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Monday, August 22, 2011

It's a jungle out there, Bambi!

It all started when my friend Jane came to me one day some months ago with a baby palm civet cat that literally fell from the sky. Apparently a tree somewhere in KL was being felled and this little thing, then merely the size of my palm, had fallen to the ground from its nest. And so it was immediately orphaned. And for that reason, I had named it Bambi.

I brought Bambi home that night. She had to be bottle-fed. I took over some supplies Jane bought : formula-milk for kittens, mini milk bottle and a little toy doll - together with the cage she had loaned me. Mee Tee, my Thai helper at home was immediately put in-charge to care for Bambi.

I went to the pet store the very next day to buy a bigger 'home' as I figured it'll only be fair to deck it out like a jungle gym where she has ample space to run about and start to learn how to climb. And so I got her a 3-storey 'palace' where she lived till her day of release.

In her 'palace', she had a pink hammock which she absolutely loved. It didn't take long before she learnt to climb her way up to the 3rd 'floor' to crawl into what became her cozy crib where she'd curl up into a ball and fall sound asleep anytime of the day. Then I got her one of those cat scratchers with hanging furry balls which she also quickly grew really fond of..... It's incredibly fun to watch her go nuts with excitement in her home with these toys to keep her active. It's a priceless experience for me to have the opportunity to watch her closely and learn about civet cats. They do behave like a domestic animal, they play and they respond to petting and love a belly rub:) They're like dogs! Bambi would get 'geram' playing with her little plastic doll and then attempt to rip it apart, like a dog with a toy! She would climb up and down the cat scratcher, hang upside down, and go totally crazy clawing and playing with the hanging fur balls, like what a cat does!
Once, Bambi got pretty sick after accidentally eating a guppy. My fault, it was meant as a visual amusement! She had diarrhea and was vomiting, I was terrified that she might not make it... she was still so little! I did what I could, I fed her water with a syringe every half hour. She was lifeless! Brought it to Jane who then brought it to a vet. Before we knew it, she was all normal again the next day! That I didn't quite understand, but anyway she thrived and I felt so relieved words can't even describe it.

Friends who have experience with civet cats (Bali and Loret, thank you!) had been great help. After putting Bambi on a milk + fruit diet for a couple of months, I was advised to start introducing her to meat. Raw chicken neck + liver and a nut mix with dried figs were included in her diet as she would need additional calcium and minerals to grow. And she did, quite quickly!
We started to feed her live crickets too for additional protein and also because she should be 'in training' to catch some in the wild later all on her own. She LOVED crickets!! It's a real joy watching her catch them herself in her 'palace' and then eat up. We know then that she's thriving very well, growing up healthy and we're doing the right thing.

We would take her out of her enclosure everyday and put her on the tree in our garden so she learnt to climb. But boy, she was getting ferocious and feisty more and more. And I figured perhaps we should prepare for her release soon so that she doesn't get too comfortable faring within a domesticated environment. Well, I'm still not very sure if I should've released her sooner than this weekend but my instincts tell me she's gonna be okay over time.

So the chance finally came when we decided to drive to Tioman on Friday because flights were full and we had to by hook or by crook, get to our resort this last weekend before it gets even more impossible with our traveling schedule, work load in KL and Spore and other circumstances. So fantastic! Time to ferry Bambi to her new home away from home, as initially intended.

We have 11 acres of vast jungle within the grounds of JapaMala Resort where she can roam endlessly, even past our grounds. There's plenty of fruit trees, lots of other civet cats around, lush trees of sorts where she can nest, free from human predators hence the least disturbance. Tioman really is the best place to be. It's anybody's dream place and I'm seriously jealous....
So the process of Bambi's move began on Friday morning at my house. Mee Tee my helper was suffering from the separation. I on the other hand, only had the best thoughts in mind. I know this was no doubt the best thing to happen to Bambi - FREEDOM at last! Or least on its way....
We found a box where we could keep her in darkness throughout the whole journey. She obviously didn't like to be moved and locked up. Confused, threatened and stressed, she was very uneasy inside the box. We could hear her hissing and striking the box from within quite a bit. So we moved the box to the back seat from the back of our 4-wheel drive and she immediately became more settled. I guess it was the vibration that caused her discomfort?? Oops... sorry baby!
THE DAY BAMBI LEFT KL : From car to boat. Our speed boat waited for us in Tanjung Gemuk. We finally arrived at JapaMala after about an hour. It was a pleasant ride, we rode on pretty flat sea in the sun. I've missed Tioman so much!!!!

Our staff, like everytime, waited on us at our jetty. So nice to see everyone again! Bambi was the first to get off the boat and I brought her straight away to private grounds. I wanted to give her some water quickly. Found an old laundry basket which was good to transfer her to from the box. Found a bamboo cup and filled it with water, placed inside the basket together with a piece of fruit and then we had to figure out how to get her from box to basket whilst she was in attack mode! Tough one.... Figured the best way to do it in the end was just turn the box upside down as Bambi could just leap into the basket and that was exactly what me and my husband did after much fuss about finding a cloth or glove to handle her in case we get bitten.

