Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates
Monthly Update - July 2005
The month of July has flown by incredibly fast as both staff and volunteers alike have been busy. I am pleased to report that the bird monitoring project is continuing to produce some fascinating finds. I take the volunteers out to the mist nets where we spend the day checking for captures; identifying new species and tagging all the individuals. In twelve full research days we have now captured 146 individuals with over 50 species many of which are new to the reserve. Last week we moved our transects to the furthest extreme of the reserve. This area has many different forest types and one of the mist nets happened to pass a through an area of forest dominated by bamboo plants. This transect alone provided several new species including the rare Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis), Goeldi's Antbird (Myrmeciza goeldii), Reddish Hermit (Phaethornis rubber) (see photos), and the Dusky-tailed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon fuscicauda).
The study of the birds will be completed at the end of May next year but already with the help of Mauricio we are presenting our early findings to an ornithological convention in Tumbes, a city in the north of Peru. This will take place in October but this week we have completed the report as it has to be submitted in the first week of August. I am convinced that there are many more exciting discoveries to be made and will be sure to keep you informed in the monthly reports as the project continues over the coming months. At the end of the study period we will publish our findings and will hopefully attract other investigators who might wish to perform studies in our reserve.
Elsewhere we have received some new animals for the release program. A young Brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegates) was brought to us and was quickly released. Sloths are not uncommon in the wild but their lethargic nature and habitat high in the upper canopy make sightings uncommon but I am sure that it will be safe and when the time comes will have no problem in finding a mate. Perhaps the most exciting new addition was a pygmy (also known as silky) anteater (Cyclopes didactylus). These tiny members of the anteater family (Mymercophagidae) are seldom seen in the wild being both nocturnal and reclusive by nature. However, this individual was very healthy and gave us a perfect opportunity to try out some new tracking equipment, donated by an ex-volunteer. We attached the radio transmitter to the animal and released it (see photo). The next day we tried to track the animal using our receiver and it was with great pleasure that we received a strong signal as soon as we left the camp. It was not long before the signal continued to become stronger until we narrowed the transmitter to just one tree. Here is where reality struck home because the animal was nowhere to be seen. It turned out that the transmitter had become loose and fallen to the ground at the base of said tree and the anteater was long gone. Whilst it was disappointing at first it was very satisfying to know that the signal can be picked up through all the dense vegetation and so we will be able to try the equipment on other species maybe with larger territories.
On a more worrying note we heard gunshots deep in the reserve on several occasions earlier in the month and upon closer investigation we discovered that some illegal wood extractors had been trespassing to hunt white-lipped peccaries. We found evidence of their activities and have reported them to the relevant authorities. We have worked very hard to be awarded the reserve and so both volunteers and staff are on the look out for more signs of poachers. Fortunately we have not come across any more evidence so let us hope it was a one-off not to be repeated.
The pilot farm is thriving with its new irrigation system and I am pleased to report that we have increased our number of goats and donkeys. In July Fernando and I took a trip from Cusco to a local market called Combapata. This fair occurs every Sunday and we set off at 4.30am to get there early and hopefully get to choose from the best animals on sale. The trip was a resounding success and we have now nearly forty goats (we bought 17 more), three donkeys and guinea pigs safely installed at the Farm. This means that next year we will be in a position to start offering livestock to the local farmers in a system whereby we would give them 50 goats and 50 guinea pigs. These animals would reproduce very quickly and within a year the farmer will have close to 150 of each type. He then returns the original fifty to us and we give them to someone else. This system will be very successful because the farmer will prepare his land in return for the gift of the animals. With so many goats and guinea pigs he will not need to hunt and will have meat, cheese and milk to sell. This means he will spend less time in the forest and will have no need to perform illegal activities such as hunting and wood extraction. I hope that the animals acclimatise quickly and we can get the project up and running as soon as possible. Our first goats bought two years ago have reproduced several times and so I am optimistic that the project will have a very positive impact for the local communities in the area.
August sees the turtle project back in action and this year we have an official permit to collect 80 nests which will give us close to 2000 young turtles should hatching rates be high. The artificial beach was prepared in July and so we are all set for one of our most exciting projects.
Taricaya Research Centre
04th August 2005