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Heard of a Hutia?

Who is Horace Hutia?

Hopefully, you’ve seen my exciting news that Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia is published and ready to be enjoyed.  But you’ve probably asked yourself who and what is Horace Hutia?  Hutia. Pronounced: “hoo”, like the sound a Great Horned Owl makes, “tea,” like the beverage, and ”ya” like when you’re being informal with the word yes.  Hoo-tea-ya.

Hutia are moderate sized rodents found only on Caribbean islands. Horace is a Bahamian hutia. He is an endemic, meaning he is unique to The Bahamas. His scientific name is Geocapromys ingrahami.  What makes Horace and his Bahamian family so special is that they are the only land mammal native to the Bahamas.  All the other land mammals were brought over by people.  The Bahamas have bats, the  Bahamian Lesser Funnel-eared Bat (Chilonatalus tumidifrons) but they aren’t considered “land” animals since they fly around and just hang out.

But like the bats, hutia are nocturnal, only coming out at night.  They are herbivores or vegetarians eating leaves and twigs.

Historically, hutia lived on many islands or cays but in modern times they were only found on East Plana Cay.  This is a limestone, semi-arid island with low-lying desert type shrubs. Hutia don’t need much water, they get it from the vegetation they eat. Only 5 miles long (eleven hundred acres), this is a very small island. Fortunately, hutia don’t mind living at a high density.  They’re similar to big city dwellers, like in New York City or Miami.  However, people were concerned that the hutia only lived on this one island.  What if some calamity should befall them?  There could be a hurricane, or introduced predators or a disease, which could kill off all the hutia.  So some of the hutia were moved to other cays, like Warderick Wells in the Exuma Sea and land park, where I live.

The hutia were almost eaten to extinction. Humans were a major predator through the centuries along with the extinct Alco, a Lucayan domesticated dog, and Chickcharnie owl (Tyto pollens).

One thing I’ve always been amazed at is the way hutia get along with each other.  Curly-tails, and other rodents, so I’m told, hate having other males in their territory.  I’ve had to chase out many a competing male to keep my perfect den in my perfect territory.  But hutia don’t mind.  The males sent mark their territories but it is more to let them know they’re here than to keep other hutia out.  Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the hutia about getting along with each other.

I did something a bit different with this book.  Instead of one ending, you get to choose how you want it to end.  I hope you like it.

Next up is my tale about being kidnapped by poachers.  You’ll get to meet a few more of my native Bahamian friends.

Reptiles Are Us!

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For those of you who don’t know any of us personally, I can assure you we reptiles are an interesting group.  We have incredible diversity.  Reptiles include lizards like me, Curtis Curly-tail, snakes, and the hard-shells (turtles, tortoises and terrapins).  Lizards can be small or big, like the Komodo Dragon.  Sadly, not all lizards can curl their tails like I do.  One who does is Callisaurus draconoides, the Zebra-tailed lizard, I’ve met when visiting Elaine in Tucson, Arizona.

Snakes.  What can I say about snakes?  They are truly amazing in the way they get around, even climbing, without any legs.  Sure, I know some snakes eat lizards like me, but that’s just the way Nature works.  I don’t hold their food choices against them personally.  We all do our part for the ecosystem.  Back home there is the Bahamian racer (Cubophis vudii) who finds lizards tasty.  That’s why I stay ever vigilant.

Did you know that tortoises are often confused with turtles? Which is which hard-shell?  Can you tell?

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Myrtle Tortoise

I was chatting with my friend Myrtle the other day.  She’s started a crusade to help humans with their confusion about hard-shells.  Myrtle, for example is a red-foot tortoise, Chelonoidis carbonaria, from South America.  She was named Myrtle, a perfectly lovely moniker.  Unfortunately, people rhyme Myrtle with turtle.  Do you know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?  Many people don’t.

The next time you meet a hard-shell and go to shake his/her hand, look at it.  Turtles have webs between their toes.  But just because they had webbed feet, that doesn’t mean they all live in water.  My friend Trevor Box Turtle is a good example of that.  He stays on land and is quite happy there.  There are many differences from their finger nails to their shell thicknesses to food preferences to the color of their eyes.  Personally, I don’t see how anyone could confuse them.

