Buddy at the Zoo

My apologies for the gap in posting.  I’ve been teaching a short course for middle and high school teachers on noise pollution and it’s been all consuming.  I will pick up on our adventure to the Rupununi with Ilze, Allen, Chuck, Cheryl, and Nicole from the Shedd Aquarium very soon.  I will also be back in Guyana at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, today the PR folks at the Jacksonville Zoo sent a link to a video about Buddy–apparently the story aired on July 30.  It’s good to see him enjoying his fish meals.  The end of the piece left me frowning, though.  The reporter ends by saying there’s a twist to the story.  The otter once lived in a village and was chased out but no one knows why.  My initial reaction was, What did she say?  I’ve tried to post the link to the video but it doesn’t seem to work reliably.

buddy GO day 3 jul 22 2009

Buddy at Iwokrama, July 22, 2009

Sadly, there is no mystery about how Buddy ended up at Karanambu, at least not the way I heard the story.  If you have time, see my prior blogs about Buddy’s rescue starting here:


Here’s a summary:

Buddy and his sister were taken out of the wild as cubs and raised by an Amerindian family as pets.  One of the otters killed a villager’s bird.  In retaliation, the female was killed and Buddy was chased from the village.  Because he was so imprinted on people, he swam a short way down river and started begging for fish at the nearest dock.  This happened to be the landing for Iwokrama, an internationally funded center for forestry research.  The staff there called Diane when they realized Buddy would soon become a nuisance, he had maggot-infested wounds around his rear end, and there were wild otters in the area who might kill him, if people didn’t.

Maybe this story is not the truth.  But it makes sense to me and I’ve been visiting Karanambu since 1996.  In addition,when I examined Buddy, he had several scrapes around his neck, as well, just under his left ear.  And what felt like a piece of metal under the skin on the nape of his neck–the lump is visible in both of the photos in this post.

Once at Karanambu, Buddy settled into a fairly healthy routine except he was much older than most of the orphans Diane has been able to rehabilitate.  He was accustomed to his freedom.  One day he returned from a swim with severe trauma to both eyes.  In this case, we know less about what took place.  But these were injuries consistent with several smacks on the head–very likely the result of another negative interaction with people.  He subsequently lost most of his vision, and though he continued to swim and fish at the river, it was clear he could never go wild.  The Jacksonville Zoo had a prior agreement with the government of Guyana for a breeding loan for a non-releasable wild giant otter.  And that’s how Buddy moved to Florida.

The way I see it, even though Buddy was hurt by people, he was also helped by people, dozens of them!  I wish the whole story had been told in the video.  Why wasn’t it?  I can think of a few possible answers.

1) It would take too long and would sound too complicated.

2) This a good news story–otter rescued by zoo–so let’s not ruin it.

Ah well.  At least it was good to see that Buddy is safe and eating up a storm.  I do hope he will one day breed.

To view the video, try here:

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One Comment

  1. Kenyon Merritt
    Posted August 24, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Lucy, I am a volunteer at the Jacksonville Zoo and fell in love with Buddy (and Talia) shortly after their arrival. I adopted the giant otter and am looking forward to seeing him in his exhibit very soon. Perhaps pups too. Thank you for your dedication and work at Karanambu.

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