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CONSERVATION IN PERU: TARICAYA RESEARCH CENTRE: MONTHLY UPDATE – NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2017
On November 5th 2017 Taricaya celebrated its 16th anniversary. It is amazing to see how far we have come in that time and the advances we have made. From a small research centre to a huge animal rescue centre and investigation centre renowned for solid scientific research. Host to international courses and famous film companies, from National Geographic to NHK and the BBC, all the hard work has been worth it as we continue to grow in both stature and reputation. Taricaya Ecological Reserve is now known globally as a bio-diversity hotspot and pioneer in the rehabilitation and release of animals back into the wild. None of this would have been possible without the help of industrious volunteers guided by professional and dedicated staff.
To date we have received a staggering 2404 volunteers and my thanks go out to each and every one of them! From the very first volunteer arriving in 2001 to the most recent arrival last week every single one has been a link in a chain of events that has got us to where we are today. As another year comes to a close, 2018 looks full of promise and we shall continue to battle to protect our piece of paradise but also to teach others how to do the same as the Amazon rainforest continues to be destroyed at alarming rates.
After weeks of sacrifice collecting the turtle nests from river beaches, patrolling every night to beat poachers to the prize, it is immensely satisfying when we get to release the hatchlings back into the wild. To date we have saved and released over 12,000 turtles, all of the endangered species Podocnemis unifils, and this total includes this year´s group of close to a 1,000 babies. The project has been operating for over 10 years and by marking the young before release we have been able to monitor the success of our work. Not only do we see turtles with the unique shell markings on the banks of the river we have even filmed females laying eggs back on the beaches where we rescued them, yet unborn, close to a decade ago.
Next year we start afresh and continue the battle to protect this beautiful turtle from the ongoing threats of extinction!
I often feel that in these updates I continue to talk about the same thing but the truth of the matter is that Taricaya has a species richness that is staggering. This month we discovered yet another bird species for the reserve and that brings us to 498! The newest discovery was a female Amazonian antshrike (Thamnophilus amazonicus) which was captured in a mist net along the creek not 50m from the centre. This insect-eating bird is not particularly rare but its specialized habitat means it is difficult to see or capture.
If you consider that in the whole of North America there are thought to be 914 species of bird, and in continental Europe around 880 species, the fact we have close to 500 in an area of just 476 hectares is almost unbelievable. At Taricaya we have recorded birds allegedly only found in the higher cloud forest, grassland specialists from the nearby Pampas del Heath and migrants not previously thought to pass through this area. The combination of over 15 years continuous research, a protected reserve and the location of Taricaya as a potential wildlife corridor between different ecosystems means that we have a huge responsibility to continue working on our research but also to protect an area that is essential to so many species of birds and animals.
Whilst the mist nets were throwing up new surprises the sensor cameras were also keeping us very interested. Whilst continuing to monitor our canopy-adjacent clay lick (or colpa) we decided to take a couple of cameras deep into the back of the reserve to a huge colpa we used to monitor by platform over 12 years ago. This clay lick we named Anaconda Colpa after a huge snake we found there in 2003 and previously we used to spend hours waiting in hides hoping to see animals. Now, the cameras did the job for us. We had some great sightings including a pair of tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), a puma (Puma concolor) and a magnificent Hoffmann´s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).
In addition to the amazing camera footage one lucky group of volunteers and staff were fortunate enough to come across possibly one of the most beautiful snakes on the planet. An emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus)! These arboreal snakes are yellow as juveniles but when fully grown can reach up to six feet in length when they revert to an almost iridescent green that camouflages well with bright sunlight reflecting off green leaves. This colouration and preference for a canopy lifestyle make them very hard to see and I personally have only seen two in over 20 years in the jungle. The photo does not do it justice in the flesh!
Animal Rescue Centre
As the rains come and the rivers rise, access to remote areas of jungle becomes easier. Large groups of Brazil nut collectors and loggers head off into the forest often for months at a time. This means an increase in hunting for bush meat and an influx of abandoned babies for us at Taricaya. It is a heart-wrenching time of year as sometimes we cannot accept every animal brought to us. There are just not enough cages or food for all of them. However we could save most and perhaps the cutest of the new arrivals was a baby red brocket deer (Mazama amerciana). The youngster can have been no more than a month old and needed to be bottle-fed for the first few weeks. Happily, she is now in her own enclosure and, whilst extremely timid by nature, she is getting used to the sounds and smells of the jungle that will one day be her home.
Another young arrival was a baby dusky titi monkey (Callicebus moloch) that again needs hand rearing and 24 hour attention. This is nothing new at Taricaya and both staff and volunteers offer to spend nights looking after the baby and supplementing a mother´s care and milk!
Elsewhere around the centre we continue to monitor our newly released group of spider monkeys. Their collars make this easier and every day we check on their progress. They are doing well and whilst one male has headed off on his own this is not unusual and our older monkeys in the reserve have been sighted near this new group so the future looks bright.
As the year comes to an end we celebrated Christmas at the lodge and with New Year looming it just leaves me to wish everybody a fantastic 2018 where we shall continue to protect and study one of the oldest and most fragile ecosystems on the planet.
Happy New Year!
Conservation Director, Projects Abroad
27th December 2017