Sorry for the late final entry, but I was travelling for a long time immediately after the expedition. So here it goes:
We are back in Iquitos. Early this morning Herbert, Peter Eva, Katherine and I left the ARC after a great & productive time at the Amazon Research Centre. On the way we had lunch at the Tahuayo River lodge and visited El Chino, a small village of 160 residents. We switched to a speed boat in Esperanza village to take us down the Amazon river, on the way we spotted five grey dolphins and watched them for a while.
Over the last two weeks we have surveyed about 48 km on transect routes within the trailgrid.and paddled more than 15 km up and down the Tahuayo river. A couple of hundered different species were spotted including birds, frogs, reptiles, spiders, snakes and bugs. Mammals recorded were squirrel monkeys, saki, titi, brown & white fronted capuchin, saddleback & mustached tamarin monkeys, coati and an anteater. On our camera traps we captured margay, agouti and opossum. On the trails we found tracks of puma, tapir and deer.
I would to thank everyone involved in this year’s Peru Amazon expedition. You’ve been a great help and good mates. With your help we have created the basis for long-term wildlife monitoring to help conserve one of the most precious on our planet. I hope you enjoyed the time out in the forest as much as I did and hope to see some of you again someday.
Team 2 arrived on Sunday and after the training phase went out on Tuesday to set up eight camera traps. As usual we went through introductions, the equipment and the research background & goals before the whole team did their first forest orientation walk. The projector worked all the way through until the end of Alfredo’s indicator species presentation. Thanks to Tine (1st slot) the printer cartridges arrived at camp together with team 2, so that we were able to produce fancy identification sheets of monkeys, felids & terrestrial mammals for the field work.
Steering a canoe from the front was a new skill to learn for most of team 2. Peter complained that fallen trees, trunks and river banks decided to hit his canoe loaded with two passengers. Sitting in the middle Eva silently held on to her camera bag while Linda sitting in the back was commenting every crash with a shout. Laughs could be heard a long way up and down the river – no capsizing, though. Katherine and Herbert got the hang of it quickly – lucky me, as I was sharing their boat.
Over the last two days the team did survey walks on seven trailgrid transects and went out by canoe in the afternoon to do surveys along the Tahuayo river recording saki monkey, saddleback and mustached tamarin, titi monkey and some more non-mammal species. The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo conservation reserve is a biodiversity hotspot, but that doesen’t mean that indicator species to be monitored are seen easily! Again, Donaldo and Alfredo did a very good job by spotting monkeys yesterday while their teams did the measurements and filled in the datasheets. Full trained up, the girl power group of Eva, Linda & Katherine went ‘alone’ today while Peter and I teamed up with Donaldo.
On our night boat ride on Wednesday we spotted a couple of caiman just in front of our base, as well as various frogs.
This morning Linda left early to catch a flight. We said goodbye to her after another early breakfast at 5:30, but not before a team picture was taken shortly after sunrise (see websites below). Everyone else is now doing their final transect routes and collecting the camera traps that have been out for four nights. Watch this space for updates on what we have caught on the camera traps…
Team 1’s expedition ended with a great last afternoon & evening. As the river’s water level has dropped about one meter over the last few days, some of the local ARC staff went diving in the river trying to find Felix’ digital camera drowned on Wednesday during the canoe lesson. Surprisingly it was found near the gangplank and being put in the sun to dry out by overjoyed Felix. Klaus, Raphael, Sarah & Libby joined the refreshing bathing session. They only came out when caimans were spotted around the corner at the far river’s edge.
The kitchen staff surprised the team at dinner by serenading typical Peruvian carnival music playing drums and flute while Libby and Donaldo were dancing to the rhythm. There was a cake for dessert and most of us went out for either a forest nightwalk or a boat drive to explore the nocturnal rainforest wildlife one last time.
I have now waved goodbye to team 1 – thank you again for being great expeditioners, explorers & data collectors on our Peru project in the Amazon. Good luck & those of you who will travel on through South America, have fun, and safe travels back home everyone else. Hope to see some of you again some day.
We’ve had a very busy week with team 1 in the jungle. It’s gone so quickly and later today team 1 will leave. Here’s what happened over the last week.
After our Sunday/Monday training phase, on Tuesday (21 August) all teams went out to set up 8 camera traps at randomly choosen locations within the trail grid. The trail grid is our research area just behind the Amazon Research Centre (ARC), a 2 x 2 km representative area of the Tamshyacu Tahuayo Reserve including open and dense forest, palm swamps and higher ground that is usually not flooded during the rainy season. The area is surveyed from twenty trails cut every 100 metres through the forest. It’s a unique and amazing research tool in the Amazon.
On our survey walks we concentrated on spotting mammals such as monkeys, peccaries, coatis to name but a few. Known as a biodiversity hotspot, eleven different species of monkeys are known to be present in the area. It turned out to be a difficult task to find and identify them, though. Klaus and Felix were lucky enough to spot a coati twice. Teresa, Libby and Steve spotted an anteater sleeping high up in a tree with the help of Donaldo, one of the local guides. Tine spotted a single monkey taking a nap on a branch. Alarming her team mate, Penny must have suddenly interrupted his dreams so that he fell off his branch and ran away as fast as he could.
