Squirrels, toucans and confessions

Having once openly ridiculed a Brazilian friend who went nuts when she saw a squirrel in the Rio de Janeiro botanical gardens when I was still fresh off the boat and clinging jealously to a brief glimpse of a toucan as my only brush with tropical wildlife, I have a confession to make.

I’ve harboured vaguely murderous thoughts toward squirrels for a long time, generally considered to be vermin in my neck of the woods, and this has only increased as I’ve grown older. And when I say vaguely I mean specifically. I remember being especially infuriated when living in a gardenless flat in London by the way they would visit the little space outside my window while I was out and ransack my plant pots, demolishing all my bulbs and leaving all my hopes strewn about in their wake. At worst they are thieves and vandals, at best they are a flicker of life on bleak winter days. Either way they are inescapably present. Everywhere.

My name’s Ruth and I’ve been squirrel-free for nearly five Brazilian years now. In the last year I’ve learnt how to mostly accurately identify a long-distance toucan from its flight pattern and call alone and I’ve been spoilt as I’ve been surrounded by hundreds of exquisite tropical birds living their best lives. But having successfully managed to go cold squirrel, I have a confession to make.

This week I saw a squirrel climb down a tree and sit on a rock and I ninjaed myself closer and took 53 photos and 4 videos. I’ve been squirrel-free for so long that at first I thought it was a sort of ferret. I was so struck by the novelty that when a couple walked past with a sleepy toddler in their arms I pointed out the squirrel so that they could marvel too, and was immediately confronted with my own indifferent brush off in the botanical gardens when they explained patiently “Oh yes, there are loads of them here” and carried on walking.

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