Our travel lives have been full of animal sightings. Ruth & my first encounters occurred in Texas where we saw wild road runners, armadillos, and an extremely photogenic javelina near Big Bend National Park. The photo I took of it is long gone.
I should not have stopped to take its picture. But I did. Also called collared peccaries, javelinas are small but can become vicious and bite humans. I did not get very close to this wild critter and was completely surprised to see it along the road so I stopped and snapped. While traveling since, we have seen too many animal attacks on humans to be risk takers. In Tierra del Fuego, for example, we were warned not to have any contact with wild animals in a national park. I sat on a bus watching as a man attempted to feed a grape to a wild fox. The fox bit him.
Javelinas look like pigs. They are very adaptable herbivores. There are frequent dry seasons where they live, so they dine on prickly pear pads to survive. They live about 7 years in the wild, are widespread, and become aggressive when threatened. Pet dogs are often attacked. They are common in popular tourist places like Sedona, AZ.
On our last trip to Australia Ruth and I went to Kangaroo Island where we saw many sea lions on a beach. We kept our distance and were warned not to speak loudly because they are both protected and endangered. Fewer than 12,000 of them remain in 42 breeding sites in South Australia. We were lucky to see them in this seaside animal sanctuary.
We were also lucky in Costa Rica last year to see several Panamanian white-faced capuchin monkeys. Having lunch in Tortuguero National Park, we heard noises on the roof above us and discoverd that several monkeys were up there. They live all along the Gulf Coast side of this Central American country. Normally insectivores, these cute little animals also eat fruit, flowers, and birds’ eggs. I was wary but lucky to get to take photos of them as they scampered about. Capuchins have great physical strength, I learned later, and can be aggressive.
We also had a close encounter with a caiman along a river on our way to this national park. They are normally not aggressive. Caimans live along rivers in Central and South America and are fairly common. Caiman Crocodilus is often confused with a young alligator. They are not to be coddled. There have been 43 human attacks over a five year period. These attacks were mostly not fatal.
Ruth’s favorite animal encounters have been with koalas. She has had 4 of them. In Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo she held one. Near a lighthouse on the Bass Strait west of Melbourne we saw several of them in a tree. One sleepy-eyed koala became curious and crawled down a branch to check Ruth out. We visited koala sanctuaries near Brisbane and on Kangaroo Island.