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Monthly Update - November 2005
November has seen Taricaya particularly active compared to previous years as there has been a relatively large number of volunteers and we have been able to accomplish a lot and keep our momentum going. Work this month has included the continuation of the new reserve-border trails, new additions to the animal release program, work at the pilot farm and trail maintenance. As expected the rainy season is ever closer and on several occasions volunteers got first-hand experience of being caught out in a tropical rainstorm, the best is still to come but the early rains are welcome as the jungle was beginning to look very parched.
Every year around this time we have to completely re-open our trail network as the first rains and heavy storms cause a lot of debris, accumulated over the dry season, to fall out of the canopy. The fallen branches (occasionally whole trees!) need to be cleared and in some cases diversions opened around major tree falls so that we can continue to use our complete network for observations and monitoring the reserve. This work along with the opening of our reserve borders has meant volunteers have become experts with machetes with perhaps the occasional blister! However the extra time spent in the less frequented areas of the reserve has lead to some great sightings including collared and white-lipped peccaries, brown capuchin monkeys, a nine-banded armadillo, red-brocket deer and a magnificent Ornate Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus). In addition to the trail sightings I put up the mist nets for a couple of days to show new volunteers how the bird monitoring works when the project is operational and I was very pleased to capture a new bird for our species list. The solitary cacique (Cacicus solitarius) (see photo) is a species I suspected we ought to find in our reserve but had never been recorded so whilst the number of captures was relatively low, just 13 birds in two days, the cacique made the whole exercise very worthwhile.
The animal release program saw a new arrival, and indeed a first for us, in the form of a Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa). This is the largest of the parrots native to the area and its call is a familiar sound around the reserve. Most days from the canopy pairs are seen displaying and calling in the taller emergent trees so when the time comes for its release I am confident it will find a wild mate quickly. The mealy parrot is currently being housed with its smaller cousins the Yellow-crowned parrots (Amazona ochrocephala) and seems to be settling in well. November brought us another successful release into the reserve and this time it was the turn of our young South American Coatis (Nasua nasua). The pair of coatis, like their North American cousins the racoon, are true omnivores feeding on almost anything they come across and as they grew they were becoming very restless in their enclosure. Thus Fernando and I decided it was time to release them deep in the reserve. The release site had to be a long way from the lodge as the coatis were a potential threat to some of our other residents such as the newly-released White-bellied parrots and so with all the volunteers we headed off to Leonela Swamp, our border with the national park , and the youngsters were freed. We videoed the successful release and the coatis are now free in their new home and, whether it be our reserve or the national park, their safety is now guaranteed.
At the pilot farm work continues and after some heavy clearing we have planted corn for our animals to help with the feed costs for the chickens and goats. The heliconia plants have taken root well and the lodge is decorated with their wonderfully colourful flowers. The idea of marketing these blooms is looking very promising and this will hopefully be another low cost project that will provide regular income to the local communities and farmers hence reducing their dependency on illegal activities detrimental to the ecosystem.
It just leaves me to sign off for this month; December will see us busy right up to the Christmas break so there will be plenty of news to report to you at the end of next month. But before I go I have included a photo of a large black caiman that I caught whilst out with volunteers. This beast was sitting on the bank off the river and put up quite a struggle. I often capture caimans to show the volunteers and illustrate the points I make in a lecture I give before heading out on the river, however, this was a particularly large one to be hoisting into the boat and worthy of a mention!
Taricaya Research Centre
30th November 2005