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Monthly Update - December 2006
It is hard to believe that we have come to the end of yet another year and once again it will be difficult to do justice to all the hard work performed during 2006. As we await the arrival of our 500th volunteer in January 2007 I have become quite nostalgic and struggle to grasp the magnitude of our achievements in the rainforest. When the first volunteer arrived at Taricaya in November 2001 they were lucky to have a bed and a roof over their heads! Now, after over five years of hard work from volunteers and staff alike, we are truly pioneering conservation not only in our area, but also at a national level here in Peru. We have formed alliances with both government and non-government entities, been awarded our own reserve, developed a pilot farm that has drawn interest within Peru and from abroad also and, now, we are on the brink of becoming the first and only Animal Rescue Centre in Peru. These achievements are truly fantastic and the recognition at both national and international levels is hugely satisfying as both Fernando and I have seen the project grow from its infancy to where we find ourselves now.
Nonetheless, there have also been thousands of personal victories for our volunteers over the last five years and whilst these may not have made the headlines I am confident that these smaller achievements are what make Taricaya special. I know that every one of our hard-working volunteers understands exactly what I am referring to- for those of you yet to visit, you will understand soon enough...
At the start of the year I recall reporting to you how the bias of our work in 2006 was to concentrate largely on the animal release program and building new enclosures for our non-human residents. The aim was to create adequate accommodation for the animals we were to receive and hence give us a better chance of convincing the government to generate new legislation hence enabling us to register as an official animal rescue centre. As has always been the case with Peruvian bureaucracy there were times when we wanted to throw in the towel as we were presented with a continual stream of petty technicalities and unhelpful officials. However, this would not have done justice to all the hard work back at the centre and after numerous discussions, some of them heated, I am proud to report that January 2007 will see Taricaya registered as the first official rescue centre in Peru!!! This remarkable achievement is once again dedicated to all the hard work of our volunteers and staff and our stature as a conservation organisation continues to strengthen with every achievement like this one.
Back at the centre work was still carrying on with the new enclosures and the latest one to be completed was the first of the two cages for the monkeys. I discussed the planned separation of the larger species last month and we can now start the process as the second of the two enclosures will be completed in early-January. Personally, I am very excited as we now have four white-bellied spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth chamek) including a healthy young male. I will carefully study the dynamic of the group once they are separated from the others as this particular species is extinct locally and it would be great to see wild populations re-establish themselves in our reserve. We will have to manage the group well and target a release date when the youngest members of the troop are able to fend for themselves and actively search for food. During that time we might even receive other individuals and be able to release a larger group when the time comes. After completing the monkey cages the final construction will be a small mammal enclosure versatile enough to accommodate coatis, anteaters and any other furry visitors we might receive.
December was one of the wettest I can remember for a long time and whilst it rained nearly every day, volunteer spirits were definitely not dampened and work carried on as usual. In fact the rain made little difference as we spent a lot of the time in the creek experimenting with our novel fish farming project. Let us just say that there were/are a few teething problems and we have yet to get the right balance with the floating nets (literally in some cases when we almost needed scuba gear to recover unhinged parts!). Still, as is the norm at Taricaya, we will not give up and I am confident that in the not too distant future I will be reporting on the total success of the project- although I suspect the design will be distinctly different from the one we are currently experimenting with!
However, the wet weather was great for the farm project and the flowers and crops are thriving better than expected. The coffee plants are laden with fruits as are the cocoa trees and the rows of heliconia flowers are vibrant with colour. All these results are very encouraging as we continue to seek productive alternatives to illegal extraction from the forest. Percy, one of our neighbours, is already producing his own flowers and other locals are keen to jump aboard. News of the successful projects we implemented with Percy, Pedro, the Palma Real community and Enrique has spread and people are actively requesting our help. This is a great sign and I am confident that 2007 will see us working with more communities and local families further a field thus increasing our area of positive impact and saving larger areas of forest more distant than our immediate area of influence.
Elsewhere at Taricaya we continue to increase our species lists of both birds and reptiles/amphibians and I am very pleased to report that Daniel Niera will be taking over the role of resident biologist. After filling in for Carlos Castañeda for the last three months Daniel has committed to work with us full-time in 2007 and his area of expertise with herpetology will benefit us greatly at Taricaya. The future is very bright for Taricaya and we will not be content to sit on our laurels as there are always new challenges to face and exciting projects to develop. Also, 2007 will see Mauricio and I present the findings of our bird diversity study in Caracas, Venezuela, to the largest ornithological conference in S. America and the potential for further studies looks very promising indeed.
All it remains for me to say is a big thank you to all volunteers, both from 2006 and the earlier years also. Nothing we have achieved in 2006 would have been possible without the solid base from 2005. Likewise none of the achievements of 2005 would have been possible without the help of those who came in 2004. Taricaya is an ongoing program that continues to grow and flourish. You, as volunteers, are vital links in the chain that has led us to where we are today. We shall continue to work hard in 2007 and I look forward to reporting even more successes over the coming months and years
I wish you all a very Happy New Year and a very prosperous 2007.
Taricaya Research Centre
30th December 2006