Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tiger Leeches (Terrestrial!)

Leeches that live on land are, fortunately, NOT something I have to deal with in Idaho!  I first learned about them before my trip to Madagascar, but I was lucky enough not to get any of them on me that trip.  I did get some in Australia in the Daintree rainforest, and it was gross.  In Borneo, I did see them - and there were two kinds.  Brown leeches were supposedly on the leaves on the forest floor and "painless," while tiger leeches, pictured here, are on leaves throughout the forest, not just the ground, and supposedly "hurt a little bit."  Luckily, thanks to vigilance, leech socks, extensive shirt tucking and covering of skin (hard to do in the heat) and some pure luck, I didn't get any leeches that attached to me.  I *did* get a few on my hand...because the leeches crawl up the walking stick!  It is creepy to see them on the forest floor straining up towards you as you walk by, looking for a meal.  My guide, Ryan, put this tiger leech on his hand to show how the leech moves on you looking for a good attachment spot - eeeewwww!!!  Something about these critters is just unpleasant!  That being said, I am glad that a fear of leeches does not keep me from going to some of the world's most interesting rainforests.  I will probably find myself in many more leech areas before my life adventure is over....if I'm lucky.

It is interesting how when you or someone in your group gets leeches, you get hypersensitive and every little thing freaks you out as being a leech.  I am sure to live there you have to get over it.  Everytime I found one on my hand I felt like there were more.  For women, there is the additional complication that if you have to, at some point, eliminate all that water you have been drinking while hiking in the humidity, you put delicate parts very near the forest floor, and risk attachments of leeches in areas you dare not dream about!  I met two 80 year old ladies who were birdwatching in Madagascar when they unfortunately got leeches in their private parts, a tale that horrified me so much I vowed to never, ever pee in a forest with terrestrial leeches!  (Men have it so easy on that front!)  This trip, one girl in my group got a leech in her bra and one on her butt.  Ug!!! I know I can't avoid them forever...but I do hope to keep them out of certain areas forever!!!

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