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23 October

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Sat 4.45 up, cold shower... well, really 'ambient'. The blue shirt was dry enough from rinsing in the shower, so I put it on. I think I'll shower half way through today, to rinse the brown shirt too.

Coffee at the picnic table in the middle of the compound. Melanie's dad and brothers went fishing and caught themselves a good string.

Ash, Kenneth, and I went ou, up to Dark, Solo, and Streak, who poured out of the same holt as yesterday. We returned to the oxbow lake and saw three otters, although we were only able to identify Milkymouth (and I myself only caught a brief glimpse of one). Ash and Kenneth marked a few new holts, then went further upriver, off Karanambu Ranch, through some creeks to another river, where we found and marked a different family's holts and carried on up to where some Indian Musk Ox live (apparently they'd escaped or something), but they weren't there.

Ash and I discussed how Karanamabu's funded - the cattle ranching, the tourism, and the Trust; it seems that transport costs are increasing, which makes the cattle less profitable, especially with other farms closer to the town; tourism is mostly in the dry season, so it's pretty variable. They're hoping to set up some sustainable trade, through the Trust, to benefit the locals.

Ash is taking the BBC 12 days into the jungle, in a while, looking for jaguars. They're allowed a maximum weight of 200lbs each, which they'll have to carry up waterfalls and suchlike. Apparently a Japanese camera crew turned up a few weeks ago when the river was rather higher, and saw almost no otters despite having brought a whole load of kit. It seems I've arrived at a good time, when the river's just getting low enough to start marking holts and finding otters.

Back for breakfast - fruit, sweet baked beans, and boiled sausage/frankfurter. Melanie's dad had managed to catch a fish-hook in his cheek - the feathers of the fly dangling like a disturbing sort of hairy wart. Rather him than me. They took it out without much fuss, but it was distracting during breakfast.

Down to the landing with Sappho, Melanie and her brothers go in the water with her; I'll go down tomorrow (with plenty of sunblock). Rohan bought fish from the landing to the steps, and Sappho swam over with Melanie. She started playing - a little too roughly, climbing up onto their shoulders and heads, snuffling them - so they gave her some fish, but she decided to play with the final bit - a catfish head, which Melanie caught and threw for her. She managed to catch one of her own, which she tossed and played with much like a cat with a mouse, before eating it.

She climbed up the steps, but instead of going onto the deck, she slipped between the top stairs and started digging underneath it, as if she were trying to dig herself a holt, and then climbed out, ran to sniff around in the old pump houseand then ran off into the forest, explored in there for a while, then ran then back to the river, still messing around. Melanie thinks it's because she's maturing; apparently other folks have said their female otters have grown similarly bitey, whereas the males are more laid back.

1200 out again with Dianne and another guide, after lunch, looking for holts or Rewa (an adult male who joined the local family). I could only remember the holt where the three otters had slipped out previously, when the boat ?woke them. We looked for a while longer, then met up with Mel's family, and drifted back downstream, holding the boats together and singing songs. At Karanambu, we found that Sappho had NOT been taken up to the otter house, beacuse she'd refused to go, and was therefore still out at the bank. It was very dark. We found her near the stairs to the river - on the earthen bank above them - but she woudln't come. It turns out she'd only had three fish because they'd given most of what they had to Dianne so she could tempt Rewa if she found him, or make a gift to the local family to help win their friendship again (after the rainy season had taken them away from their previous range). Sappho still wouldn't come, even with Dianne pleading her, and she wouldn't be carried, so they were forced to leave her down in the bushes.

Dianne has my alarm clock to rouse her at 4.40; I plan to get up around 4.40 too, to shower etc, have coffee at 5.15, and take some down to Dianne while she sits at the top of the steps to prevent Sappho from going into the river to drink/swim, lest she's caught by caimen. Argh.

Also, in the afternoon, I went to see Sappho because I heard her calling, but didn't want to disturb her or get her worked up, but I saw Dianne going over, so I followed. Dianne wasn't pleased because Sappho's pool was only half full, and her everted tyre was still leaking. And her pull-toy had broken. Sappho kept trying to escape.

I got to stroke her quite a lot - even dry - her fur was very soft, softer than a cat's, but she was clearly all muscle. She was very cute, very ferrety, and nuzzly in a friendly cat sort of way. I hope I get to play with her tomorrow.

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This page last changed Sat Dec 25 00:35:49 2004