So Myrtle decided to write a book so you can tell hard-shells apart.  It’s called “Don’t Call Me Turtle.”  Children really enjoy the rhymes and colorful pictures but adults could learn from it, too.  Although…many adults said they couldn’t read a children’s book, so Myrtle may have to write a picture book for adults!  Nick Thorpe created some really terrific illustrations.  You’ll discover new details every time you look at them.

I encourage everyone to get a copy of “Don’t Call Me Turtle!”  You’ll be glad you did.  You can find it on Amazon.com or Kindle.

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Oh, what about the terrapins?  I’m glad you asked. A terrapin is a name for brackish-water turtles.  The name was originally used by early European settlers to describe the coastal turtles who neither lived in fresh water nor the sea. Terrapin is derived from the Algonquian word torope, the name for the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin).

So, get to know some reptiles.  We’re really wonderful!

Little Cayman – Visit with my cousins and the iguanas

After the great visit on Cayman Brac, I went to Little Cayman.  Little Cayman is the other Sister Island in the Cayman Islands.  Most people go to Little Cayman to scuba dive, you know how they take a tank of air and go swimming under water.  Scuba diving is something that I as a curly-tail lizard am never going to do.  People enjoy watching all the animals in the ocean.  Elaine and I went for entirely different reasons.  First, she had to finish up some work on my second book, “Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia.”  This time I tell the story with different endings so you can choose which one you like the best.  You see, the hutia are damaging the protected ecosystem on my home cay, Warderick Wells.  The humans aren’t sure what to do about that.  So the reader gets to decide how they would handle the problem.  I suggest 3 possible choices, but maybe one of you out there might come up with an even better solution.

It had been very rainy on Little Cayman.  Elaine was hoping to have a day or two of rain, so she could spend a lot of time writing and inserting illustrations where they needed to go in the text.  Of course, I brought the lovely weather and she only got to write as the sun rose over the ocean.

I’ve started working on my third book “Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped.”  It will be full of suspense, maybe a bit scary.  I get captured by poachers and taken off Warderick Wells.  I haven’t written the ending yet, so I don’t know if I make it back or not!

While the sun was out, Elaine joined her friends (Jill, Jen and Tay) in surveying the iguanas on Little Cayman like she had on Cayman Brac.  While she was out with the iguanas, I visited with my cousins.  We discussed story-lines, so yes, someday there will be a curly-tail tale set on Little Cayman.

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Iguana Surveying on Cayman Brac

A little later, I was off to Cayman Brac.  Cayman Brac is one of the sister Islands in the Cayman Islands.  It is just a few miles south of Cuba.  We were helping a doctoral student learn how to capture and ‘process’ the iguanas.  Process means all their body measurements are taken: weight, length, sex, scars, etc.  Everything you would want to know about the animal.  Oh, I need to tell you which iguana it is.  Silly me.  The species of iguana on CB, that’s short for Cayman Brac, is Cyclura nubila caymanensis. Since most humans don’t use scientific names, they are colloquially known as Sister Island Rock Iguanas. I love that word colloquially.  They are native to CB and Little Cayman (Little Cayman is the other sister island).  Not much is known about the CB iguanas, so we are helping out with the research now being done.  There is so much to learn and we need to learn it before the SIRIs are all gone.  The ig population is in decline due to habitat encroachment by human development and predation by feral dogs and cats. Extinction is a real possibility.  So a few dedicated humans are working to ensure their survival.

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a young SIRI

Going to CB also lets me visit with my cousins, the CB curly-tails.  Yes, my ancestors wandered far and wide.  I can see why some of them settled in the Caymans.  They are lovely islands.  Not as nice as the Bahamas, but I am biased.

My cousin, a Cayman Brac Curly-tail Lizard

Cayman Brac Curly-tail

Like us curly-tails, the igs like to bask.  Only they do it on the roads where they get hit by cars.  The DOE and DOT have put up signs warning drivers that there may be iguanas on the road.  Sadly, too many igs are still being hit and killed.  Maybe with time, the drivers will become more cautious.  The CB iguanas are great animals and deserve respect.  I encourage everyone to get to know an iguana, even if it’s not a SIRI.

