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Natural History



Torments and the True Horrors of the Rainforest

Part Two: True Horrors of the Rainforest

By Jeet Sukumaran

Reproduced from Frogweb.org

The True Horrors

The Horrors of the rainforest, once experienced, shall forevermore haunt you with the memories of their attention, and for a long time afterwards, you will feel a little twinge of apprehension before you venture into the bush.

Centipedes - Pain and Fever, Fever and Pain

Centipede on treeI am only truly fearful about one animal in the rainforest. The centipede. They are so fast and so aggressive. And their bites are so painful that they can put you out for a couple of weeks. A centipede bite on your leg will cause it to swell up to twice its size, and you will be bedridden in fever and pain for a week or two. Horrible. There are some beautiful centipedes out there, and I am sure centipedes have a very busy life and savagely attacking me is not really very high up on their agenda, if at all it is there. But, nonetheless, I have always given centipedes the widest possible berth whenever I encounter them, and I shall continue to do so as long as I have my wits about me.

Ticks - Nasty, Nasty Travelling Companions

I saved the worst for last. Ticks. These little guys are impossible to avoid when the season is right. They seem to be more prominent when the forest is dry. Some places, such as pig-trails and wallows, seem to have more than their share of them. They crawl on to your body, without you noticing them, and then they dig in. Literally. They burrow their way into your body, leaving just their cerci sticking out, and feed. You realize something is wrong, when, much later, you brush against them or their cerci, either with your clothes or your hand or whatever. A sharp stinging pain, like a splinter tearing at your flesh, as the tick you have disturbed digs its way or grips your flesh tighter, is the warning signal. And they itch. For days afterwards you will keep coming across them, often in the most inconvenient of places. The standard treatment is a few nights of coating your body - from head to toe - with a sulphur compound. This is soothing enough on most parts of your body, but on certain other more sensitive parts it burns like caustic acid mixed with pepper juice. The alternative is to sit down with some alcohol and forceps, and pry or gouge them out one by one as you come across them. The alcohol is important - applying it to the area of skin where the tick is burrowed will relax the tick, allowing easier, but still not easy, removal. Expect a lot of gouging of flesh, blood, and some bad scarification. Nasty business all around. And their potential of them breeding on you (in you?) is distasteful enough so that there is every incentive to be enthusiastic over their immediate removal, blood, pain and gore non-withstanding (I'm told that they do not actually breed or lay eggs in you, dropping off at the end of every instar stage ... but why take risks? Ever seen "Alien"?).

Photos (from top): Centepede on tree - © WILDBORNEO.net



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