Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Anotter post

I'm sorry for that title. Really, I am. Clearly I need coffee.

For those of you just arriving, you can find my first post on Raising Sancho here. Last night I wrote an e-mail to Dr. Vargas and sent it to the address found by alert commenter Bethany. It reads as follows:

Dear Dr. Vargas:

I'm sure you've been getting many e-mails since "Raising Sancho" has been airing, and I apologize for adding to the lot. I tried to find the answers to my questions on google, but was unsuccessful. And if it were only my questions, I might have been more reluctant to e-mail you.

But I was incredibly touched by Raising Sancho, and I wrote a post about it on my (previously obscure) personal blog. For some reason, my website ended up on the first page of google rankings in English for most related queries, and I've been absolutely deluged with site visitors since then -- all people searching for information on you and Sancho. Several people have left comments on the post expressing their sadness at the uncertainty of the ending. (Post and comments here.) One concerned reader found your e-mail address and asked me to write.

So, I wonder if you could either answer the following questions or point me to a website or article that contains the answers, if there are any.

1. The show stated that, three months after Sancho's departure, you still had not encountered him again. Have you ever seen him since that time? I did review the English portion of one of your scholarly papers here that observes that "sub-adults may wander off as a subgroup for weeks on end, eventually rejoining their parents." Given this behavioral characteristic, I began to wonder if perhaps he had returned after the three months mentioned in the episode.

2. Are you still studying giant otters in the Pantanal? Have you written anything else about your work in English that's posted on the web? Also, I'd be interested in knowing what organizations do significant work with giant otters. I know they face threats from mercury pollution, mining, and possibly illegal mahogany logging. But I have only found one such organization on the internet -- at least, on the English version of Google, which may be the problem, since it appears that most of the work is done in Brazil.

Again, I apologize for adding to what must be a mountain of e-mails. But so many people fell in love with Sancho and found their way to my site, wanting to know more. For myself, I'd just like to say that I think your work, dedication and your devotion to Sancho are absolutely inspiring. I'm fascinated by giant otters, and I'm eager to learn more about them -- and conservations efforts on their behalf -- in the future.

Thank you for your time,
[My name redacted]

I have not yet received a response, but I only sent it twelve hours ago. I'll post any response from Dr. Vargas, if I get one, assuming I have her permission to do so.

Meanwhile, I've been doing a bit more reading. I found this interesting article on the Defenders of Wildlife website. Please take careful note of the "What you can do" section on the right sidebar of that article. Think of Sancho next time you consider buying gold or mahogany. These guys are seriously endangered, and after seeing the show, I can't imagine a world without them.

I also found this website on giant otters. See also the International Otter Survival Fund.

Please post links to any interesting reading that you may have found.


Lewis said...

Or, possibly, LESS coffee. Or, even more possibly, SOMETHING IN your coffee.

Trailhead said...

Or something in place of it entirely?

Ron said...

Sancho story was so moving. I felt sorry for Dr. Vargas when she was talking about having to go look for Sancho's body.

I agree with your previous poster who said Sancho would have survived in captivity. If Sancho had not been an orphan, his parents would have been there to protect him against a predator.

Thanks for your efforts in contacting Dr. Vargas.

Trailhead said...

Thanks for your comment, Ron. I agree to some extent that captivity might have been the "safer" solution.

But there was a point made in this podcast, though, that I thought was a good one. And that is that Sancho was terrified of water, and what quality of life would a giant otter have who never got in the water? And it seems that once Carolina taught him to swim and fish, there was always the chance that he would either leave or something would happen to him.

Yeah, I think it was a risk to try to get him back into the wild, but these animals are so seriously endangered that it might have seemed like a good risk to take -- after all, if he could have gone into the wild and had a family, that would have contributed to the otter population. Had he stayed in captivity, he would have stayed alive, but I don't know what his quality of life would have been.

I guess all I'm saying is that I'm not sure captivity would have been the answer. I don't know. I suppose I tend to defer to Vargas' judgment, because she seemed so thoughtful, caring, and devoted to him.

And while the odds may seem against it, it is always possible that he simply rejoined the wild and did have a family. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.

Kristy said...

Congratulations--you've found celebrity beyond the vulture anus demographic! Well done!

Seriously, I applaud you for writing to Dr. Vargas. I'll be very interested to read the reply.

Bethany said...

Is that picture one of Sancho. If so, it's going on my desktop wallpaper.

Trailhead said...

No, at least I don't think so. It's an image of a giant otter from wikimedia. There may be a pic of him on the link to the show in the original post.

Bethany said...

The show is going to air again at two different times on Sunday. I am willing to bet this blog is bombarded with new comment posts soon after it ends.

This is like my new favorite place on the internet.

Trailhead said...

We're the Otter Loss Support Group.

Trailhead said...

Oh and by the way -- while our minds are all trained on the profound connections possible between species, go read this. It's wonderful.

Carolina said...

