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CONSERVATION IN PERU: TARICAYA RESEARCH CENTRE: MONTHLY UPDATE – MARCH/JUNE 2017
My apologies for taking so long to bring you the latest news from Taricaya and our jungle paradise. We have been incredibly busy and time has flown by as we continue to conserve and protect our piece of the Amazon, the world’s richest ecosystem. These past weeks we have restarted our motion camera survey, with astonishing results; continued our biodiversity research, received a visit from a National Geographic film crew and much more. As usual, where to begin?
Dominga- Spectacled Bear Rescue
Here on our conservation project in the Peruvian Amazon we have been working in partnership with Animal Defenders International (ADI) in rescuing Spectacled bears. Over the last 2 years we have received three bears confiscated from informal zoos and circuses and on Monday 13th February we welcomed our fourth arrival. The spectacled, or Andean, bear, as it is also known, is the only bear found in South America and is highly endangered.
Dominga is a tiny adult female that has been rescued from a zoo in Abancay, a mountain town just a few hours from Cusco. A life of stress and deprivation has led to complete alopecia (loss of hair) and skin fungi that have made her life miserable. Just like her famous predecessor, Cholita, our first job is to provide her a balanced diet and proper exercise. At just 43 kilograms her weight is more than 25% below what a healthy female should weigh!
After a two day trip over the Andes and down through the cloud forest Dominga arrived at her new home. Volunteers and staff had been working hard in preparing her spacious enclosure and providing her with lots of things to climb on and investigate. Her previous life had been a plain grass cage with one lone climbing pole! At Taricaya she has already investigated her refreshing pool, a shady cave, a bamboo hide and numerous platforms and climbing frames. It is as if she does not know what to play on first.
As she settles in to her new life she will flourish just being back in the jungle. After a life of incarceration the natural sounds and smells of the jungle will help nurse her back to health almost as much as good food and veterinary care. She will probably not remember most of the stimuli having been poached as just a baby but natural instincts will slowly return and she will relax as she remembers how to be a bear.
Our project with bears in Peru is gathering momentum as we have been asked to speak at the first Spectacled Bear Conservation Convention in Cusco next month. Our two other bears, Lucho and Sabina, are a breeding couple and we are pushing for protocols to be put in place by the Peruvian government that would allow the potential release of any young bears born in Taricaya. The Spectacled bear is highly endangered (CITES 1) and if we could pioneer a reintroduction program it would be a fantastic achievement and lay foundations for others to try and do the same not just in Peru but wherever these magnificent bears are found.
Unfortunately Dominga, like Cholita, Lucho and Sabina, will never be released but they will enjoy the rest of their lives in a spacious natural environment with good food, exercise and a willing team of volunteers looking after their every need!!!
Taricaya has never ceased to amaze me for its range of diversity but now it is making me question years of biological training. It is logical to expect new discoveries of species to diminish over time. The more effort you put into research the more species you will find but after 15 years of investigation new discoveries should be few and far between. Well, in the last 8 weeks we have found 10 new species of bird for the reserve. Our grand total is now 492 species! Unbelievable! I have spoken to many fellow biologists and this sudden discovery of so many new records is unheard of after so many years of investigation. So, what were the new birds for our list?
The most amazing sighting was a bird never registered in Peru previously, the Picazuro pigeon (Patagioenas picazuro). Sighted from our observation platform at the second agroforestry plot this bird is unmistakable with a shiny back and glimmering colours. A photo, albeit from far away, leaves no doubt and we shall rush to publish this amazing new discovery. This bird has been registered in central Bolivia but never in Amazonian Peru.
Other new species for Taricaya include the canopy dwelling Blue-naped chlorophonia (Chlorophonia cyanea), Inambari woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes fatimalimae), Scarlet hooded barbet (Eubucco tucinkae) and Black-capped tinamou (Crypturellus atrocapillus). The latter was identified using call playback and the rest were either caught in our mist nets or seen from our various observation platforms.
This month we were visited by a government official from Lima who brought us new animals for the rescue centre. Such is our reputation as the best rescue centre in the country the Peruvain government is sending us animals from the nation’s capital. This time around we received 15 freshwater turtles (Taricayas- Podocnemis unifilis) which were immediately released having been marked with our code on their shells. He also bought four hatchling blue and yellow macaws (Ara ararauna) which we will have to hand feed until they are able to eat on their own.
In March we expect to receive some monkeys to enter our release program.
Spider Monkey Monitoring Program
Staff and volunteers have been busy following the telemetry signals or our reintroduced spider monkeys. It is important that we check their progress and health and long walks in the jungle often bring wonderful encounters with some of the jungles other residents. This month they came across a group of wild peccaries, troops of monkeys and a raucous flock of pale-winged trumpeter birds.
A great experience for all concerned!
Next time I shall bring all our latest news from our Amazonian paradise as we continue our pioneering work in saving the planet’s most diverse ecosystem.
Conservation Director, Projects Abroad
12th March, 2017