Tuesday 9 October 2018

Pipsqueak and Squeakpip

One morning before school the cats dragged in something that at first sight looked like a naked rat. Closer inspection showed the tail too short, the nose too blunt for a rat. This was more exciting: this was a babys quirrel. Linde, who considers anything tiny ultimately cute, was instantly there to declare we had to keep it. Then the other cat dragged up a second little creature from underneath the pineapple plants and we all looked up. There, in the jackfruit tree, on a hanging branch, hung a cluster of sticks. I’d seen it before but only now realised what it must be: a rather ill-designed squirrel nest.

Linde, holding the tiny ones in cupped hands, urged me to google the care of baby squirrels. Heating them up seemed to be the first step, so Roel cradled them, blew warm air onto them, until they woke from their stupor and started wriggling. By now, the kids had to go to school so we put them on a heating pad in a cage safe from cats and took off.

It turns out squirrels are cute but rather stupid; according to local wildlife charity Acres that I consulted babies falling from nests are a common occurrence, likely as newborn baby squirrels - as I now know - are rather wriggly little creatures. Therefore many websites were dedicated to what my daughter had ordered me to do: the great squirrel rescue. Despite Linde’s loud protests I knew the best thing to do was to reunite them with mummy.

Google told me never to give them cow’s milk, so I hydrated them with some warm sugar-salt solution, made a make-shift nest near the tree where mum could see them, and went grocery shopping. When I came back, sporting an eighteen dollar tin of special mammal formula, I was not sure what to hope for: That mum had picked them up and my purchase was pointless, or that I would now have to spend the next few weeks syringe-feeding two baby squirrels. My mixed hopes were both rewarded: one baby was gone, the other still there. 

That afternoon the rain was too deep to put a naked baby out, so to Linde’s utter delight we got started with feeding the newly-christened Pipsqueak. 

But when I found out that 3 hourly feedings, just like with human babies, mean day and night, that baby went back in the tree as soon as it was dry. But sadly, no mum showed up. In the morning, groggy as any new baked mother that has been up too often in the night, Tijm woke me up holding something brown and wriggly.

“Mama, Pipsqueak escaped. Pepper got him.”

The thing could barely crawl, let alone climb! How was that possible? The cage revealed Pipsqueak soundly asleep, and Tijm was holding his sister, Squeakpip, fallen from the nest once again. This mum was one lousy nest-builder indeed!

In serious doubts now about the feasibility of my reunion plans, tiredness still won over: I had to get them back in that nest! That day, mum picked up Pipsqueak, leaving us with smaller, weaker sister Squeakpip, who stayed with us all that rainy weekend. With a weeklong trip to Sumatra on the horizon, I started Monday with more tiredness and resolve, and I am please to announce that finally, on Tuesday afternoon, Squeakpip too has been reunited with her mother.

Linde has been searching hopefully underneath the jackfruit tree morning and afternoon, but I am keeping my fingers firmly crossed and hope they won't fall out yet again!

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