Tacuazin Habitat and Behavior
FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- Tacuazin breaks into the kitchen of the Finca Tatin each night. She steals our fruit, she nibbles on the ends of our papaya, our pineapples. She leaves empty banana peels laying around the kitchen floor. Though Tacuazin seems to be a polite thief, as she usually just nibbles a little here, a little there — leaving the majority of the fruit for human consumption. Though this does not mean that we want Tacuazin in our kitchen, eating our fruit under the cover of night.
What is a Tacuacin?
A Tacuacin, scientifically known as Didelphis Marsupialis, is a red listed endangered marsupial indigenous to Central and the north of South America. They have long skinny snouts, furry, elongated bodies, and a hair less tail that hangs snakelike off of their backsides. They look a little like a streamlined, overhauled possum. From my observations, they are around three feet long, from snout to the end of their tails. They are omnivorous, nocturnal feeders, but seem to enjoy consuming fruit.
Tacuazin as a pest
To keep Tacuacin out of our kitchen, we first but up wire mesh over our fruit shelf. For a few nights this angered Tacuazin, for she knocked out dishes all around in the kitchen, pushing plates, bowels, and cups down to the floor. We thought that we had won the battle with Tacuacin, we thought that humans prevailed. But Tacuacin did not give up. Night after night she would work at opening the mesh over the fruit shelf.
One evening, we found the wire mesh unsuitable for use.
And Tacuazin ate again.
But the humans would not be daunted, and after a few days of finding teeth marks in their pineapples, and chucks removed from their papaya, they sought additional reinforcements to keep Tacuacin at bay. We constructed a door of heavy wood to properly close up the shelf of fruit.
Upon arriving in our kitchen one night to find his previously sprung open fruit supply firmly shut closed, Tacuacin went nuts. She knocked all the plates, cups, and bowels she could out of the shelves and onto the floor. She made a mess of the kitchen.
The next day us humans found our dishes broken, and a cupboard in disarray. We then knew that we had Tacuazin beat.
Though one of us humans feels a little guilty in the victory, and, each night while cleaning up after dinner, he makes sure to spill a little soup here, some vegetables there, and occasionally leaves little pieces of fruit scrap sitting about for Tacuacin to eat in the night.
We called it a truce. Tacuacin still comes in the night, she still eats, but the us humans are left with our fruit intact.
Photographing Tacuacins in Guatemala
From my observations, tacuazins exhibit only a mild fear of humans, and, like many of the nocturnal animals in the jungle of eastern Guatemala, I have been able to walk real close to them with provoking immediate flight. With tacuacins, I have been able to walk directly underneath of them as they stand in the rafters of our kitchen without chasing them away.
For a couple of nights I staked out the kitchen at the Finca Tatin in preparation for the nightly arrival of a tacuazin. After a few incidences of simple observation, I now wanted to photograph one. My night finally came, and I saw a three foot tacuazin in the rafters over my head. I was able to stand within feet of it as I clicked the shutter of my camera. It was not until the flash went off that the tacuacin became overtly afraid of my presence.
The tacuazin wanted our fruit, I wanted a photo. We worked it out.
Tacuacins still come for visits to the kitchen of the Finca Tatin under the cover of night in the Guatemala jungle.
Habitat range of tacuazins
Map of tacuacin habitat
Countries with tacuazins
Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil