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Our changing world

Weather changes put us on the horns of a dilemma



The recent drop in temperature, I'm happy to say, has affected my mini-zoo in good ways.

Old lady Susu, my 19-year-old cat, seems more active than she was during those hot-season days, and even Mekhala, suffering from feline Aids, seems to be recovering from her skin condition.

My vet warns me that it will take months before Mekhala is completely healed. The special baths the poor cat has to undergo twice a week now are helping too, but what cat ever enjoyed getting completely wet? She's still a super-friendly cat, but she doesn't trust anyone to pick her up, especially if we're heading towards a sink.

Amongst the turtle-herd, Bugsy the long-necked turtle suffered the most in the hot weather. This species originates in Australia, in areas that are somewhat cool. I estimate that Bugsy is approaching 20 years, most of which he's spent in Bangkok's hot weather. He had adapted quite well, until the last few years, when his elderly body could no longer handle temperatures reaching 40 degrees Centigrade.

Bugsy, a carnivore, doesn't eat vegetables. His meals consist of red worms and chopped fresh shrimp, which he usually eats with enjoyment. Now, however, as temperatures soar, he pulls himself out of the water and rests on top of his underwater "home" - and he doesn't touch his shrimp.

One summer a few years ago, when he stopped eating shrimp and nibbled without much interest on his red worms, I took him to Chulalongkorn's Water Animal Dept, where the vets discovered that he was developing ulcers in his long neck. Without treatment, ulcers would have developed in his stomach too, and he would have died in terrible pain.

During the recent hot days, when he stops eating his shrimp, I guess that one solution might be to keep him eating, no matter what. I try all sorts of fresh-water fish, but without success. The boy isn't interested.

Finally, in desperation, I give him chunks of beef with the fat carefully removed. Success! Slowly, he begins eating again and looks a lot happier.

My vet isn't so happy. A turtle's body is not adapted to ingest meat from land animals, and eating too much beef could severely affect Bugsy's liver.

I feel torn between two unacceptable alternatives: to let him eat only red worms and deal with ulcers or to give him beef and deal with liver failure.

Luckily, Bugsy finds his own solution. In the cool weather, he has lost interest in the beef and returned to his beloved shrimp.

This year, he's safe, but I understand the whole world can expect great fluctuations in temperature in the coming years. Will Bugsy be able to adjust?


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