Hi, I’m Keiley,
I have been a volunteer at Wildtracks for around 7 months and have worked with a wide range of animals, but more closely with the wild cats. Unfortunately, like most of the animals in rehabilitation care at Wildtracks, people think they all make great pets, but I have the scars to prove that these incredible animals do not make good pets and do not belong anywhere but free in the wild. My aim is to help them return safely to their beautiful natural environment where they can hopefully enjoy the rest of their lives and have families of their own, the way they are meant to live.
We have 3 wild cats here, all margays. The oldest is Diego. He is around 8 – 9 months. He was confiscated at a road checkpoint by police officials, from people who were trying to pass him off as a domestic cat. He has been with us from an estimated age of 5 weeks, and has recently been moved to a spacious new cage specifically designed to imitate his natural environment.
We also have Taz, an 8 month old who came in at about 6 weeks old. He was rescued from the side of the road by a lovely American couple, and hand raised. When they discovered that it is illegal to keep wild cats in Belize, they brought him to Wildtracks for rehabilitation and release back into the wild, and I have raised him ever since. He has also just been moved into a new, larger cage.
The last cat we have is Felix, who is about 4 months old. He was found at an estimated age of 2 weeks old by hunting dogs in a field and was taken to the Wildlife Clinic. After monitoring him for a week to make sure he was ok, he then came to us, and I have been his surrogate mum ever since. He is still in the “hands on” phase, so he still requires a small amount of human interaction. Once a day for 30 minutes I go into his cage, feed him his milk and give him enrichment, by getting him to run around his cage and climb, chasing me and using baby coconuts and oranges as toys to attract his attention and teach him to chase them in the hope that he will perhaps gain some kind of hunting skills. Hopefully we will be moving Felix into a larger cage that will allow him to have more space to run around, and reduce the level of human contact he requires, enabling him to move that one step closer to release, like Diego and Taz.
Margays are the smallest of the wild cats in Belize, and have a very slender build. They are arboreal, spending most of their time in the trees. The ankles on their back limbs have the ability to rotate 180° making them amazing climbers and very agile when moving through tree tops and along narrow branches. All of the cats’ cages have been designed based on this knowledge, allowing them to hopefully flourish in and learn valuable skills to enable them to eventually be successfully released into the wild at around 18 months of age.
Next step is to try and teach them to kill live prey for themselves!!!