Dear "Trailhead",
You really got the idea!!! I make mine your words:
"Yeah, I think it was a risk to try to get him back into the wild, but these animals are so seriously endangered that it might have seemed like a good risk to take -- after all, if he could have gone into the wild and had a family, that would have contributed to the otter population. Had he stayed in captivity, he would have stayed alive, but I don't know what his quality of life would have been."
Thank you!!!

Ron: that moment was really difficult to me, but after sometime I started to see things clearly. Don't feel sorry, Sancho had (and maybe is still having) a great life time!

Kristy: Thank you but I'm not a celebrity ;) and actually it is not that difficult find Brasil in a map, I live in the 5th biggest country in the world!

Kind regards, Carolina!

Trailhead said...

Carolina, if it's okay to ask, are you still studying giant otters? Do you know whether the number of giant otters is getting larger, or are their populations still getting smaller?

Carolina said...

At the moment I´m doing some "paper work", still on giant otters!
Its dificult to say the number of giant otters... but at least in some areas of Brasil they seem to be more "visible" now then some years ago. In the past giant otters were hunted for their pelt, nowadays the habitat destruction and the "competition" with the fishermen for food are the most important threats.

Ron said...


Thanks for sharing your great story of Sancho. No matter what happened, I would not have wanted to miss seeing him grow up.

Do you plan to do more films?

Thank You for your dedication to the otters.

Cathy said...

Carolina, I have been so incredibly amazed by your documentary on Sancho. I was so taken by him and have looked at the pictures of him at the Wild Kingdom website so many times, plus have shared the site and times for the airing with numerous people. You have an incredible life and story to share. Thank you!

sanchofan said...

Today is Dec 25, 2007 and I saw Sancho the Otter show AGAIN!

Here I am AGAIN googling for any information from Dr Carolina Vargas and Sancho's life? Death? at this time...


Anonymous said...

well, it was again runned on BBC2 this afternoon - probably more questions to come...

Trailhead said...

I wrote another post about Sancho, mainly explaining why I think Sancho left of his own accord rather than some darker scenario, and also why I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree with Carolina's decision not to keep him in captivity.

It's here, if anyone's interested. I've added this comment to the other threads as well, because it seems that everyone is checking different threads. :)

Jonathan said...

Dear trailhead,I’m a 60 year old guy and never really been emotional about much throughout my life.
But after watching’ Bringing up Sancho’ I still have an empty feeling in my gut that I cannot yet get rid of!
Don’t ask my why, I just can't answer that one. Maybe it was the undivided love and affection that Carolina and Sancho developed for each other over the months as he was growing up.
Or maybe it was the ‘not knowing’ at the end.
And contrary to what some people say, Carolina, you did the right thing as the little chap left on his own, without his parents, ( I also wonder why he was actually abandoned by them ? ) would no doubt, have been swiftly dispatched by predators within the first few days!
You gave him almost nine months of happiness ( that anyone watching the film could see, ) whilst he was with you. And after all, he was a living feeling animal with obvious emotions.
I’m not normally poetic but politely ask if I could share this poem especially with you Carolina and also all of the people who were genuinely touched’ and affected by this bittersweet true story.
I have entitled it :-

‘My Special Friend'.

Sancho My special friend,
Not just a friend
But part of me,
I’ll not forget,
The pleasure that you gave.

Throughout the days,
Your confidence would grow,
Although quite soon I knew,
That you would want to go,
Whilst I stood there pretending to be brave.

And now that you have gone,
My heart is full of pain,
It’s everything I’d give,
To have you back again,
I’m sure you knew how much you meant to me.

Now days are empty,
As I search alone,
Throughout the special places that we shared,
And haunts where we would roam,
Memories remind me of you constantly.

Sancho my special friend,
Much love you had to give,
I’m certain that you’d would understand,
How much I wanted you to live,
Carefree and happily.

Jonathan Whitehead,
Dorset U.K.

Trailhead said...

Jonathan, that was lovely, and it made me cry again. Thank you for sharing that here.

jonathan said...

Hi Trailhead,
Apologies for the mistake in the last verseof the poem.
Although I expect all who read will know what it means.

Trailhead said...

Jonathan, I didn't even notice the mistake. I think it's great anyway.

david7680 said...

Hi All,

Like of us, we felt pain, despair just reminding us we are all vulnerable and human,but I truely felt for Dr Vargas. In one sense I am happy little Sancho was given a second bite of the cherry when the fisherman handed over little Sancho, as little Sancho got another 9 months,Yes I know possible more as we dont know what transpired) and we got a to experience many beautiful moments whilst watching the documentary. Please is any does find out what happened to little Sancho, please email to . Many thanks David and take care

Carolina Vargas said...

I never thought about what have been happening with me... fell in love by the giant otters then Sancho, then "Raising Sancho" and all the reacion it causes in people. Im just an ordinary person with good opportunities in life like: working in Pantanal, doing what I love to do! I could never imagine someday my work would be known in so many places and so many people would be touched by it!
Jonathan, your poem made me think about it, thank you so much! I´m not good with words like you and Trailhead, and its funny how you both are able to express what I feel!
You made me cry...
Love, Carolina.