After spending six months living and working in the Amazon rainforest, most conservation interns make life-long friendships. But for Chi Wei, she also made an unusual connection with an adventurous, half-wild duck…
When I travelled back to the jungle from Cusco in October, I noticed that a new friend had waddled into our lives – a duck nicknamed Pate.
The first time I saw Pate (¨Pa-tay¨) she was wandering around the grounds of the Manu Learning Centre (MLC) as if she was at home.
This half-wild duck had taken over the camp, boldly exploring when she wasn’t napping or eating. Several times I caught her sneakily wandering around the project room in the early morning, before staff or volunteers were awake.
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One day, after finishing a morning survey, I discovered that Pate had been moved to an old pigpen behind our biogarden. I visited her and she seemed relaxed, with a pile of leftover food scraps from the kitchen beside her.
However, just two days after my last visit, Pate disappeared. Only scattered feathers were left in the pen and her pile of food scraps. I cried with worry. Had she been eaten by an ocelot or another cat?
Nearly one month later, on a sunny day just before Christmas while we were eating breakfast, we glimpsed a duck strutting along the pathway from bio-garden. At first, we doubted that this duck was Pate.
She slept through the first two days as if she needed to recover from the tough jungle journey. But when she waddled straight to her usual spot on top of a post and stood there proudly. Our suspicions disappeared. It was Pate. She looked strong and beautiful; her perfectly-white feathers shone even brighter than before.
We never figured out how a domestic duck could survive in the jungle for a month, in the same forest where our camera traps regularly catch big predators like pumas, jaguars and ocelots. Maybe it was a Christmas miracle!
After her time away, Pate had developed a newfound taste for cane toads, big ants, flies and everything potentially edible that she must have learnt while fending for herself.
While worrying at first, her wild side is interesting and funny. Pate takes any chance to jump in the project room and leaves smelly jungle-diet ´presents´ on the floor, forcing us to block the entrance with chairs. We will need a better solution soon to stop her because we found another one just this morning.
The trouble she causes will never stop me loving our cheeky but cute friend. I believe Pate will have a good time staying at the MLC before her next jungle adventure!