Monday, January 25, 2010

Yapese Creatures Great and Small

After the concrete jungles of Seattle, where most of the animal life is either behind bars at the zoo, on leashes with their owners, or hidden deep beneath the waters of the Puget Sound, seeing the large numbers of animal inhabitants of Yap has been a shock. It’s a real jungle here, with all its wild diversity, and we humans just have to learn to get along. 

Upon arriving, the first thing we noticed was the number of dogs. They can be seen everywhere on the streets. While some young pups are adopted by families here, it seems that the majority are self-sufficient and have simply adapted to life in the wild. They roam the neighborhoods either in small packs or on their own, living contentedly on scraps and garbage, without the need for Alpo, water dishes, or much human intervention at all. They’re mostly big dogs too - as this is no place for toy poodles, terriers, or Chihuahuas – but very friendly, if not a little skittish at first. Just in our little neighborhood, we’ve met a number of them, whom the expat’s have given names like ‘meaty’ (because he’s so fat) and ‘lippy’ (because she’s got a busted lip from a long forgotten fight with another dog). While Miranda has made some initial comments about the cuteness of some of the little puppies, we’ve both agreed that after leaving behind our beloved cats Sox and Pumpkin, the emotional strain of abandoning a pet here would be too great.

However, Miranda has taken a real fancy to a terribly skinny, probably previously mistreated dog named Tails Morris(though we recently learned he may actually be named Morris!) who lives in the neighborhood.  He comes around every couple of days and waits patently at our door for Miranda to feed him scraps. He’ll eat pretty much anything – from old fish bones, to bread, bits of cheese, and even an occasional green bean – and then trot away once he’s had his fill. Maybe in time he’ll feel comfortable enough to stick around a while, instead of eating and running!

We were really surprised at numbers of wild chickens that roam all over the island. Before the crack of dawn, the first thing you hear is the sound of the roosters. Not just a couple, mind you. Close up of Rooster Every morning, it’s a loud chorus of crowing from perhaps a half a dozen different beaks. They are plentiful due to a diet of plentiful insects, and don’t seem to be owned by anyone in particular. In fact, in our front yard, we have constant entertainment watching a hen lead around her group of little chicks. Though, the first time we ate at a restaurant here, we did ask whether the chicken on the menu was ‘local’. Thankfully, most of the eating poultry is Foster Farms.

Mike’s favorite creatures have to be the geckos and lizards. Not only do they clear out the toy-car sized roaches from places like the medicine cabinet, kitchen, and closets, they’re pretty cute too and mostly harmless. Gecko’s large and small can sometimes be seen migrating along the exterior walls of the house, and sometimes in random places inside too. They provide entertainment too, as we’ve seen two geckos, inches apart, staring each other down completely motionless for five minutes or more. On another occasion, we watched a gecko carefully stalking grasshopper nearly its own size on our front window. Apparently, the geckos like to hang out on top of doors left ajar, so if you’re not careful and push the door open too fast, you can wind up with a scared gecko falling on you!

Lizard Up CloseThere are also some huge lizards of an unknown variety that live in the mango trees outside our front window.  On sunny days, they’ll climb down and warm themselves on the trunks.


One evening, we were sitting outside on our porch, watching the wind whip the large fronds of the banana and coconut trees, and drop leaves from the mango trees onto our yard. All of a sudden, we heard a rustle among the dead mango leaves, and spotted a dark shape moving quickly across the yard. First thinking it might be another giant lizard, or a rat, upon closer inspection it was a crab – probably about 8 or 9 inches long! It sidestepped nonchalantly past us, and went on its way, ambling across the street. Mike wanted to track it down and break out the melted butter, but after seeing its tiny little claws, thought the better of it.

While we have both adjusted to sharing our environment with local creatures like bugs and lizards, some guests are simply not welcome. Such is the case with our new friend “Wally”. By way of back story, the second night we were here, we mistakenly left out a brand new loaf of banana bread, nicely wrapped in cellophane. The next morning, the cellophane was ripped open and at least a good third of the bread was missing. Several days later, we left a bunch of bananas on the counter, and the next morning, several of them were eaten – peel and all. So, thinking we’d learned our lesson, we then put the bananas in a sealed Tupperware container. Surely everything is safe inside Tupperware, right? To our surprise, we awoke to find to find the all the edges of the container nibbled clean away! To make matters worse, that night, as we were sitting watching TV on the couch, we heard the unmistakable sound of something clawing and scratching away in the wall right behind our heads. Of course, since that wall is shared by both the kitchen and bathroom – any time we are in those rooms either, we can hear the scurrying around. Just let your imagination run wild there. Since then, we’ve searched everywhere for some kind of a mouse hole, or some way he can get in and out of the house, but found nothing. Now, most every night, we’re visited by the creepy sound of something living inside our walls – hence “Wally”. From the intensity of the sound coming from the walls, Mike is convinced our guest is one of these famous 2 or 3 pound, foot long Norwegian Rats. This may not be too unrealistic, as we’ve seen similar-sized rats on the streets of Colonia. Thankfully, unless he comes out while we’re awake, we may never know. In any case, soon we’ll buy some mouse poison or traps to take care of the problem – although having a dead rat in the wall may be just as bad as a living one. Looking on the bright side, we’ve heard that even if our new friend decides to find a last resting place inside the wall, with the number of bugs and lizards also residing there, at least it likely won’t smell bad for too long. What a pleasant thought!

Note: Most of these creatures were found here, in our front yard:

Panorama of Front Yard

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