Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates
CONSERVATION IN PERU: TARICAYA RESEARCH CENTRE: MONTHLY UPDATE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2015
With a new year comes new challenges and as our volunteer numbers rose quickly after the festive break it was straight back to work. This time of year is difficult because the weather can be unpredictable and last year’s historical flooding was at the back of all our minds. Of course the probability of the worst flooding in over half a century repeating was unlikely but with the heavens opening in January we were all very relieved that the river stayed comfortably within its banks and allowed to us to carry on our efforts muddy but not swimming!
The wet season is a time of plenty in the forest and many of the jungle animals and birds coincide their breeding cycles with this bounty. Huge troops of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis) come together for safety in numbers often 300 strong; white-lipped peccaries (Tayassu peccari) merge into groups of more than 100 individuals and birds flash through the forest carrying food to hungry nestlings. The heightened activity brings the jungle alive and it is a good time to get out on the trails albeit dealing with deep seasonal swamps and muddy paths. Over recent weeks we came across an elusive three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus) lazily feeding behind the volunteer bungalows, a family of tayras (Eira barbara), members of the weasel family, feeding on ripe palm fruits along the trails and even a sighting of the rare jaguarundi (Puma yaguaorundi), a small black cat, skirting along one of the nearby forest clearings.
Whilst the heavy rains are inconvenient at times we have also been hanging our mist nets at the different stations we monitor all year round. At this stage of our research catching new species for the area is very unlikely but we did have some great captures. Both the streaked flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus) and fork-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus savana) have been registered in the reserve but never photographed up close and the heightened activity I mentioned above meant that we caught nearly 20 birds each session we worked. This is a great number and reflects the health of our protected ecosystem.
Animal Rescue Centre
Continuing the theme of birds, this month we received a very unusual and rare arrival at the rescue centre- a maguari stork (Ciconia maguari). About four years ago I was walking the river edge with Mauricio Ugarte our consulting ornithologist from Arequipa when we spotted a group of three strange stork-like birds flying overhead. The size and flight pattern was inconsistent with the larger jabiru species (Jabiru mycteria) and the smaller wood stork (Mycteria americana) and after a closer inspection with binoculars we concluded that it must have been the maguari stork. This bird had never been confirmed in Peru before and I kept an eye out every year during their supposed migration season but with no luck of a further sighting. Our stature as recognised ornithologists meant that the sighting was accepted and the Birds of Peru modified accordingly but I still wanted affirmation! Now we have it as we were called in to rescue a large wading bird from just outside Puerto Maldonado. It was a juvenile maguari stork that had been unable to complete its first migration. It was undernourished and very weak. At Taricaya this is recognised as a challenge!
We quickly built a netted tent over the unoccupied turtle pool in the rescue centre and quickly incorporated daily fishing activities in the creek. The volunteers have become excellent fishermen and the stork is already putting on weight and the shine is returning to its plumage. My only concern is its future release as the species is not resident to the area and as I mentioned they are very rare in Peru. We must think of a solution to this problem but in the meantime it is fantastic to watch the youngster grow and recover.
Elsewhere at the centre we have been hard at work changing the last of our old wooden cages for metal ones. The process is long and takes a lot of hard work but the final enclosures are so much better. They are safer for both the animal and we who look after them, maintenance is only required internally (decoration etc.) and aesthetically they look so much nicer and cleaner. We have taken down the penultimate cage and are busy working on the modifications and construction of the new one.
The rainy season is an ideal time of year to plant young trees as the weather fluctuates from heavy rain to blazing sunshine and this is the perfect combination for plants to grow quickly. Our second farm plot down river has been chosen as the site for our on-going mahogany project and volunteers and staff have been working hard digging over 500 hundred holes on the one side of the farm in preparation for planting mahogany saplings next month. After the one side is finished we shall prepare a further 500 holes for the other one giving us an impressive plantation of 1000 plants. As with our first successful mahogany plantation nearly ten years ago we are going to continue our research on growth rates, infestation from the parasitic moth (Hypsiphyla sp.) and plantation density.
It is a testing time to work in the forest with heavy rains having left many depressions full of water limiting our access to certain areas of the reserve but the jungle is so alive with the chirping of frogs, the howling of monkeys and singing of birds. As the weather subsides and water dries up we shall evaluate the effects of the stormy season on the reserve and will no doubt be out in force clearing trails and reopening points of access. Our research will continue and the rescue centre tended to…I will bring you the latest news next time…
Conservation Director, Projects Abroad
13th March, 2015