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Tucson Festival of Books 2015

Greetings everyone.

Sorry for my absence of late.  Humans say ‘time flies quickly,’ but it’s even quicker in curly-tail lizard time.  I had many more interesting things to tell you about but then I got traveling.  My friend Elaine needed someone to go with her on her trips and I couldn’t say no.  So, in my next several posts, I’m going to tell you about the places I’ve been and the interesting curly-tails and people I’ve met.

In March, we went down to the University of Arizona campus for the Tucson Festival of Books.  It was unbelievable.  The festival was huge.  It took me the entire two days to see everything. Hundreds of thousands of people came to share books, entertainment, and food. Famous authors gave talks on writing and the book business.  Readers came to buy books from their favorite and soon-to-be new favorite authors.  Performers sang and danced.  All sorts of food, too.  I confess while Elaine was busy, I went around sampled the crumbs.  They were delicious. Elaine had a booth with some friends where she sold her books. The story of my adventure, “Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers,” sold the best.  I was pleased to see that people wanted it in more than just English.  Many grandparents wanted a book in Spanish to read to their grandchildren.  I was happy to sell them my friend Dorothy’s translation.

The booth across from Elaine’s featured languages from around the world.  Check out the gallery to see Elaine in front of posters from France, Mexico and the USA holding my story.  I can pretend my story has gone around the world!

One of the main purposes of the festival is to encourage literacy.  I’m all in favor of literacy.  After all, I want everyone to read my books.  Yes, books.  My second story, “Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia,” is just about to be released.  I can’t wait.  It features my good friend Horace Hutia and his family.  Not only is it a great story but the reader gets to choose the ending they prefer.  I think you’ll like it.

Well, it’s time for me to run down to the beach and see if any tourists are coming.  Until next time, may the sun shine down upon you warmly, may the gulls be slow, and may your curly-tail be perfectly curled.

 

Curtis

Curtis’ First Blog

Greetings Everyone! I’m Curtis Curly-tail and this is my blog. I confess, when Elaine asked me to write a blog, I had no idea what was involved. But my friend Dudley Dewlap, (he’s a green iguana talk show host), gave me some pointers, so I am ready to curl my tail and get down to blogging. I thought it would be hard to write with my perfectly sized lizard fingers but it’s going quite well. I’m getting pretty good at hitting the space bar with my tail.

Dudley suggested I start off by introducing myself. I am a Bahamian curly-tail lizard, scientific name Leiocephalus carinatus. We curl our tails up over our backs. Humans have often wondered why we do this. We use it to attract the girls, obviously, and to distract predators. Some people think that the waving tail will make the predators attack the wrong end of the lizard, ending up with only a mouthful of tail. But don’t worry, our tails grow back. Personally, I think waving my tail lets the predator know I see him and he doesn’t have any hope in catching me.

I live on Warderick Wells Cay, (cay means island), in the Bahamas. My cay is located in the group of islands called the Exumas. I think they are the best islands of all of the Bahamas islands. Along with other small lizards, we curly-tails share some of the islands with rather large lizards called iguanas. Unlike my friend Dudley who lives in a tree, the Exuma iguanas are rock iguanas, Cyclura cychlura figginsi, who live, you guessed it, in rocks. Scientists often come to the Exumas to study them. That’s how I met Elaine -she came to study the natural history of the Exumas with her citizen scientist friends. We spent a lovely afternoon getting to know each other.

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I like to ride on the visitors’ shoes. I don’t get stepped on that way.

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Along with lizards, many birds live with me on Warderick Wells. This is a friendly bananaquit. They enjoy meeting the visitors as well.
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Here’s a couple of photos of my big lizard friends, the Exuma iguanas.

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Well, I’ll wave my tail good-bye for now. Thanks for reading!

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Elaine

October 16, 2014

Welcome to my blog! These are the thoughts of a curly-tail lizard who saw the world and decided he liked his own home better.