So there she stayed for a bit, waiting for her to get a little calmer (yes she was drinking! good sign) while we went to check if her new home was ready! We had already given instructions to our contractor/carpenter ('Maradona' as he preferred to be called) hours before. It was after 5pm then and 'Maradona' was nowhere to be found. And I, was getting annoyed. Hubby walked over to the contractors' residence on the other beach and returned with an old bird cage. He said the new enclosure will be ready only tomorrow! I was pissed by then hahhaahha..... anyway, the bird cage was decently spacious at least so Bambi would still be comfortable for one night. The problem is, the door is a tad tiny for us to squeeze her in! We tried nevertheless but she wouldn't go through! Now that's gonna be a bitch to try and handle her again! She was super feisty by then. Hmmmmm.........
I suggested we crack open the roof where Bambi will enter from the basket. Still didn't work. Then we then toppled the basket upside down. Again, she refused to go into the cage. She hung onto the wicker with her strong sharp claws and refused to budge! Now what.
So Federico then decided to handle her. Wrapped his hands with some cloth we found on-site and angry as Bambi may have been, she succumbed to his gentle petting which seemed to have calmed her down a little. Some TLC was what she needed at that time I guess? Everyone went, "Awwwwwww......" hahhahaha..... During this time, I hooked up her hammock (her version of our human 'smelly pillow' or 'bantal busuk') and placed her bamboo mug with water and fruit to set up her crib for the night. Then after some minutes, 'daddy' then tried to pick her up again but she put up a fight again! This went on like for 15 minutes - 3 men and a baby. What an ordeal!
After some struggling and not-so-rough handling (thankfully), Bambi was finally inside the bird cage. She found comfort in her hammock right away (Awwwwww..... good thing I brought it along). Drank some more water and even caught a cricket! By then it was nightfall. My nocturnal baby's first night in the jungle:)
NEXT MORNING : I've chosen a spot for Bambi's temporary new tree house. It's on a dense mango tree. While watching 'Maradona' construct Bambi's tree house, I thought, how perfect. She loves ripe mangoes! Here she gets plenty :D

The idea is to introduce Bambi to the wild slowly. This tree house will be constructed around the tree, with trunk and some branches enclosed within for her to climb about or cultivate the art of climbing on a real solid big tree with rewards waiting at the top. Once she adapts to this environment (we figured 2 weeks), our staff will open the roof door and allow her to roam around. And yes, that will be the first time ever Bambi will roam freely on her own in the wilderness. I've instructed that the roof door to be left opened whenever they let her out so that she's able to return whenever she wants to for food, water or her 'smelly pillow'. Just in case, you know....
At least she gets to explore beyond her enclosure, find her own food and hopefully learn to build her own nest eventually. When she doesn't return to her man-made crib anymore, that's when we'll know she's ready to be on her own. But in the meantime, there'll always be an opened door for her if she feels insecure being out there.
We have a crew of wonderful and reliable staff at JapaMala whom I can depend on to care for Bambi while I'm gone. They will collect ripe mangoes, wild figs, wild jambu, crickets and other insects etc... fruits in and around her new natural habitat for Bambi everyday, to 'educate' her on the right foods to eat.
So the tree house was finally ready after lunch (terima kasih pakcik 'Maradona'!) Now it's time to move Bambi into her temporary home! Rabi and Sudir are islanders who are used to wildlife and have had encounters with civet cats one too many times. Rabi lifted the bird cage up while Sudir supported at the bottom, and door to door, Bambi entered into her new crib!!! Effortless.
I don't know when we'll return to Tioman again! Time as always is my biggest enemy. But I know Bambi is in good hands. Although I'm worried sick about predators like snakes and monitor lizards... but i know that's the course of nature and there's nothing I can do about it except trust her instincts. I'll get daily updates on her progress from our crew and I just can't wait for Bambi to grow up in our jungle and find a mate eventually and produce her very own Bambini one day!!


bongga said...

God bless you Maple. You're really strong. If me I would not be able to let go or I'd be a blubbering idiot.

Maple Loo said...

Bongga, thanks to you Bambi grew up strong (and even fat!) following your diet & care recommendations:) Maybe bcos you had pre-warned me on the heart pain, maybe bcos I know this is the right thing to do, maybe bcos I don't feel like I've lost her completely since she's still within my domain even though she will be totally free soon.... I'm heavy-hearted too but I'm happy at the same time. I'm sure you felt the same when you did it! Can't quite describe it, can we? Thank you my dear, you're god-send!

Au and Target said...

Good job, Maple. You've optimised the chances of survival for this little fuzzy. Good luck, Bambi!

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