Leprosy Free Pangolins

Winding roads and poor suspension are starting to become the norm on these excursions. After putting my stomach to the test, and some questionable soup, we finally arrived at the village in question. We chatted with the chief regarding local pollution from an old mine upstream (a common theme), and the previous testing/interventions. A plan was made. We set off to collect our samples to ensure that the water the villagers use on a daily basis remains safe. It was an interesting project, and I am anxious to see the results.

One of our stops involved collecting water samples from a small school. I managed to scare some children, who stared at me with wide eyes. On occasion I have been the first westerner that people have seen, so I always try to keep that in mind when I am in rural areas. I try to appear as friendly as possible. While I do not normally think of myself as an intimidating person, I have terrified a few children in my day. I waved at a few of the braver ones who peered at me from behind a door. They quickly ducked back inside. We managed to make a game of this. They would stare at me when I wasn’t looking, and then give a smile and timid wave in response to mine, before ducking back inside again. They were adorable.

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After sample collection was complete, we made the long trek back to campus.

Saturday was a tourist day. We planned to visit a waterfall, which I was pretty excited about in the heat. While we were on the way, they casually pointed out some elephants. To which the only appropriate response is “UGHHAHAHHH”. Our reaction was so immediate and loud that they decided they should probably stop and let us see them. It was a camp for tourists to go to spend time with elephants. Our new friends are the veterinarians that treat the magnificent creatures who live there. Normally I wouldn’t support a tourist endeavour like that, but they assured us that the elephants there are treated humanely and always seek veterinary care when needed. We said hi to some wonderful elephants, and even one baby.

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After the excitement, we did head over to the waterfall. It was beautiful, but involved venturing through the forest a little ways. In flip flops. There were many little fish in the water who want to nibble your toes, which I did not appreciate. And some very large fish that I was hoping would not try. While moving from one area of the waterfall to another, I suddenly noticed a large creature also taking a relaxing dip. A large water monitor appeared moving masterfully through the water. I asked if it was dangerous, but they are just scavengers who don’t pay that much attention to people.

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We moved to a different area of the waterfall, with more people and I went for a swim. Or, was pushed into the water I should say and made the best of it. I tried to stand up near the waterfall, but mischievous little fishes kept biting my toes. Nope. A whole lot of nope. I kept swimming for a little to ward them off but decided I should probably just get out of the water. I was impressed with those willing to frolic with the little creatures.

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After hanging out near the water for a while, and having some random guy asking to take a photo with me, we set off for a late lunch. This is my “Brett pushed me in the water” face.

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When we returned to the campus we were taken on a tour of the wildlife rehab centre. It was interesting to see the animals staying there, and make some new friends. A sun bear cub was particularly interested in us, and kept trying to lick us through the fence.

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Earlier in the week we had heard about two pangolins who were staying in the hospital. I had never seen one up close before, and truthfully do not know much about them other than that they can carry leprosy.  Though, we were told that these two in particular were leprosy free. Excellent. They are nocturnal, so I did not get a good photo, but they were wonderful little sleepy coats of armour.

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It was a sad goodbye to our new friends at the rural campus as we left to go back to the main campus. But it is a new week with new adventures. With the beloved Mr. X once again at the helm, I can’t wait to see what we get up to next.

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