Bradley shares a short anecdote from the book, which he is currently in the process of writing, about the four and a half months he spent in the Bolivian jungle, at Park Ambue Ari. It was an incredible experience, where he lived and worked with animals on a day to day basis. The short extract below details one of his many encounters with Maggie, a female puma who was sure to keep you on your toes.
To say I was nervous was an understatement, especially because it had been a long time coming. Recent forest fires had resulted in an emergency shift around in scheduling as fighting them became the primary challenge. Not that we had become fire fighters overnight, nothing to that extent but it did entail all hands on deck in terms of clearing fire trails and creating fire breaks. Unfortunately, it had meant that many of the cats had not been walked for up to a week, one of the unlucky few had been Maggie. Ideally training would be carried out over a matter of days, but due to lack of numbers teamed with factors out of our control, I had been somewhat held up. As a result, instead of feeling confident and building on my last session, as we made our way out to the cage, I felt as if I was back to square one. The nerves were jangling and I felt uneasy, I had no idea how this was going to play out, I remember my fingers twitching and trembling as I readied myself, a mixture of fear and adrenaline in equal measures. I was both excited and petrified.
The clipping on process was practically identical to that of Tupac. I knelt down, with my hands poised, and the carabiner open. It was time. Maggie made it perfectly clear that she was ready and willing, after a few hair raising laps of her cage, she strode confidently up to the double doors. I gave the signal and Scott released the door. In she came, I put my hands through, it was clear she wanted to make a formal introduction. She seized her moment, as I attempted to clip her on, she bit down on my hand. It was nothing hard but enough to make me jump and recoil.
‘Don’t worry, she may give you a little nip but it’s just a love bite, give it another go.’ Ollie was encouraging with his words. He could see that I had been a little put out by a puma latching on to my hand, first with her paw and then with her teeth. So I gave it a second and a third go, but she continued to bat me away, try as I might, I was unable to make a clear connection, she was very astute at keeping her collar well protected.
‘It’s alright, she can be like this, especially with new people, I will do it for today,’ Ollie came over and gave me a hand, she pawed at him, but he simply shrugged it off and clipped her on. I stood back up. Whereas before I had been edgy, I now found myself on tenterhooks given what had just happened. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot, she wasn’t even out of the cage yet and already she had given me a fright. I could feel the sweat pouring from me, the humidity wasn’t helping but I also knew that the amount I was perspiring, was not solely down to the heat of the jungle. I took a step to the side, Scott motioned that he was in position, I leaned across, unbolted the door and quickly opened it before taking a seismic leap back. I had been convinced that she was to take a jump at me as soon as I had paved the way for her entrance. As it were, with my pulse still racing, Maggie simply strolled out of the cage as if to say, what’s all the fuss about? I however, knew she was playing the waiting game, stalling for the opportune moment to pounce.