I never really considered myself an “animal person”. I eat meat and fish and don’t often feel bad about it, but this weekend I worked with animals in a different way.
Saturday evening was spent in the Olovalu Crater, where my bat biologist friend, Adam, and his wildlife research team were tagging bats for science. The Olovalu Crater is a natural rainforest that is home to thousands–and I mean thousands–of fruit bats, as well as many other native bird species. It was special to me because growing up, I’ve always seen the bats from the main road on my way home during dusk. The sky turns from blue to orange to pink and purple on clear days, and the unmistakable squealing sounds fill the airwaves for miles on the west side as the bats descend into the crater. A large soft net was rigged up between a couple of trees and the bird nerds (that’s not offensive, is it?) crouched low and waited. That night, they caught two bats, one of which would be tagged and the other was let go because it was too small, and they also caught a beautiful white barn owl, which they took data on and checked for molt on its wings before releasing.
On Sunday I spent most of the day volunteering for the non-profit group Alofa Mo Meaola (Love for Animals). AMM brought down a group of vets from off-island in concerted efforts with the local Vet Clinic to spay and neuter cats and dogs, which if you’ve been to American Samoa, you would know that uncontrolled populations of cats and dogs are a problem here. My job was really easy. At first I was helping folks check their animals in and taking them over to the Prep station, and then I moved over to the Recovery station where my job was literally holding little kittens rolled up in blanket burritos while they were still knocked out post-surgery and monitor their temperatures and heart rates to make sure they recovered without issues. I basically cuddled kittens all day, then fed them and got them ready to be picked up by their owners if they had any. By the way, there were 37 stray cats that are open for adoption, so if you would like to adopt a cat, please do! They are adorable.