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Monthly Update - June 2005
After the successes of previous months it would seem an improbable task to keep the momentum going but once again Taricaya and its volunteers have worked very hard to produce yet more wonderful breakthroughs. The toughest question is where to start?
You may recall that last month I reported that the dam was operational and that we were pumping water continually into the storage tank. Well, in June, staff and volunteers alike, worked very hard installing over 700m of piping and the result is that the Pilot Farm is now receiving water from the creek also. This has several benefits: firstly we no longer have to use the petrol motor to pump water from the river; the water at the farm is cleaner as the creek water has much less sediment than the river water and, perhaps most importantly, we now have a constant supply of water to start irrigating our crops and increase the farm's output. The potential benefits from this constant water supply are several fold as we can start to grow crops out of season when their market value is higher, general production in the dry season can be increased and the use of nursery beds (for plants such as the fish-eye chili, bamboo and mahogany) becomes more feasible.
In June volunteers went across the river to our Ese'ja neighbours and helped them clear a patch of land where we planted chillies and mahogany. You may recall last month I mentioned a new initiative involving the packaging and sale of the fish-eye chillies and the results have been very encouraging. We started to give the product to a few stores in Puerto Maldonado, including a stand in the airport, and we are struggling to meet the demand for the new product. This new market means growing chillies is a very real source of income for the local communities and hence we helped our neighbours sow young plants from our nursery bed. In three months they will be producing the chillies which we, at Taricaya, have guaranteed to buy at a higher price than the market value thus giving the family an extra income for relatively little labour. Other farmers have started to express an interest in both the chillies and the mahogany and so we are starting to see the benefits of months of research and trials. This type of reaction is exactly that which we hoped to generate as locals are coming to us and asking for help and with the aid of the volunteers we are starting to implement the projects, albeit on a local scale.
Elsewhere at Taricaya I am pleased to report the implementation of a bird monitoring project. This is one of my personal favourites and with the help of Mauricio Ugarte, a field biologist from Arequipa, we are tending mist nets at various sites around the reserve in an attempt to compile a comprehensive list of the bird species found in the area. The use of transects and mist nets allows us to investigate the types of bird that are usually so hard to see and identify. The smaller species (such as antbirds, antwrens, tanagers and manakins) are not usually recorded in our data collection as they are not visible from our platforms or canopy. The long term goal is to produce a full species list and over the course of the next year obtain a better idea of what we have at Taricaya. The results will be very valuable and will have great scientific value which will help improve also our scientific profile at the lodge. So far we have captured and identified 28 new species that were not on our old bird list and by tagging each individual we can look to more specific investigations in the future with regards to territorial studies and relating certain species to different forest types. The birds are truly amazing and some of the newly caught species include the majestic Band-tailed Manakin (Pipra fasciicauda), the subtly-coloured male Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides), the Pale-spotted Bare-eye (Phlegopsis nigromaculata) and the Straight-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus picus). As we continue with this project the numbers will increase and who knows how many species we will total on our diversity list for La Reserva Ecologica Taricaya.
Finally, in June we were visited by three vet students from Canada who were completing a two month expedition to Peru. Associated with a large organisation called 'Global Vets', they had visited both Iquitos and Sichuani before finishing their trip with us at Taricaya. The three girls spent two weeks with us and helped us by reviewing our livestock management techniques at the Farm Project and with our proposal for an official animal rescue centre. We built a maternity enclosure for the goats under their supervision and they gave all the animals, both at the Farm and in the release program, thorough check-ups. It was a very opportune time for them to visit as Fernando and I are currently applying for official status with the animal release program and as is the norm in Peru, INRENA, have requested a huge report for the proposed project. The vets were able to help us with important issues such as bio security, quarantine facilities, basic treatment plans for common injuries and illnesses and general management techniques for sick animals. The visit was very beneficial to both parties and I hope that it can become an annual arrangement with students from their university.
The other projects continue to function at the centre and we hope to start further investigations into the herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) of the newly-created reserve over the coming weeks. As ever we continue to keep busy and there is never a shortage of things to be done.
Taricaya Research Centre
27th June 2005