St Lucia resident Debbie Cooper fell head over heels for an orphaned Tonga red bush squirrel that she and her husband Dave are trying to rehabilitate and release back into the wild.
Words by Fiona McIntosh
When a tiny pair of baby Tonga red bush squirrels fell out of their nest in the roof of St Lucia residents Dave and Debbie Cooper – with mum nowhere to be found – the Coopers took it upon themselves to try to rehabilitate the babes and release them back into the wild.
Sadly the female died after a few days, possibly of internal injuries, but the male, named Scrat, thrived. Since Tonga red bush squirrels are an endangered species a permit from the Department of Environmental Affairs is required to keep or hand-raise them. Which Dave, the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife vet, fortunately, has. Scrat, therefore, fell on his feet and is now receiving the finest wildlife veterinary care possible.
Stealing Debbie’s heart from Day 1, the little rodent started out on a diet of ‘kitty milk’ – a rich veterinary formula with probiotics – administered by syringe, before progressing to lapping milk mixed with Pronutro from a saucer. “He also nibbles bananas, apples, a few other veggies and seeds,” says Debbie, “and goes for very short forages on the tree and in the grass before springing back onto my shoulder.” Debbie admits to being his human tree: his favourite nesting place is her neck, preferably twirled into her hair.
“Scrat has come to work with me most days since he cannot bear to be alone, or in a cage,” says his devoted mom. “He has the freedom to roam but doesn’t like to venture more than a metre or two from me at present. But an increasingly emboldened Scrat IS exploring a bit more in his favourite tree so we hope the day will soon come when he is big and bold enough to do so alone.”
We’re all holding thumbs for the cute little creature.