Riding along on the Llanos grasslands, our horses suddenly stop. Puchis--the 14-year-old son of the ranchers on La Finca Esperanza, the ranch we were visiting--is off his horse in the flash. Armadillo!
Puchis has an almost supernatural ability to catch armadillos. He stalks quietly or chases them rapidly, as the situation dictates. Unless, there's a hole nearby, he'll soon be showing off the armadillo to us.
This armadillo species--the Llanos long-nosed armadillo--is found only here. It's much smaller than the more common nine-banded armadillo. We encountered several more on our horseback ride, all chased with great enthusiasm by Puchis.
Puchis has stopped school so he can devote all his time to the ranch. He'll take it over someday, and is already making decisions. And what a great conservationist he already is. He is raising native turtles to release on the ranch, and knows where to find the unusual creatures that roam the Llanos.
He enjoys finding and identifying birds. In the forested areas, birds are everywhere, but he can quickly point out the more unusual species.
One morning he found us a caiman nest. After checking to make sure the mother wasn't around, he showed us the eggs, then covered them back up.
Whether it's rounding up cattle or raising turtles or catching armadillos, Puchis is focused on life on the ranch. How fortunate for conservation that this young man will be making decisions that impact one of the great wild areas left on earth.