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Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates

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Marking a tree on the mammal transect

With the start of a new year there comes a sense of anticipation and 2012 promises to be very exciting here in the Amazon rainforest. With volunteer participation increasing every year I am sure that we shall welcome record breaking numbers this year. That is fantastic news for the program and enables me to set challenging goals and optimistic new projects for the upcoming months. However, before we get too carried away, we must first endure the wet season and the chaos the heavy storms can cause in the forest.

You have never experienced rain until you have been caught in a tropical storm where sheets of water reduce visibility and in just seconds everything you are wearing becomes soaked. These deluges breathe life back into the ecosystem and trees thirstily pump up water to the canopy where new shoots and fruits provide food for the jungle's hungry residents. As the rainy season enters its second month the depressions around the reserve are starting to fill up and this makes moving through the forest ever more adventurous. Nonetheless January saw us start up our mammal surveys again. As volunteers and staff simultaneously walk five different transect routes through the reserve, we hope to gain an overall picture of mammal diversity and abundance. By walking various different trails at the same time we can conclusively say that any groups of mammals we see are not the same ones just moving through the forest. Whilst moving along the trails becomes more difficult in the wet season as mud and temporary swamps make it hard going there is an advantage in that it is easier to find animal tracks. In the dry season the hard forest floor makes it impossible for animals to leave any noteworthy spoors but the rains make every trail a potential mould and our first mammal walks of the year lead us to jaguar and tapir tracks dotted around the reserve.

Apart from the exciting tracks we saw also several different primate species, peccaries, agoutis and squirrels. When mammals are spotted we count how many are in the group or note that it is just a single individual. Then we register behaviour and mark the tree/area where the animal has been spotted with a plastic tape. This marker allows us to continue the transect at a uniform rate and on the return journey we can stop to collect more data such as GPS location and tree species. I look forward to reporting on more exciting sightings next month.

Common Woolly Monkey

I am very pleased to report that our wild troop of spider monkeys is doing very well and the four remaining members of the group are healthy and strong. We continue to monitor their movements at least twice a week and with every passing month it seems more likely that the group will accept Taricaya and the bordering Tambopata-Candamo Park as their new home range. This is great news and our success with this release program and our hard work in the rescue centre has led to yet another precedent for Taricaya. After an inspection from SENARP the government agency responsible for the national parks of Peru and long conversations we, at Taricaya, have been granted access to the adjoining national park to continue our existing research and continue monitoring our animal releases. This is a huge breakthrough for all our projects not least the animal rescue centre. This new permit means we can request the release of animals back into the huge national park not just Taricaya. This is a relief because eventually the reserve would reach its limit of how many animals it could sustain and what would we do then? In short, this new permit has renewed our confidence and faith in what we are trying to achieve as we continue to push down barriers and change laws to enable our good work to continue and improve. Needless to say we are the first organisation in Peru with such a free rein to work within the highly protected national parks and once again I must thank everyone for all their hard work both on the ground and behind the scenes. A great start to the year!

Spider Monkey Camp

Elsewhere at Taricaya it was time to knuckle down and battle on with the maintenance of the pilot farm and the inevitable battle with quick growing weeds that heavy rains and scorching suns produce. This work is hard but it can be very rewarding when you look around you after a long morning and see the area you have cleared. I am proud to say that Taricaya volunteers are made of tough stock and every time we face a physical challenge they rise to the occasion. This will be put to the test next month as we start to lay gravel along all the trails within the rescue centre. The heavy rains are turning the heavily transited routes into mud baths and it makes the relatively straightforward task of feeding the animals difficult and messy. Keeping the cages clean is important for the health of our residents and so next month we shall tackle the Herculean task of collecting gravel from the river banks and lining the hundreds of metres of trail.

With the return of many staff after well deserved vacations I look forward to next month when we shall continue our mammal transects, open our mist nets, continue our maintenance of the rescue centre and so much more....until then

Stuart Timson
Conservation Director
Projects Abroad
10th February 2012

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