Puzzled, I asked my fellow volunteers if they had seen my shampoo while we all ate dinner together. I explained I had not seen it since I had washed my hair down at the river the night before. Initially, I had thought I had left it there, but I had checked that morning and had not found it.
“Koba will have stolen it” said David.
Koba was one of the many coatis which lived at the animal sanctuary in Ecuador where we all volunteered. Most lived wild, running around in large groups. A member of the racoon family, they have long snouts with sensitive noses, and a ringed tail. Koba, however, was more like an old labrador. He plodded round with the volunteers and could frequently be found napping on the veranda. He was very large for a White Nosed Coati, and for some reason which I never did ascertain, half of his tail was missing.
I turned to David and asked why on earth he thought Koba would have stolen my shampoo. He explained that one of their behaviours is to rub different scents into their tails. Once, when he was refuelling the canoes, Koba came along. He was immediately interested in the can of gasoline. He knocked it over, dipped his paws in the fuel flowing down the bank, and started rubbing it into his tail. Koba clearly though the reek of the gasoline gave him an olfactory edge.
On hearing this, I felt the mystery of my missing shampoo was solved. I was careful never to leave any bottles of toiletries on the river bank again.