Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates
Monthly Update - February 2004
The month of February has seen us become the proud owner of the fourth and largest canopy walkway in South America. We now have access to our second platform in a large kapok tree 45 metres above ground!! Many people told us it would not be possible to make the walkway to such a height but here we are with some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. I have worked in the rainforest now for six years and nothing compares to the sense of awe at being at the top of the canopy. The walkway is over 90m long and over the last week we have added protective netting to prevent any accidents! We have just to build a shelter on the upper platform and we shall start our 24-hour monitoring program. The idea is to have at least a month of continual observations so we can gain a better idea of the fauna activity. Sources vary but on average it is estimated that at least 60 percent of the wildlife is active in the higher canopy at some point during the day or night and we now have access to this other world in the trees. Bearing this is mind morale is very high and the volunteers cannot wait to be let loose on the walkway.
We have now reached nearly thirty volunteers in Taricaya, both old and new, and four of them are participating in a new initiative in conjunction with ProNaturaleza on a weekly rota. This project is now in its third week and the feedback has been very positive. ProNaturaleza is a Peruvian charity organisation that works in conservation (including work with freshwater turtles) and recently they took possession of a disused butterfly centre near the airport in town. The director of the organisation rang me and during a meeting he requested the help of our volunteers. The work involves capacitating an investigation centre designed at teaching school children about conservation in the form of displays and information boards as by targeting the next generation they hope to make them aware of the threats to the ecosystem. The huge butterfly enclosure is also being rehabilitated and volunteers are being kept very busy during their time there. We hope to post information on our projects also with the goal of increasing public awareness of work. It was very encouraging to hear from ProNaturaleza and again it indicates that our status in the area is growing. This project will run through March where we hope the work is completed.
The information we wish to post will definitely include the newly received report from the University of Agriculture in Lima concerning our young mahogany samples. The mahogany project had been almost universally accepted but we required confirmation of the physical properties of the young wood in comparison to the mature wood usually felled after twenty or more years. The results were fantastic with the 5-year old sample having a density of 0.44 (mature wood 0.45), and having a resistance to disease, fungus and parasites almost identical to the 20-year old, which is important for the woods economical value as a construction material. The three-month long tests were thorough and now there can be little doubt that the idea of mahogany plantations as a project is a very feasible one with huge economical potential to the locals with much reduced labour and importantly a reduced impact on the struggling ecosystem.
Around the lodge the sightings have been as exciting as ever. This month at the Anaconda Colpa we saw a group of over seventy white-lipped peccaries feeding on the mud. The group appears to have grown in size, if indeed it is the same one. This is to be expected as many jungle species come together in the bountiful wet season before splitting into smaller groups again when food becomes scarcer in the dry season. Such other examples include squirrel monkeys, tamarins and coatis. In the swamp on canoe observation a rare agami heron was sighted. These amazingly coloured birds are becoming harder to find with loss of suitable habitats. On "Bushmaster" trail both white-fronted capuchins and night monkeys were seen. Whilst night monkeys are common diurnal sightings are rare and the white-fronted capuchins were spotted for the first time in the area for over a year. Both sightings reinforce my belief that animal confidence in the Taricaya Ecological Reserve is increasing after the significant disturbances before we started working in the area. At New Farm we saw five dusky-headed parakeets fledge and leave their nest following in the steps of the scarlet macaw. On a sadder note Rosa, the baby Brazilian tapir, suffered a relapse and died. When we received her she had serious health problems and after weeks of hand feeding appeared to be recovering well but unfortunately we could do nothing for her.
With the increased number of storms associated with the rainy season tree falls are more frequent and this month we have collected large numbers of orchids off the fallen giants. Orchids are bromeliads that grow in the canopy as an adaptation in the competition for light. There are many different species and we hope to identify them and also provide a display of the orchids found in our area at the butterfly centre in Puerto Maldonado mentioned earlier.
At New Farm we have harvested over a ton of maize that is ground daily to feed the hens. The fresh food appears to nourish the chickens better as egg production is up and food costs are obviously down as we are now self sufficient with regards to feeding the animals. We have enough stored for a good time to come when we shall plant more again. Our rice patches are flourishing and we will soon see the results of our intensive agriculture and its benefits, if indeed there are any. The limes and papayas are giving fruit and in March we expect to eat our own sweet potato and yucca (manioque). On a weekly basis, according to the rota, the volunteers at New Farm are taught to make bows and arrows by our Ese'eja neighbours. The end products look very impressive and volunteers then struggle with the difficulty of getting them home. As you read many are probably winging their way across the Atlantic in oddly shaped packages. Fortunately the volunteers have yet to reach the impressive skill levels of the locals so monkey is still off the menu!!!
I hope the good work continues in March where amongst other things we will start the canopy-monitoring program and start investigating the ornamental "carachama" fish population in the creek with the use of specially designed traps.
Taricaya Research Centre
06th March 2004