Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates
TARICAYA RESEARCH CENTRE: March 2012
It is an exciting time in the jungle as we reach the end of the wet season and as the river levels finally start to recede we can take stock and really get back out into the reserve without the threat of heavy storms and torrential rain on a daily basis. It is a vibrant time in the forest as many of the jungle's animals now have newborn babies conceived to coincide with the abundance of food provided by the heavy rains and hot tropical sun. Everywhere we look there are large troops of monkeys moving through the tree tops; frogs plopping into the seasonal swamps and herds of peccaries ploughing through the undergrowth. Raucous choruses from the reserve's birds echo through the forest from dawn to dusk and every night trees rustle and fruits crash to the ground as the jungle's more furtive residents also take advantage. It is a time of plenty and every resident of the rainforest must take advantage before the leaner dry season kicks in when finding food becomes a serious problem and starvation a reality until the life-giving rains arrive again and the cycle continues!
Back at Taricaya we have been working incredibly hard this month and almost everybody has a sore back, blisters or both! We have begun to work on the construction of the bird house at the pilot farm. This aviary has been designed to allow us to study some of the jungle's more secretive residents- the birds of the undergrowth. Upon completion we hope to release many different species into a habitat recreated to emulate their natural surroundings so that we might research and study behavioural and feeding patterns of these most elusive species. It has been a constant frustration to hear these birds singing every day but to hardly ever see them much less learn about their behaviour. This new project is an ambitious and exciting one and first we had to move all the materials into position. This involved transporting 600 large concrete bricks from Puerto Maldonado to the farm, collecting gravel from river banks for the cement mix, carrying the poles for the netted structure and much more. Once in place, we then had to dig the trenches to lay the bricks as the solid foundation of the whole construction and clear the area of any branches/trees over 5m high. A Herculean task by all accounts but we are well underway and I hope to report on our success next month as we continue to work on the project.
Back at the centre we were also hard at work continuing to lay gravel on all the walkways around the animal rescue centre. The rains had made every trail a quagmire and the constant transit as we feed, monitor and clean the animals on a daily basis made such an endeavour necessary. As we formed massive human chains to move tons of gravel by boat from nearby abandoned mining sites to the lodge it became apparent that this task will take months but we can already see the benefits as certain areas of the rescue centre are now mud free and much more accessible! It has now become a matter of pride with the volunteers and they throw their all into the project every time they are selected to work on this project- usually once a week!
March saw us welcome back Hugo Zamora, our bat expert from Arequipa, and as he headed out into the reserve with his mist nets we were confident that something special was about to happen. We were not disappointed! Not only did we capture a new and rare species of fishing bat for the reserve but with hand-held nets, a series of harnesses, safety ropes and a bit of luck we were able to capture a species of bat roosting near our canopy platform. This high-flying species would never be caught in our mist nets as it never drops into the forest itself, feeding primarily high above the trees and nesting in the tallest emergent trees. Such species are very elusive and little is known about them as their natural behaviour makes studying them so difficult. It might even be a new species for the scientific community; I will keep you posted.
It was a great experience and I hope that we continue to find new species with these unorthodox yet effective techniques. In comparison, the fishing bat was relatively easy to capture as it did not involve any aerial gymnastics up in the canopy tree tops. We tended mist nets over the creek by the lodge and whilst extracting any bats from these nets meant an evening dip in cold water with the presence of our resident black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) just a few metres downstream - this was relatively easy. Last year we were able to catch the larger of the fishing bats (Noctilio leporinus) in this manner but we were unsure if we would be so fortunate again. Little did we know that the smaller fishing bat (Noctilio albiventris) was present also in the reserve and this exciting discovery takes our species total to 57! This means that for every 18 species of bat on the planet we have 1 of them in Taricaya- an area of just 476 hectares. This is quite amazing and the exciting fact is that there are undoubtedly more species yet to be discovered as we expand and improve our sampling techniques. A bright future indeed for our biodiversity research and as we open our bird nets next month also, I am convinced there will be more exciting news over the coming months.
One of the most rewarding parts of our wok at Taricaya is being able to release animals back into the wild and we are preparing some of our oldest residents for release next month. We shall be opening the doors for our three macaws (Ara ararauna, Ara macao), our toucan (Ramphostos tucanus) and our brown capuchins (Cebus apella) next month. Their release is very timely as the elements have taken a toll on their enclosures and we must rebuild them as quickly as possible before more new arrivals! One such arrival was a very young white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) that is being bottle fed by our willing and able staff in the animal hospital. The young female has survived the first week without its mother and so its survival chances have greatly increased and I hope that I can report on her progress next month.
As bookings continue to fly in and with 2012 already looking like a record-breaking year at Taricaya we have decided to expand our project and tackle yet more challenges in the Peruvian Amazon. As the final pieces fall into place I shall be glad to outline our new ideas next month as we plan a second agro-forestry project and exciting expansions to our animal rescue centre. I shall inform you on the progress of the aviary and much more...so until then!
10th April 2012