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Monthly Update - January 2004
January heralds the start of another busy year in the Peruvian Amazon not least with annual increase in the number of volunteers coinciding with the start of our high season. Morale is high and the hard work of 2003 needs to be continued with the existing projects and, naturally, the development of new ideas. I have had meetings with the new directors of INRENA with respect to our reserve application and the new administration appears more positive and cooperative then the old one. The director has promised to chase the proposal through the mountains of paperwork so the official designation of "La Reserva Ecologica Taricaya" would appear to finally be materialising after nearly a year sparring with the complex Peruvian legal system. The mahogany project has also inspired great interest in various local organisations and people have been phoning us or requesting meetings. The impact has already been beyond our initial expectations and there can only be positive repercussions for our other projects. The hardest part of being a relatively new initiative is to establish credibility for the work we are doing so once we are recognised as a serious organisation committed to our projects then acceptance of our good intentions becomes easier. Such acceptance is now taking form with both the locals and the regional authorities and we are confident that 2004 will see major breakthroughs with our projects.
At the centre itself life has also been exciting. The Anaconda Colpa has provided some great sightings this month with volunteers seeing a large herd of over thirty white-lipped peccaries and a female tapir with her young calf. Both sightings are very encouraging as we had seen many tracks in December. These large mammals are good indicator species as they are usually the first to be hunted in any given area and so their presence signifies progress with our work to restore animal confidence and encourage them back into our area. The trails and platforms have also seen an increase in activity associated with the start of the rainy season. Most animals are now with young and the jungle is teeming with life. Last year we released a pair of saddle-back tamarins and they have returned to the centre often this month accompanied by two offspring. It is obviously a great pleasure to see them after a long absence and to see that they are thriving in the wild. In January we received a young S. American Coati into our animal release program and he is already finding his way around the centre jumping on unsuspecting victims. The Brazilian Tapir, Rosa, donated in December is gaining weight and is recovering well after we received her with serious health problems.
Volunteers have been involved in several projects this month including a new initiative involving the collection and identification of seeds around our trail system. The idea is to produce a map with the distribution of the flowering trees and their seasonality so we can identify the zones providing food to the fauna at any given time of year. This will also help us identify key species of tree that we will be able to cultivate in nurseries for re-introduction into areas where they have been removed. We already have seed nurseries of "shihuahuaco" (ironwood tree), "chimbillo", and "ubos" which we will transplant later in the year to areas of low density for each given type.
The floods of last year meant that the life span of our bridges was reduced due to advanced rotting and volunteers in January helped repair all the bridges on our trail system. This was hard work due to the heavy conditions but now all the trails are once again accessible. The investigation centre along with the medicinal garden is now nearing completion. The majority of the plants have been identified and clearly marked. This information is now being processed and presented in the investigation centre. Much information is already on display but there is always more to discover and present. The goal is to install terrariums in the centre also. This will provide temporary accommodation for frogs, toads, lizards, snakes etc.. whilst they are being logged and photographed for our study of the herpetology of the Taricaya area. We are also starting to work with an American couple who export ornamental fish back to the States. They concentrate on ground feeding fish locally known as "carachamas" amongst others. These fish are very common in creeks and slow streams and their philosophy is very similar to ours. Fishing for these species is a low impact activity as these species abound in the area. We have fished our creek at various points and found many of the species with export value. If locals can be taught which animals are valuable then they can supplement their income when it becomes necessary simply by spending a few hours fishing the streams and creeks nearby. The investigation centre will be a perfect place to put some tanks with a few examples of each species so people can come and learn which species are valuable. If the locals are fishing by hand then they are not performing more destructive activities such as logging or hunting.
In January we bought the materials necessary for the next stage of the canopy walkway. February will see us hanging by harnesses and starting to place the tailor-made panels along the already attached cables. We will also travel to Laberinto again to bring more bamboo as the first crop is growing very well around the pilot farm. These activities in addition to ones already functioning will keep us all busy in February and for a good time to come!!!
Taricaya Research Centre
08th February 2004