From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

Exciting animal encounters! The expedition is in full swing with five teams heading out in different directions for the morning surveys. While three teams leave base by boat to be dropped off at different trail starting points further up the Tahuayo river, two more teams walk the trail grid trails behind base. Our newcomers David and Julian teamed up for a trail grid survey with Alfredo and ran into a group of 20 coatis. Hidden in the undergrowth our surveyors were able to observe the animals for a while.

coatis

Andrew, Shelley and the boys were led by Segundo and found fresh jaguar scat that must have been from the night before. They also encountered titi and squirrel monkeys, learned how to drink water from leaves and had a taste of some exotic forest fruit.

squirrel-monkey titi

Anh & David surveyed a trail leading to cocha (=lake) Yarina. Accompaigned by Julio, another local helper from El Chino village, who joined our team this week, they had a very rare encounter with two howler monkeys. While one of them disappeared very quickly into the thick green foliage, the other one took a second look…

Red_howler_monkey

I followed Ramon, our fourth local guide for this week, on a new trail leading from the Tahuayo to the Tangarana river. We encountered a group of five titi monkeys walking together with a larger group of saddleback tamarins. We were able to observe them for about 15 minutes, standing still as they crossed our trail just over our heads making funny faces and noises to chase us away.

Saddleback Tamarin

Writing this, everyone else is on their afternoon surveys canoeing up and down the river and checking the track traps we have set on various trails. It has become a bit of a habit to be silent about the sightings tally until we all meet at 18.00 for the daily review. I’ll let you know when the teams share their secrets 🙂

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

We waved goodbye to Brigitte, Tom and Frankie on Friday when our first slot here in the Amazon came to its end. We all went downriver to the Tahuayo Lodge for a final lunch together before the boat to Iquitos departed. Thank you all three of you for putting your money, time and sweat into this project. I wish you a few more enjoyable days at the Lodge and in Iquitos and safe travels back home.

While David, Neil, Alfredo and myself stayed one night at the Tahuayo Lodge to wait for the next team to arrive on Sunday, Anh continued with the research at the ARC having Segundo as her ‘personal’ assistant. 😉 We’re now all back at the ARC indluding Julian, David, Andrew, Shelly and their three boys Jayden, Keiran and Ashley. Today will be a training day for the newcomers, everyone else is already out in the field continuing survey walks.

AM team 2 boat 27-7-14

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

At 05:30, shortly before sunrise the Amazonia Research Center wakes up.The chattering sound of people wandering up and down the wooden gangway and in and out their rooms mixes with the sounds of the jungle. At 06:0 it’s breakfast time. Half an hour later, when we leave for another day in the office, the sun has risen.

DCIM100GOPRO

After a training day on Monday we set up all camera traps, each now surveying a spot within differents cells of 2×2 km in our study area. Thanks to Brigitte and David providing their personal camera traps, nine cameras in total are out in the field to do their job. Furthest away from base are three cameras set up in the terra firme forest. This is “solid earth” forest that never gets flooded. Frankie and David joined Alfredo for a full day hike about six kilometres away from base. That gives you an idea how slow progress in the jungle can be.

camera

Our study area includes different vegetation zones from flooded to seasonally flooded to never flooded areas, palm swamps and islands, so-called ‘restingas’ that stay dry even during the high water season. Different types of animal frequent the various habitats and we are trying, trying, trying to camera trap some of them. Brigitte, Tom and David set up four cameras within the trail grid behind the ARC while Neil went to a trail we’ve recorded last year further up the river. Anh and I set up two cameras on a new trail leading to a lake nearby.

DCIM100GOPRO

On that first day all teams found jaguar tracks and even a puma track not far behind base! The weather conditions have been pleasant since we’ve started our work. I has not rained for almost three days and the waters in the river have already dropped by a couple of metres.

jaguar-track-thankfully-1-day-old-coca

Survey ‘transect’ walks and canoe surveys up and down the Tahuayo river were our daily routine from Tuesday onwards. Apart from our scientst Alfredo we have Alain, Segundo and Oskar with us. While Alain has been working as an English-speaking jungle guide for nine years at the Tahuayo Lodge, Segundo and Oskar live in El Chino, one of five villages within the Tamshiacu Tahuayo Community Regional Conservation Area (TTCRCA). With their help we were able to spot and identify many, many species and tracks while walking the dense rainforest trails. Their amazing skills include hearing, seeing and smelling animals – there is a lot we can learn from each other.

Sightings of study species so far are saddleback and moustached tamarins, saki monkey, titi monkey, squirrel monkey, brown capuchin monkey. Tracks of jaguar, puma, margay, tayra, porcupine, paca, red brocket deer and white-lipped peccaries have been recorded only to mention a few.

white-mustached-tamarin

As regards our trailblazing project, we’ve recorded quite a few new trails. Thanks to Segundo who knows the area inside out, we were able to include another cell in our surveys. Starting from the other side of the Tahuayo river just opposite from the trail leading to the lake we’ve explored the forest by having Segundo cutting a way through the forest followed by us carrying all the research equipment for recording the trail and, of course, animal encounters. Although we offered him a GPS to navigate back to the boat, he preferred to rely on his very own sense of direction, which works just as well.

Rotating through the afternoon activities two teams are surveying the river edges from canoes (one going up and one going down the river) while two more teams have been setting up track traps for the last couple of days. By now we have a total of eight track traps set up within the trail grid behind base to be monitored on a daily basis from today onwards.

