Monthly Update - December 2008
It is the end of yet another fantastic year at Taricaya and with a record breaking 140 volunteers to visit us this year we have pushed forward so many of our projects it is a real tribute to all volunteers and staff. However, before I look back over the last twelve months there is still plenty to report for December itself and I shall start with the animal rescue centre as there is some great news there.
I remember recounting a few months ago how we had not received any new animals for a long time as the paperwork fought its way through the system and the government organised itself to start distributing the confiscated pets in Puerto Maldonado. Nonetheless, it appears that the course we ran last month has kick-started a positive chain of events and we have been able to receive a spider monkey that had been left at Amazon Shelter. The idea of the different rescue centres working as a network seems to have been concreted by this workshop and we now have a new baby female spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth chamek). She is the quarantine block as we cure some injuries incurred from a rope tied too tightly around her waist but she is healing well and should be in main circulation next month. We welcome also a beautiful baby margay (Leopardus wiedeii) collected from Palma Real. The youngster is feisty to say the least but she too is eating well and recovering from a strong stomach infection, no doubt from her diet in captivity before Taricaya. So, as 2009 looms we have many reasons to feel optimistic about the rescue centre and I am confident that these new events will facilitate our permits for releasing animals in the New Year as many of our residents are waiting for the relevant paperwork.
More good news is that the rains finally appear to be arriving. I have never seen the jungle so dry for this time of year and the beaches in the river further emphasise the lack of water in the foothills also. Whilst other parts of the world are suffering floods, South America has been exceptionally dry and should this trend continue there may well be severe consequences over the coming years. I hope that the jungle residents will now start to find sufficient food for their offspring and that the yearly cycle is not disrupted. That said the New Year needs to bring much more rain if the animals are not to suffer when the next dry season begins in May.
All of our projects have evolved during 2008 and we have had many changes at Taricaya this year also. We have said good bye to Richard Munday as he moves on to head our conservation project in Costa Rica. I am sure he will rise to the new challenge and his experiences with us over the last three years will hold him in good stead. At the same time we are happy to welcome some new staff members on board and Raul Bello Santa Cruz has agreed to stay with us in 2009 and manage our animal rescue centre. Raul has great experience managing animals in captivity and the program needs a full time staff member as it continues to grow. We also welcome Daniel Medina Guzman next year. Daniel is a botanist who has visited us twice in 2008 and his vast knowledge of plants and rainforest ecology will help us as we try to inventory the plants in different areas of Taricaya. Such information is invaluable, even more so now, as our other research projects continue to develop and data needs to be analysed with respect to the different types of habitat in the reserve.
As I look back over the last year it is hard to identify any one success as there have been so many highs and I shall try and do justice to all the hard work of the last twelve months. First I must congratulate everyone involved with the turtle project this year as we smashed our record once again with the release of over 1400 baby turtles and achieved a remarkable breakthrough with the Palma Real community. The pilot project with the school was incredibly satisfying and I shall never forget the looks on the faces of the young children as they released the baby turtles back into the river. The future of the freshwater turtle, Podocnemis unifilis, will depend on the actions of the next generation and this was a huge step in pioneering its conservation in the Madre de Dios region.
Back at Taricaya we were proud to increase our status globally with the visits of two major film companies. First we welcomed TV1 from France filming a program on animal conservation in Peru. They concentrated on our animal rescue centre and our diverse research projects in the reserve. Whilst I have yet to see the documentary personally, I have been told that it was excellent as it has aired in Europe already. The second visit came from NHK Japan and Taricaya soon began to look like a military operations centre as boat after boat of equipment arrived. The live feed went off smoothly after a week of preparation and the most satisfying aspect was their initial selection of Taricaya as the best conservation initiative in the region.
Our research projects have truly leapt forward in 2008 also as we have been working hard at the lodge both alone and with our dedicated visitors. Our species lists are some of the most comprehensive not just in the region but also Peru and this year we have made some exciting breakthroughs. We have registered 400 species of birds (over 200 with photographs), 47 species of amphibian, 57 species of reptile, 107 species of butterfly, 34 species of bat and 53 other species of mammal. This is a reflection of thousands of hours in the field with mist nets, traps and binoculars in all weather conditions. I am convinced that 2009 will see us continue to push forward and increase these lists further.
The pilot farm has generated much interest this year also with several other organisations requesting advice and assessment. Our farm module is now complete and a true reflection of how a local farmer could and should manage his land. Our neighbours are increasingly involved in the project and the community Palma Real also. Volunteers have toiled very hard over the years on this project with the work being by far the least appealing of all our projects; but, it is incredibly satisfying to achieve our goal of showing that it is possible to farm the plots of land allotted by the government. 2009 will see us continue to take the projects into the field as our sphere of influence continues to expand.
Much more has happened this year including our seven year anniversary, including the IV Taricaya Olympics, the completion of new installations at the lodge (including a new dining room and volunteer bungalows), an unexpected flood, and the expansion of the animal rescue centre with a huge new enclosure for Preciosa, our jaguar.
2009 will see a continued dedication to existing projects and the creation of new ones including an ambitious new butterfly house and breeding laboratory. It just remains for me to thank once again everyone involved in the program for their hard work and I look forward to reporting on many more successes in 2009.
5th January 2009