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Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates

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Monthly Update - August 2006

Giant Otters

It gives me great pleasure to bring you all up to date again with the latest from Taricaya and the jungle news. I mentioned in last month's report that August would see us back patrolling the river beaches for turtle nests (Podocnemis unifilis) amongst other projects and with a temporary fall in numbers, for the middle part of the month, the remaining volunteers have worked especially hard to keep everything running on schedule.

I will start with the turtle project and must praise all staff and volunteers alike for their dedication over the last 5 weeks. Every night, without exception, teams were monitoring the beaches in our designated area sacrificing weekends in town and comfy beds for the swarms of sand-flies and cold nights. With the help of Enrique and his family, our Ese'eja neighbours, we collected every nest available to us and on several occasions prevented poachers from entering the zone we were patrolling. We collected a total of 27 nests with an average of 30 eggs per nest. The number of total nests collected is actually lower than the figure for last year even though our collection methods and time spent in the area demonstrate a great improvement on our previous strategy. I believe that this decline is due to significant changes in climatic conditions in comparison to August last year. This year we experienced almost ten days of cool weather, a phenomenon known as a "friaje", during the period when the females should be laying and rain in the foothills meant that the water level was continually fluctuating. Both factors could have lead to females aborting their eggs and changes in their behaviour. July however was a warmer month this year and so next year I am considering starting the project slightly earlier to see if the changed climate has induced the females to lay earlier in the year. Nonetheless the project was a great success and apart from the turtles volunteers saw other nocturnal visitors to the beach such as capybara, paca and caiman whilst encountering cat tracks on several occasions.

Museum of Native Lifestyle

The next stage in the project will involve the incubation of the eggs that have been carefully buried in our artificial beach and then the careful upbringing of the young hatchlings until their shells harden enough to reduce threats of predation upon release. The final phase before release will be the clipping of the shells with codes so that wherever the youngsters pop up in the future they will be recognised as successful releases from Taricaya.

Elsewhere at Taricaya I am very pleased to announce the completion of a project that is as novel as it is satisfying. Over the last few weeks volunteers have been helping Enrique and his family complete a museum dedicated to the lifestyle of the Amazonian Indian. Enrique's family continues the lineage of true Ese'eja natives and Fernando and I thought it would a great attraction to replicate an original Ese'eja camp with their constructions and artesanias (jewellery, bags, fans, drapes, etc...). The original Indian huts were made without hammers and nails and so volunteers have been learning from Enrique and his wife how people used to build using just a machete. Twine needed to be cut from lianas, poles cut to size for the walls and palm leafs woven for the roof. Volunteers learnt a great deal and had lots of fun as Enrique is a genuine character and obviously he was very appreciative of the help we supplied. Not only was the construction completed but volunteers helped make signs from the bark of the yaenshama tree to explain the various techniques and materials involved. The sales of the handicrafts and the small entrance fee will reduce Enrique's need to impact the ecosystem and he and his family will experience a higher standard of living.

Turtle On It's Way Back To The River

With all the hard work I felt that a bit of rest and relaxation was necessary and so it was off to Sandoval for an overnight trip and a search for the legendary giant otters (Pteronura braziliensis). It was ironic that the morning of the trip we experienced one of the fiercest storms of the year thus far and so t-shirts and trainers were replaced with rubber boots and ponchos but spirits were high as we headed off up-river ready to hike the 5km to the lake. After an hour or so the rain passed and we reached the lake in blazing sunshine ready for a refreshing swim. Later it was out in a canoe onto the lake and we saw many species of lake birds (herons, kingfishers, cormorants etc. ..) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus sciurues). Still the best was yet to come and the following morning at 5.15am we were back on the lake as it started to awaken. After a couple of hours we had already seen many different types of bird, brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) but still no otters! Then, as if from nowhere, the whole family appeared in the middle of the lake and we spent a happy hour just sitting and watching these amazing creatures feed and play. A good time was had by all and everyone seemed re-vitalised by the trip.

Yaenshama Signs

Back at the lodge Winifred, the tapir, was transferred into her new enclosure. Volunteers worked hard planting all the posts and nailing the sheep fencing brought from Cusco. Her rapid growth meant that her old cage was far too small for her as she has tripled her weight since arriving two months ago. The new design for enclosure gives her lots of space to roam and more importantly plenty of natural food in the form of helconia shoots to supplement her diet of milk and papaya. With over 3000 square metres she is getting plenty of exercise and, importantly, she is becoming increasingly independent. The next stage will be to dig a large pool as tapirs love to swim and spend a lot of time in the water. We need to accustom Winifred water as it is fundamental in her natural behaviour.

As the animal release program continues to grow we were glad to receive a scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in august. It is currently in quarantine as it may have a disease or parasite that could prove harmful to our other resident macaws. It also has a broken wing which we are treating and contact with the others may hinder the healing process.

September will see numbers rising again and as ever there will be plenty of work to keep everyone busy!!

Stuart Timson
Conservation Manager
Taricaya Research Centre
2nd September 2006

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