.  We put our camera trap up and didn’t get a shot with the two porcupines together, but separate shots of two, we think, different individuals. Not totally sure, but they seem to have different “hairstyles.”

We have been typing up while offline and waiting for our connection to improve.  Hence these postscripts! Ben was in the garden last night.  While there one of these guys goes scurrying off into the bushes, turning around and rattling his spines. He wasn’t acting very scared. Soon another goes rattling off. One of them must have been our captive one (escaped into the garden).  However two minutes later while walking by the cage, there sits our Porky. Now, who is who? That makes three individuals. And the cage must be compromised.  And worse, the garden fence also useless!

On the Trail

January 26, 2015
By Ben
Our efforts at protecting the immediate area, around our house here, at Phnom Tnout are finally starting to pay off.  Currently we have about 1 sq km. that I would consider 95 percent protected with an additional 5-10 sq. km. being 75 percent protected.  Basically the further one goes from our central hub here the less secure animals are but it’s way better of a situation than last year.
A couple days ago I took an excursion up the mountain to check on a marsh that animals use for drinking.  The number of animals I encountered on my two hour hike, was the most of any walk I’ve taken here to date.  Within a few hundred meters of the house I had already seen silver langurs.  A little further I ran into two peacocks and could hear a third one calling nearby.  I walked under a big tree that had upwards of fifty hornbills feeding on ripe fruit.  A little further the dogs chased a mouse deer although I didn’t get much of a look at it.  Finally I got to the marsh and was surprised to see four woolly necked storks (there is normally only two).  There was also a little pig playing in the mud with the dog immediately chased away.  As I stood near the shoreline of the marsh inspecting the multitude of animal tracks, I saw a very big boar with nasty looking tusks sticking his head out of the brush not far from me. I held perfectly still and he didn’t immediately realize what I was.  When Sippy (the dog) saw him she tore across the grass to have a go at him.  Her enthusiasm was short lived though when he charged out of the brush straight at her.  With tail tucked tight she made a bee line back to me.  Luckily the   pig wasn’t too upset as he soon stopped and tried again to work out what I was.  Finally he must have got wind of me because he turned and high tailed back to the forest’s edge.  Anyway, it was the best look I’ve had of a wild pig in a long time—especially one that big!  On the way back home I saw several Siamese fireback pheasants including a nice rooster who was right in the trail in front of me.  I also passed another troop of langurs who were not too worried about my presence.  I came home feeling optimistic about the prospect of being able to lead tourists in the forest and actually see animals in their natural habitat.

Postscript, Sharyn
2 February
A couple of days later Ben was out checking one of the camera traps. It had been placed at a water hole and we had previously got shots of sambar deer and banteng there.  It was about six in the evening and just on dusk. He had removed the camera trap to take it to another location and on walking away noticed a noise from behind in the water hole.  A female sambar deer called out and in the distance this crashing sound came – right towards Ben.  It was the doe’s baby who was coming to his momma. Ben didn’t move and he just ran right up to his mum, right past Ben.

My Eight Peacocks

By Amelie, Age 10
To start with, the peafowls are not really mine, they are my Dad’s. When I try to chase them out of the house, Dad tells me to stop. Since they chase me too, why can’t I chase them back? I am just trying to protect my territory, the house. I don’t appreciate peacocks! It was really me who started the chasing, not for fun, but chasing them out of my room, which I now share with my sister. Unfortunately peafowl are very curious birds and are particularly interested in shiny things. If they find their way into my usually messy bedroom, I will find them pecking my stuff and occasionally swallowing an extra small object believing it to something to eat. Our peacocks show unusual braveness. Often I see them all staring at our gigantic python, since he is not able to reach them.
The peacocks I know also have a lot of perseverance when they attack. I learned this one time when my sister and I were taking the scraps to Faline, our tame deer. We were hurrying because of Little-Pea, who had been chasing us and it was Mom who had saved us initially from destruction. Rounding the bend, we suddenly heard …… “Caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw-caw” (You can make the sound if you say it very fast). Of course I looked up and Little-Pea (or Sir Pea, his most recent title) was flying right for me looking as if his intention was to follow me to the ends of the earth which might have happened had Mikey, our three legged puppy, not been there, for he excitedly chased my Dad’s  attacking peahen away. 

Green peafowls are beautiful birds and unlike their blue cousins, the females are much like the males, just without any long tail. Recently, a wild male peacock moved in after chasing our smaller male away. Because he has just been introduced to people who don’t kill animals, he is very timid. He has become tamer but still flees when any one approaches. He is a gorgeous bird with a huge train of long green feathers that can spread to form a massive fan having eyes on the ends of the lengthy tail feathers, and on his head sits a proud top-knot of long, thin feathers. He is a very persistent courter. If I go to change the water nearby and he is displaying his feathers, he will shy away. But when I reach the house, he will be back there again, trying hard to draw the attention of the females with his fan. Peafowl, in general look sort of like enormous green chickens with an extra long tail and neck. After watching the peacocks trotting off to try to spot the eagle just after it dived at some chickens, I decided to call them knights. Providing Little-Pea the title, “Sir Pea,” and to Lolly and the peahen I gave the identities of, “Sir Lolly” and “Lady-Queen” (she didn’t have a name before). Actually Sir Lolly and Sir Pea are both females but we still refer to them as males since we had the idea they were males until Lolly laid an egg and Sir Pea did not develop any male features! We couldn’t stop calling them both “he” because we had called them “he” for such a long time. The four young identical peafowl, who I call “the four squires” (knight in training) will share the title until I can tell them apart. Green peafowl are such beautiful birds.    

There are many problems about peacocks in the house. Since peacocks are relatives of chickens, they poo regularly (about ever two minutes.). Some times it is horrid black poo, which Dad says is because they have eaten chicken feed. It can also be dry poo which easier to pick up, however this is Dad’s job and not mine, luckily. Inside the house I sometimes find three peahens at one time! You can imagine how much poo that would make. They are also very nosy, or should I say beaky. Pulling spoons out of the dish drainer, removing pegs out of the peg basket and also pecking our food: that’s what they do! There are many other annoying things that they do such as pooing on my trampoline, sleeping in the shower and chasing me out of my own house! It would be fine if they would stay where they are supposed to. I would be satisfied. Impolitely invading my territory, they insist on flying upstairs into my house! They come into the house because Dad let them believe they’re people, and they still believe that right now, although I’ve tried to make it clear to them that they’re not!  HUMPH! This is one of the biggest problems I have to cope with: peacocks in the house

Editor’s Comments (the Mum!)         
Anyone reading this far may have a few questions about how we can possibly live with seven or eight peacocks in the house. I think Amelie wrote a pretty good piece here however many of the problems she mentioned may have been stretched little! I will endeavour to explain the situation as it stands! And provide some history as to how we ended up with eight peacocks. We were given our first baby peacocks by a monk who had been breeding peacocks at his temple in Siem Reap province. We raised another few from chicks which villagers had stolen from wild nests (tsk! tsk!) It is just something they do and a very big educational challenge for us, trying to stop people from raiding nests, or gathering any wildlife which they come across on their hunting and gathering expeditions. Villagers are very much still in hunter-gatherer mode here (and where we were in Rovieng, before), looking for protein to supplement their usual diet of fermented fish paste, salt and rice.  Well, the babies raised from chicks are incredibly tame and behave more like puppies than fowls. Our first pair from the monk grew up and had eggs which we hatched under chickens (peafowl aren’t the best at setting). We had some challenges and in the first year ended up with only one baby chick who has grown up to be “Little Pea I.” This last year (2014) we were a bit more successful and the four babies are now juveniles. Because we were pretty busy this year, we didn’t “baby” this batch too much and they weren’t so tame. However when they were little, one was left out in a rainstorm and when Ben nursed him back to health, he did become pretty tame, coming into the house when we were there (while we were staying in our temporary house).  He, Little Pea II (we have original names here) also saw fit to invite this three siblings in with him. They spent a lot of time in the house and we spent a lot of time shooing them out. Being babies, they did “poo” rather a lot and it was a very trying period for us all!! However, the situation improved dramatically on moving to our final home, and these juveniles (or Squires as Amelie calls them) have not tried to come in the house at all and spend their time bugging around in the grass. The other two tame females, and the original female from the monk were locked in a chicken pen for the first two months. When the wild male chased away our male , we released the females so that they could have eggs and these two, Lolly and Little Pea do occasionally come in the house but are quickly shown the door (or window). Hence the black poo situation is pretty much rectified.