by Alan R. Graham
We hadn’t exactly decided to invest the next 10 years of our lives in saving coatis. It just happened that way when, in 2009, three orphaned babies were thrown in my lap. Witzoo Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize was a fledgling enterprise at the time, preparing to help any animal in need of rehab and release.
The e-book “Coati Kingdom” is their definitive story – a complete picture of the species, their distribution and their range, their diet and their behavior in the wild. Pet care and good housekeeping is also covered, simply because many were originally captive animals poached for the illegal pet trade and we became mom and dad. I was even sent to Washington State to rescue two coatis from a freezing winter in 2017.
For my wife and I, what started as a nice little hobby soon turned into monumental mayhem. From the time we had to let 20 little furry monsters into our house prior to the arrival of a violent tropical storm and the ensuing disaster therein, to the awful plight of a young, 2-year-old male, mauled by the teeth and claws of a then alpha male named “Trouble.”
Rushes to the vets were commonplace, mucking out their quarters in the pouring rain, matter of fact. Our lives had become consumed by coatis. In the first few years, walks and training exercises were needed to teach new arrivals how to cope in the wild. But later the band took over our duties and the sanctuary cages were no longer necessary – everyone began building nests in trees, as any proper coati should.
That didn’t stop the blood-curdling moments and tear-jerking anxieties we felt almost every day. We were in this thing up to our necks: babies stuck in trees; mothers caught in floods; youngsters who refused to join the band. However, throughout the ordeal there were other moments of pure bliss. Each one had a character all their own. We got to share their lives, study their every nuance and game. Some were naughty, some respectful, some were just darn-right adorable.
When the first four babies were born in the wild we rejoiced, like grandparents. The following year we lost count – babies everywhere.
You see, our program became such a success that in the space of six years a little group comprising two girls and one boy had turned into a band of 80. That number was augmented by the arrival each year of five or six orphaned or injured babies from the Forestry and Wildlife Department of Belize, nevertheless the vast majority of the band today were all born in the wild.
We shouldn’t take credit for their achievements. All credit must go to those first three little darlings, Angel, Mona and Leo. While wild populations of coatis in Central and South America are being decimated by ballooning agricultural practices, deforestation and illegal hunting, our three champions reversed that trend in a small pocket of transitional forest on the Caribbean coast.
Still today, my pesky “kids” come around to the patio once or twice a week in the hopes of a treat, but no longer do we have to supplement their diet, as we did before. Now the treat is on us – to have a happy family of babies, juveniles and adult moms all lying about outside the house, wild and free.
You can contact Alan Graham:
Phone: +501 610-0447
Available on Amazon
AUTHOR BIO: Alan, a Brit, is a wildlife photographer/filmmaker and published author of novels in the genres of speculative fiction and thrillers. He has also written countless articles for international prints including BBC Wildlife Magazine, Travel Africa and International Living over a career of 30 years. His most successful TV documentary “The Affairs of Hares” was filmed entirely in the wilds of Devon, England, between 1996 and 2000. He owns and manages Witzoo Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize.