Eric & Erica
When you live in Panama and have a garden of about 8 hectares (20 acres) there are a number of animals you could keep. But we opted to not “keep” any, no cattle, no dog, no cat… However, animals are starting to surround us, or seeing us as their caretakers. We are going to introduce them to you.
Eric and Erica are “our” squirrels. They are of the variegated squirrel species, and have a blond belly and black back. Only certain times of the year when they take up certain positions can we tell who is Eric and who might be Erica.
In 2007 when we saw the first squirrel of their kind on the edge of our reforested garden we were very happy. It was after all a pastureland that we bought and we were turning back into a forest.
By now, there are enough high trees, bushes and palms that Eric and Erica can do a circle around Heliconia Bed and Breakfast. They do so daily. There are areas such as our driveway where the coconut palms do not touch the cecropia tree on one side. But if you climb high enough on the leaves and jump your best, you just make it to the other side. A similar problem exists between the mango tree and the beach almond (btw – we are not on the beach, it is just a common tree name). Sometimes a jump goes wrong. But they never lay still, the ground is very dangerous, so no matter how you fell or how you feel, as soon as possible, you get back in the nearest tree.
Erica is very fanatic about regularly eating a coconut. She likes them green, and the best of these are between the cecropia and the beach almond… It takes a beginning squirrel on average 2 days (not fully employed) to make the hole. And then drink as soon as possible and scrape that delicious young coconut out of the hole. Sometimes you she needs to make the whole bigger, or her head does not fit in. By now, Erica is very experienced and she can make the hole in one morning.
Erica does not like competition in the same tree. So if Eric is also coming around, she goes after him or he after her. It is a bit like in the Ice Age film – sharing a (coco)nut with a squirrel of the other sex may be tempting but in the end keeping it to yourself is better!
So nearly every morning we listen to her gnawing for several hours…
Once in a while, if we want to barter fish for fresh coconuts, we take of a whole bunch out of the various coconut palms. When Eric(a) then arrives at the palm, you can see her wondering… who was here? They were such good nuts? The right size and all…
Sometimes (s)he leaves the coconut after drinking and goes about other squirrel business. That is a wrong move because other animals in our garden take advantage. Like a small woodpecker, or a blue and gray tanager, or one of our other “pets”, Victor the Vulture.