TAYRA

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I hope you’ll excuse the lack of images in this post- I know that most on this blog are image-heavy, text-light- but for this beauty, I mean to make an exception. This is a tayra- an animal that very few people outside of South America have heard of, but an absolutely gorgeous creature that became a something of a white whale for me while I was away.

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Now, anyone that’s been to the rainforest will tell you that seeing something fluffy is a rare privilige. There’s lots of amazing things to see, but mammal sightings here are to be as treasured as they are rare. In Bellavista, you get to cheat this general rule, because they have a couple of established feeding stations featuring big bunches of bananas. They are regularly visited by not one, not two, but three creatures of the fluffy variety- red-tailed squirrels (reasonably exciting), olinguitos (an arboreal, newly described carnivore- very, very exciting), and tayras (tremendously exciting). While I managed to see the first two on my first attempt, the tayras eluded me for two years of visiting, despite getting up early almost every day to try to get a glimpse of one. Nobody else seemed to have this difficulty, serendipitously being in the right place at the right time to see one; and I began to think that it just wasn’t meant to be.

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However, in proof that wildlife fortunes favour those who wait, this year, I finally saw one. It was early in the morning, and I’d traipsed over from the research station for sunrise to hopefully catch the trogons and woodcreepers breakfasting on moths. I was at the feeding station, when from the undergrowth a little mustelid padded out and made his or her way towards a fallen piece of banana. The tayra got breathlessly close- around 3m- before grabbing the banana and disappearing once again. Its gait was a mixture of that slinky movement that characterises things like otters and weasels with the more ponderous gait of something like a bear -big, fluffy paws with long nails make them adept climbers. Thankfully, it was only gone for a few minutes before heading back for another piece. Eventually, he or she became more bold, and at one point stopped carrying the bananas away and stayed to eat one right in front of us. To summarise the next few minutes- tayras vastly overestimate how much banana they can fit in one mouthful.

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Anyhow- that’s the last of the posts from Bellavista (for now, at least). The next couple come from our next stop on the field course- the Amazon basin, and the inimitable San José de Payamino.

 

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