I have a red brocket deer problem. This isn’t exactly a “first world problem”, I guess, but it does feel somehow funny and privileged. At least in that I’m not shooting, trapping, poisoning, or otherwise doing anything to these damn animals, which may or may not be endangered….
Let’s back up. Carlos has been doing a stupendous job of taking care of the trees. All the trees, but especially the trees in the area planted by my friends back in 2016. We call it Sector Astronium, after Tree #1, the ron-ron (Astronium graveolens). In my mind it’s the sacred grove. Whatever you call it, it’s where the trees are all dedicated to friends and their loved ones. Where we’re trying to plant at least one example of almost every species we put into the finca.
Most of the trees in Astronium are growing like gangbusters. Seriously folks, they are growing so tall and happily, it’s amazing to behold. I am sorry that I am not better at posting photos all the time, because it is rather thrilling to see how well these trees grow. I should put in a 24-hour live camera, they’re that beautiful. (Note: I promise to send new photos and post more once planting season slows down….)
And almost from the beginning, we’ve had visitors. There are many species that can’t resist the tender nutritious glory of a young leaf. Crickets, caterpillars, aphids and unidentified Insecta; leaf-cutter ants, with a logic all their own; armadillos, who have a specific, intense love for digging up the tree dedicated to my nephew Forrest; and the red brocket deer.
Locally called a “cabro” (goat), the red brocket deer is a bit of a puzzle. The species is Mazama americana but the quantity of sub-populations or sub-species between here and Argentina appears to bedevil the experts enough that the IUCN Red List, the world’s definitive data set for endangered species, says “This species is considered to be Data Deficient in light of high taxonomic uncertainty….which may constitute a cryptic-species complex…until we understand the taxonomy we do not have enough information to evaluate [its status].”
Whatever its status, the cabro freaking loves to eat the cojollo, or the bud and top leaves, off my young trees. Which obviously sets their growth back. But even more damaging, it loves to rub its little antler nubbins on the thin bark of the young Calophyllum and Carapa and Caryocar trees. It’s either scratching an itch or marking territory, but either way, the little guys do damage! I have at least three coming through the finca, according to our read of the wildlife camera footage.
They went into a frenzy back in June-July, perhaps marking territory around mating season, and rubbed the shit out of at least a dozen seedlings. Never mind the bark, they rubbed down to the point where the trees didn’t have any phloem left and needed emergency medical attention from Carlos.
The trees that were most damaged, we tried something called an acodo or “air layer” where you treat the tree with hormone and wrap it in plastic and or spongey material at the point where its phloem connection has been severed. If all goes well, it sprouts new roots at this point and you can cut it and start again. The base will also likely resprout because, guess what, trees are super resilient. (Ever the amazing metaphors.) It’s another type of grafting often used on fruit trees, which often if not always works.
So what can I say. The “cabro” may or may not be endangered. People in Costa Rica sure love to hunt them. They’re actually really cute. And in theory, this is exactly what I wanted the finca to be: a haven for biodiversity. I’m providing ecosystem services with all these yummy little trees, right?