Monthly Update - October/November 2006
There has been an unusually long break between the last report and this one due to my travels to other Projects Abroad conservation projects but I hope I can do all the hard work performed in my four week absence justice. The question, as always, is where to start?
I recall recounting the near completion of the ocelot cage and upon my return the enclosure was not only completed but modified with a secondary door as the over-friendly cat had a tendency to try and follow people out of the original one after being fed and invariably petted and played with. As a safety precaution this secondary door means that at any time she cannot make a bid for freedom! The monkeys are now due their new enclosures and work on the first of the two is under way. There will be two modules in order to separate the smaller species from the larger ones. One of the reasons for this future separation is to prevent bullying by the larger spider and capuchin monkeys but in reality all the monkeys tend to form an extended family and therein lies the problem. Upon release it is not natural for different species to interact so closely (with the exception of brown capuchins and squirrel monkeys that form mixed species troops) and I want the monkeys to bond as species groups helping them survive and form wild groups upon release. I am very confident that by January 1st Taricaya will have the official permit as an Animal Rescue Centre, the first in Peru. This permission will not only allow us to receive confiscated animals from INRENA, the government department concerned, but also release them - the first centre of its kind in Peru!
Without these officially donated animals the enclosures at Taricaya are still full with unwanted pets, even after the successful release of two cobalt-winged parakeets (Brotogeris cyanoptera) in October. The project continues to flourish and there are two new species for us in the program here at Taricaya: these are a Southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) and a Southern Amazon red squirrel (Sciurus spadiceus). The tamandua is an arboreal anteater and I have never seen an animal quite so content as this furry creature rolling around in the broken termite nests we have placed in its cage. Its thick coat makes it oblivious to the bites of the feisty insects and it spends all its time licking up these cherished morsels with its incredibly long tongue covered with very sticky saliva. The young squirrel was a concern at first as I was unsure what sort of food we should be giving it but it almost seems to fend for itself with grubs and bugs and resorting to the nuts we give it as a last resort!
The volume of new residents means that the recently completed parrot complex is now housing a great variety of animals from tamarins and agoutis to the intended parrot species. Due to the sheer quantity of arrivals I will just list the other new residents as there are so many to account for: one Spix's guan chick (Penelope jacquacu), one Blue-headed parrot (Pionus menstruus), one Dusky-headed parakeet (Aratinga wedellii), one White-bellied parrot (Pionites leucogaster), two baby Saddleback tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis), one Brown agouti (Dasyprocta variegata), one Paca (Agouti paca), two White-bellied spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth chamek) and a baby White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari).
Elsewhere at Taricaya it was time for the turtle eggs to hatch and I was very pleased that we had 492 baby turtles safely transferred from the artificial beach to the newly completed turtle pool. The large pool, completely protected by a solid structure of tubes and thick netting, is much better than the temporary accommodation we created at the pilot farm last year and volunteers are given the task of bringing back the aquatic plants that the young feed off from their daily observations at HOB blind which overlooks a swamp. Whilst the number of baby turtles is lower than last year the percentage of eggs successfully occluded is much higher (fewer nests were laid this year) and this means our management of the eggs in the artificial beach and the delicate process of transfer from the beaches has greatly improved from last year (even though last year we managed a 75% success rate, higher than the natural survival probabilities!). The youngsters will stay with us until January, the necessary period for their shells to harden and the umbilical wounds to heal, when they will be coded and released. This extra period in captivity will increase their chances of survival greatly as the majority of infant mortalities in the wild occur during these critical first three months.
The nursery building was finally completed as the long-awaited interpretation centre was constructed on the first floor. This welcome centre will post information on the work we do here, be a museum of natural history and also moonlight as a cinema as the TV and DVD player are currently installed there also. The first temporary resident in the centre is an incredibly beautiful poison dart frog (Epidobates pictus) that is being studied by Daniel in its newly-created tank. These amphibians are very hard to find and the amazing warning colours are truly breathtaking. Elsewhere in our quest for new reptile and amphibian species we have discovered several frogs previously unrecorded in the area and some lovely snakes around the ever-rising swamps forming in the natural depressions running through the reserve. This annual flooding already suggests that next year will not be as dry as 2006 as the rains have already started in earnest.
I am very pleased to report that this month we have added eight new species to the Taricaya bird list due to some extra mist netting. A couple of our present volunteers are qualified in the use of the nets and so did a few days sampling over the last few weeks. Even though they put the nets very close to the official transects they managed to catch some new ones including a pair of Red-headed manakins (Pipra rubrocapilla), a Wedge-billed woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spiurus albigularis) and a couple of thrush species (Catharus ustulatus & Turdus albicolis). We have also added a couple of new species from the daily observations so the list keeps growing, proving once again the extent of the bio-diversity we have in the reserve. We have also visited Anaconda Colpa again and both trips gave the volunteers an excellent sighting of white-lipped peccaries and agoutis.
To round off the report I would be remiss not to mention our trip to Lake Sandoval a couple of weeks back. We were lucky with the weather and also with the wildlife as we saw both Giant otters and Red howler monkeys on our second trip out onto the lake early in the morning. There were also plenty of birds around the lake and Brown capuchin monkeys too.
December will see us carry on building the new enclosures, continue with the herpetology project and lots more.
Taricaya Research Centre
4th December 2006