Doctor Dolittle of BocasSeptember 20, 2020
Have you read the story or watched the movie about Doctor Doolittle (Dr. Doolittle) written by Hugh Lofting? The story was about a doctor that had a hard time relating or understanding people. The doctor has a very intelligent parrot that observed the doctors and his struggles with making human connection, but he always seemed to have a special place in his heart for animals. To shorten the story, the parrot ended up teaching Dr. Doolittle how to communicate with all forms of animals in their own way of communication.
In Bocas, we have our own version of Dr. Doolittle. Our Dr. Doolittle is not a medical doctor but he has a PhD in Chemical Engineer and worked for the same company for 30 years before retiring here in Bocas del Toro. As requested by Dr. Doolittle, we will not be revealing Dr. Doolittle’s real name or the location of where he lives, due to the fact that our Dr. Doolittle enjoys his privacy and in his own words “My house and my land is not a zoo! These are wild animals and they are my friends, not my property. I am just a guest, a visitor, on their land.”
How it all began with Dr. Doolittle connecting with the animals in Bocas started with a young Red-LoredParrot, he found on the ground being eaten alive by ants. He picked up the little parrot, dusted off the ants and brought it to his home to bring back to health. Dr. Doolittle thought it would be nice to have a parrot in his home to keep him company, since he lived alone and it would be nice to have a pet. After a year, teaching the parrot a few words, he noticed that every time a flock of parrots either flew by or gathered in a near tree squawking, his young friend would get restless and seem resentful for being locked up in a cage. Then one day Dr. Doolittle just opened the cage on his balcony and let his young friend make up his own mind and he stood by to observe what he would next. It was a wonderful sight to see that the young parrot joined the flock of parrots in the tree. Dr. Doolittle informed me that he had mixed emotions regarding his decision. On one hand, he was happy that he saved the young parrot, and that he was able to be a wild parrot with the other parrots, but on the other hand, he felt that he lost a friend.
About a month later, Dr. Doolittle was watching TV and eating grapes, while enjoying his grapes he heard a voice saying at this balcony door “Hello……Grape…….Hello……Grape” being repeated. Dr. Doolittle looked over and saw his young parrot friend at the door walking back and forth asking for his favorite treat, a grape. Dr. Doolittle opened the door and his young friend flew up to his shoulder and Dr. Doolittle handed him a grape. After eating a couple of grapes his young parrot took one more grape and flew off. Since that time his parrot friend still comes by to visit him and they often share grapes together.
It was at this time that Dr. Doolittle learned that he could and should help orphaned and injured animals. Besides helping the animals in need, he also found a way to communicate with the healthy animals on his land and they come to see Dr. Doolittle when he is in their vicinity. When Dr. Doolittle approaches his lagoon and stomps his feet to the ground many caimans come out of the water close to his feet waiting to be fed meat scrapes from his kitchen. When feeding the c caimans Dr. Doolittle told me that nothing goes to waste in his house, it is either fed to one of the animals on his property or is turned into compost.
As we were returning to his home after feeding the caimans, a white-faced capuchin monkeys started to come to the end of tree branches screaming at us. Dr. Doolittle then started speaking loudly “banana, banana, banana” and suddenly three monkeys came down to the ground running towards the house then back to us and back to the house in a way that seemed like they were telling us to hurry up because they wanted their bananas. As we returned to the house, the monkeys were climbing the house to the balcony all sitting there waiting for us to bring them bananas. As Dr. Doolittle was cutting up the bananas the monkeys were acting like excited children hanging on the door frame, wanting to come in but knowing they needed to wait. As soon as Dr. Doolittle stated to walk to the balcony with a platter of cut up bananas the monkeys lined up on the railing of the balcony sitting like perfect children. As Dr. Doolittle handed each one two cut pieces of banana, the monkey would hold one in their mouth and the second in one in their hands. As soon as they had their two pieces they would climb down the house, run across the garden and up their tree.
As Dr. Doolittle sat on his balcony, drinking a mixture of fresh watermelon and coconut milk over ice, talking about his previous life, how he came to Bocas, a humming bird out of nowhere came flying in and holding it place just inched from Dr. Doolittle’s nose as if to say to him “Hello I am here now. Do you see me?” Dr. Doolittle calmly responded with “There you are. I have been waiting for you” as he reached down and grabbed a special glass of nectar. That little humming bird came into the little glass tilted for him and drank the nectar and then just as quickly as he flew in he disappeared. Dr. Doolittle told me how he found that little humming bird laying on the balcony, unable to fly. Thinking that it might have flown into a window, Dr. Doolittle knew he could not do much for such a small fragile bird, but he made it comfortable and fed it nectar off his finger tip. The little humming bird stayed with him for two days until it was healed then he flew off. Since then that little humming bird comes and sees Dr. Doolittle every day and they share a quick drink then takes off again.
As we continued to sit on the balcony and talked about many topics of conversation, I noticed a young black hawk sitting off in the distance looking at us. I asked Dr. Doolittle if that was one of his friends watching us. As Dr. Doolittle looked over and the two made eye contact the hawk started screaming at us, so Dr. Doolittle went into the house and quickly returned with a welders’ glove on a left hand and carrying a bowl. He then set the bowl on the railing and looked as if he placed a chicken wing in his gloved hand. Dr. Doolittle then proceeded to whistle and shook his gloved fist side to side towards the hawk, Eventually, the hawk leaped off its perch and flew into a direct pursuit for the glove, as Dr. Doolittle continued to shake his glove as he was whistling. Then with a sudden thud the hawk seized the gloved fist with both talon and feet.
The hawk looked right into Dr. Doolittle’s eyes and seemed to calm down and leaned over to take a small bite of food. Dr. Doolittle leaned on the railing to allow small bits of food to drop over the railing, instead of his wooden floor. As the hawk was feeding, Dr. Doolittle was softly whispering to the hawk like they both were having a conversation with each other. Has the hawk reached down to the bone of the wing the hawk grabbed the bone and left the glove for his original perch to finish his nightly meal.
Dr Doolittle informed me that this hawk is just a buddy and he was raised by local black hawks that nested on his property.He knew the day that the hawk hatched and he would talk to him every day. As he began to leave the nest, he did things to make sure that it would survive and eventually the hawk would come to his balcony at the end of the night if it needed some extra food. Dr. Doolittle learned a few tricks on how to communicate from a retired falconer that lives in Bocas. He figured a falconer would knowhow to best, communicate with a hawk better than anyone. Dr. Doolittle stated that even though that hawk is a predator it is very shy around people and they only appreciate soft and smooth movements and tones.
The hardest obstacle Dr Doolittle faced was teaching the local people not to kill something for the sake of killing, but to learn to respect the wildlife and to observe the wildlife. He said it had been an up-hill battle to teach. but after 4 years of living in Bocas he has observed the locals respecting and appreciating the wildlife. Dr. Doolittle went from a PhD in Chemical Engineer to being a wild animal adoptive parent, medical nurse and more importantly their friend.
As I was departing from this interview, I was thinking how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and magical place like Bocas del Toro. We are surrounded by such beauty and wonders. If we would slow down, breath slowly, listen and watch a little more closely, we would observe more in our world than our made-up to be busy life. As Dr. Doolittle discovered, life is meant to be enjoyed and not rushed through, so we don’t miss the gifts that surrounds us.