Larger groups of titi, capuchin and squirrel monkeys were seen by all of the groups, sometimes further away from the trails. We have all learned to walk very, very quietly during the transect surveys very, very early in the morning. After the first survey day on Tuesday, we shifted breakfast time to 5:30 and are leaving base at 6:00. The sun has been shining intensively, so that not only we, but also the forest animals become quiet and lazy during midday.
We have also done our canoe surveys up and down the Tahuayo river in the afternoon, coming across amazing bird life, but unfortunately no monkeys or other mammals. After dinner Alfredo also takes out a group of maximum three for a night walk in the forest. Bats have been seen as well a a tarantula, nocturnal frogs, leafcutter ants and many other smaller animals one would never spot during the day. Hopefully we will find more nocturnal felids on our camera traps.
Yesterday (Friday, 24 August) we did the last transect surveys and collected all camera traps on the way. It is a tiring job to walk the transects keeping ears and eyes open for 5 hours. Again, we left base at 6:00 in the morning to avoid walking in the midday heat. Temperatures slightly dropped after some light rainfalls, but were in the 30s again on Friday.
It was exciting to flick through the pictures of 8 SD cards. Funny faces, a jaguar named Libby and…. and a margay, a small felid. Other pictures showed fragments of other mammals identified by Alfredo as agouti. All this is a good result and Alfredo is pleased. Thank you team 1 – we couldn’t have done this without you.
Team 2, here’s an admin reminder. Assembly time is 9:00 on Sunday morning at the A&E office in Iquitos. A&E office staff will meet & greet you there and I will await everyone at the Tahuayo Lodge where we will have lunch before swapping to smaller boats and heading off for our research centre base. Please make sure you are on time; an A&E guide will be with you from Iquitos to the lodge.
The ground is set at the ARC to welcome the first expedition team. Over the last few days Alfredo and I have worked on the datasheets and a weekly work plan including various tasks for each group. We went out for a night walk in the forest spotting a tarantula and more nocturnal animals, unfortunately no mammals, though.
Writing this I am waiting at the Tahuayo Lodge for the team members to arrive from Iquitos. All of them have made it despite late arrivals and cancelled flights from Australia. Once they arrive here, the rest of the day will be packed with introductions, safety procedures and background information about the animals and the research.
Having spent most of the time working on our computers and finishing preparations, Alfredo and I can’t wait to go out into the field.
Alfredo and I reached base yesterday. The speed boat brought us to the Tahuayo Lodge in 2.5 hours, where we switched to a smaller boat. After the record floods of some months ago, the rivers are now very low, so it took us another 1.5 hours (!) to reach our final destination: the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo River Research Centre. So out of the window goes our timetable so far (nothing is a constant as the change of plan on expedition).
Over the next couple of days we’ll be setting up base as well as our survey walks and canoe trips. We’re looking forward to welcoming trailblazing group 1 in a few days. Please come prepared for the unexpected and with the appropriate guinea pig attitude 😉
I am writing from Iquitos where I arrived the day before yesterday in the late afternoon alongside two bags and two big boxes filled with expedition equipment. I felt pretty spaced out when I finally stepped off the final plane into Amazonia, having travelled from Africa for 38 hours, dipping into various countries and timezones. After the first night my watch was finally set to local expedition time ;).
Yesterday morning I met up with our local scientist Alfredo who did a great job guiding me through noisy streets and crowded shops for some hardcore pre-expedition shopping. It was around noon when we ticked the last bits and pieces off the shopping list; as far as gear is concerned, we are now ready to leave for the jungle and when you ready this we’ll probably be in a boat to the remote research centre about 2 1/2 boat hours up the Amazon and then many smaller rivers.
I now also have a Peruvian mobile number: +51 961 821125 (for emergencies only) but please note that there is no mobile phone coverage at base and you can only reach me by e-mail from tomorrow on.
Finally, I’ve uploaded some pictures to give you an impression of Iquitos: a view of the Amazon (early morning after a heavy downpour), famous motortaxis and street life outside the A&E hotel.
Safe travels group 1 and I’ll see you at our research base on Sunday.
A couple of admin things: I will not be at the A&E office assembly point for group 1 as I will be at the research station preparing things for you. Someone from the A&E office will be there to meet you and put you on an A&E boat to the research station where Alfredo and I will be waiting for you.
As per the expedition dossier “The expedition team will leave Iquitos shortly after assembly and from then on it will be extremely difficult to catch up with the team or find base camp. If for any reason you miss the assembly, contact the A&E office, Iquitos, Peru at +51-65-242792 and email firstname.lastname@example.org.” A&E will then help you catch up with the expedition, but hopefully this will not be necessary as you will all be there on time at 08:00 on 19 August (group 1).
The assembly TIME (not date, which is still 26 August) for group 2 has changed to 09:00, so you get to lie in for another hour and I will be there to collect you at the A&E office assembly point.
Hello my name is Malika and I will be your expedition leader for our Peru 2012 expedition, in our new location near Iquitos just off the mighty Amazon river.
I am early with this diary entry, because I am about to leave for Namibia where I will lead the first group of our big cat & elephant expedition. I will pass the baton in Namibia on 11 August and then fly via Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and Lima to Iquitos to meet our scientist Alfredo there and prepare the expedition. So this is just a first entry to say that I am off and you will hear from me again when I have hit the ground in Peru, and perhaps before.