Saturday, August 20, 2011

Animal Anecdote 14.

The cat carrier was like many on my examining table for my next appointment. Without checking the record made out by a receptionist I opened the container and there were two of the most unusual creatures I had ever seen. Looking up at the client I asked what I was looking at. To describe, they weighed about 4 pounds, the color of a woodchuck but with large dark eyes, larger than any animal their size I had ever seen. The client said they were Pottos. Pottos are prosimian nocturnal African tree living animals.

They had not taught us about Pottos in Veterinary School and I had never even heard of them. This is a good example of why the veterinary profession is both so challenging and interesting. I admitted my ignorance and suggested someone familiar with the species be consulted. It seems nobody knows much about them and it was decided that I be their “doctor.”

Studying the books and phoning a friend at the Bronx Zoo in New York I found that other than being vegetarians, living in trees and after dark coming to the jungle floor there was little known about them. They had never been successfully propagated in captivity. With that to go on I became the veterinarian for a small colony of them brought by a Yale scientist from Africa to study them.

It was satisfying to me that with every medical problem they had my treatment seemed specific with prompt recoveries. Eventually with the help of a bacteriologist, Professor Lawrence Penner of U. Conn. we discovered these animals had infections from bacteria that had never been exposed to all the antibiotics and medications that local creatures had and so the bacteria had no immunity and most any medication prescribed would kill most infections.

It was no wonder my record of success of treatments was so good. I also suggested that perhaps they were not strict vegetarians and why not try some animal protein in their food. A phone call arrived telling me they wanted me to see something about the Potto colony and asked me to stop by. I did and the head of the project opened a refrigerator and removed a paper cup full of dead newborn mice. The cup of “pinkeys” were offered and several of these nocturnal animals awakened, crawled out on a tree limb in their cage and, reaching into the cup grasped a pinkey and ate it as we might a candy bar- a bite at a time.

We proved for the first time as far as I know that Pottos are omnivorous as they began reproducing as most mammals do. These little creatures are gentle to handle and have opposing thumbs as we do and use them as we do.

A human doctor’s strange recommendation next time.

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