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CONSERVATION IN PERU: TARICAYA RESEARCH CENTRE: MONTHLY UPDATE – MARCH / APRIL 2014
It seems just a few days ago that I was writing my latest from the jungles of Amazonian Peru but two months have just flown by and it is time to give you all the latest from Taricaya and our recovery from the disastrous floods of February this year. It has been an incredibly tough period working on repairs, clearing trails and rebuilding where necessary but everybody has worked incredibly hard and I am proud to report that the camp has a new lick of paint, cages have been fixed and water levels have dropped around the reserve to allow us access once again.
However, the forest has suffered immensely and the usually dense undergrowth is non-existent with many pioneer species of plant unable to withstand weeks under water. This has caused many of the forest’s animals to suffer from lack of food, shelter and nesting sites and the forest is eerily quiet for a time of year when babies are usually born. The jungle is at its most vibrant at the end of the wet season with huge troops of monkeys foraging on the bountiful fruits, bustling birds scavenging seeds for their hatchlings and large packs of peccaries roam the forest digging for roots and bulbs. This year these familiar sights and sounds have been absent with the jungle’s fauna unable to keep their young babies alive or simply deciding not to breed due to a lack of food. It is very sad but this is just a temporary setback for an ecosystem millions of years old and next year I am confident things will be back to normal!
Animal Rescue Centre
Whilst the floods affected huge areas of the lowland forests the wet season is a very busy time for people that depend on the rainforest, be it legally or not. High river levels make the transfer of timber easier, Brazil nut trees are laden with their characteristic “pods” and palmiche leaves are harvested for the typical thatched roofs of local houses. This increased presence in the forest means that hunting is at its annual peak and this invariably leads to new residents appearing at the rescue centre. The flooding appears to have reduced the hunters success rate as animals fled further away from the rivers and this can be considered one of the only upsides to the damage caused. Nonetheless we have had some new inmates for the rescue centre and one of the cases is possibly the worst I have ever come across in 16 years in the rainforest!
This month we received two Southern tamanduas (Tamandua tetradactyla). One was a young baby robbed of its mother but the second individual was on the brink of death. Human cruelty to animals is not new but whoever attacked this defenceless creature with a machete leaving it for dead should be thrown in jail. The tamanduas are medium-sized anteaters that lazily move around the trees of the forest looking for termite and ant nests. With fused snouts and specialised tongues they are unable to inflict a bite of any sort and whilst they have strong claws for climbing they are no danger to anybody or anything other than the ants and termites they feast on. This needless violence was shocking and the cuts and bruises on the body made me feel physically nauseous. The horrific nature of the injuries made us even more determined to save the unfortunate creature and as soon as we received it we rushed straight to a nearby vet as our facilities in Taricaya could not deal with the extent of the injuries. Every cut had to be cleaned and stitched and a strong course of antibiotics started. Even then recovery looked very unlikely and staff and volunteers took turns providing round the clock attention until after close to three weeks the young adult was finally able to stand and move around under its own free will. Now a month further down the line a diet of milk, termites and minced beef blended into a puree has seen the most amazing recovery and I hope that we can release it into the safety of the reserve over the coming weeks.
Elsewhere in the rescue centre our young ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is growing well and is recovering from malnutrition which has affected its back leg joints. X-rays revealed weak ligaments and slight deformity in growth but with treatment and an excellent diet the cub is walking almost without a limp and is growing stronger every day.
The retreat of the water at our secondary farm site gave us an excellent opportunity to implement a new agroforestry project. Our large banana plantation survived the floods extremely well and we have been busy replanting where some of the larger plants died. The idea with this plot is to setup a secondary reforestation project similar to our mahogany project at the original farm site. Our mahogany trees (Swietenia macrophylla) are now close to 10m tall and thriving and our aim with the new farm is to experiment similar techniques with other timber species. These include “quillobordon” (Aspidosperma vargassi), “ishpingo” (Amburana cearensis), cedar (Cedrele odorata) and “canela” (Cinnamomum verum). Should the experiment prove successful we can once again provide local farmers an opportunity to work their lands with quick producing crops such as bananas and papayas whilst planning long term for timber as the saplings grow amongst the produce crops.
The second farm plot has a new 12m metal platform and the clearing of many pioneer species such as the cercopia and balsa wood trees has opened up a wider panorama for bird watching. In one afternoon a group of lucky volunteers was able to spot over 30 species of bird including the magnificent blue and yellow macaw (Ara ararauna) and black-fronted nunbird (Monasa nigrifrons). With the recession of the water we also hope to open up our mist nests again next month and start investigating how the floods have affected our bird populations. The presence of close to a thousand birds with rings on in the reserve means we can see how they migrated during the floods and whether there were severe impacts on our local avian populations.
As the wet season finally draws to a close we look towards the upcoming months where we undertake the turtle project once again, continue our monitoring of the jungle’s amazing flora and fauna, start a new enclosure for the jaguar, repair some of our boats and much more. With Taricaya close to capacity over the coming weeks there will be plenty of willing hands to help out and I expect that there will be many more success stories to report on next time…until then.
14th May, 2014