DCIM100GOPRO

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

We’re all set. Writing this, I am sitting in the Tahuayo Lodge’s lab room waiting for the team members to arrive. Alfredo has taken a canoe to go to the village of El Chino just around the corner from here. We’re after another local worker to guide and help us finding forest trails but it’s quite a task to find a person that knows the area around the ARC AND is willing to work at this time. Soccer championships are running in Esperanza village further up the Blanco river and that’s where a lot of the local people now prefer to spend their time. Anyway, we’ll have three helpers, getting a fourth guide would increase the efficiency of our work.

Brigitte & Tom from Belgium are already here and are as keen as Alfredo and I to get started. Today and tomorrow are going to be training days on the equipment, the research, study species, data sheets, etc., which will also include a training forest walk to practice the skills learned. I’ll be in touch again when everyone has gained their first research experience.

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

Iquitos. It’s busy, noisy and hot. I’ve been running around doing what’s always top on the expedition leader’s in-country to do list: shopping 😉

AM diary IQT

Apart from office stuff, batteries and insect repellent, three machetes have been added to our expedition equipment. Due to a jetlag of -7 hours I’ve spent some time in the early hours of this morning with setting up a few brand new GPSs I brought over. They are now ready for being taken out in the jungle: waypoints, tracks and the research grid have been uploaded. I was rewarded with seeing a wonderful sunrise from my hotel room (see picture: Mainai river that connects to the Amazon).

AM diary sunrise IQT

A note on insect repellent: Strong repellent (30% DEET or more) is not sold in Iquitos, but is a good thing to have when working in the forest. I’ve used 40% DEET before and it works well.

Alfredo, our scientist, and I just met at the A&E Office and we’re about to leave the city. The boat will take us to the main lodge today, tomorrow morning we’ll proceed to the Amazonian Research Centre, our base in the jungle. You will hear from me once we’ve arrived there. From now there won’t be any mobile phone coverage. If you need to contact me (for emergency reasons only, i.e. being late for assembly), please send an e-mail AND contact the A&E office in Iquitos.

Safe travels

Malika

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

Welcome to the first entry of our 2014 Amazonia expedition. My name is Malika Fettak and I am your expedition leader this year. Alfredo Dosantos, our Peruvian field scientist, and I have been busy getting this expedition ready for you. I will make my way to Iquitos on Monday to set things up for you together with Alfredo.

We’ve done this expedition for a few years now, but please still expect the unexpected and be prepared for things to go wrong and all of us helping each other out whilst having a laugh. In return you get the bragging rights of having been on a real jungle expedition, not some cushy wildlife tour in an air-conditioned hotel. Talking about the jungle, yes, it’s full of life, but it’s all very hard to spot and identify. Those of you who have been to the jungle before will know this. Those of you who have not, please don’t come with expectations of animals jumping around all over the place for you to see and photograph. Life is there, everywhere, like a green blanket covering everything and playing havoc with your senses, but it is also a veil that can only be drawn back by those with patience and the right attitude. Science is not safari!

Onto the research. We’ve put some resources of maps, datasheets, field guides, a methodology manual, etc. on https://app.box.com/s/zv38to9cffca5ybqwzjz for you. A map of our study site including the cells we’ll be working in/through is in the folder too.

map

“Cells” I hear you ask? By way of explanation we’ve put a video of our methodology below for you as well.

It would be great if you could watch the video and use the resources provided to do some studying before you arrive. We’ll hit you with lots of information in the first couple of days and the more you’ve swotted up on things beforehand, the more you will remember, and the more useful you will be in the field. The datasheets and methodology may be confusing to start with, but if you read up now, we can explain things in the field more easily if you come with some background knowledge already.

Once you’ve seen all the materials, including the 2013 work plan that we will use as a guideline again this year, all your last hopes of a relaxing holiday in the jungle with monkeys and jaguars posing for bragging shots should evaporate like the downpoars that will hit the roof of our base, turning into steamy tufts of white, making the forest the humid, green paradise it is…. only to be replaced by the knowledge that soon you will be part of something important and useful in biodiversity conservation in the Amazon jungle. And what, I ask, has more value? You could have opted for a beach holiday. Instead you are going to spend your time and money helping Alfredo out in the field. Thank you – I take my hat off to you for that.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back in touch once I have arrived in Peru.

Best wishes

Malika

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, South America (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

Due to poor internet connection in Iquitos I am writing this year’s final diary entry from my desk in Germany. It was on Friday night when a special thank you & farewell surprise cake from the kitchen was served by Daniel. He kept his secret so let’s guess that many, many camu camu fruits were squeezed to create the impressively pink topping!

cake small

The Peru 2013 expedition officially came to an end in Iquitos on Saturday. While Conny & Thomas, Kathy & Stuart went out for a drink (…or two) and Sven relaxed at his posh hotel pool sipping pisco sour, your hard-working expedition leader went through final equipment checks, packing up and storing the boxes… 😉

Again, a big thank you goes to everyone for your contribution, enthusiasm and input in many ways. We’ve walked more than 100 km of transects, canoed up and down river every single day, set up and collected eight camera traps, some of them at pretty remote sites. We collected a great amount of valuable data not only from the camera trap pictures. All of this could not have been achieved without you. The data will be analysed in detail by Alfredo and we’ll let you know as soon as the full report is available. Special thanks also goes to the ARC staff & helpers that supported, guided and fed us so well at base.

I hope you’ve now all arrived back home safely or are enjoying your onward journeys. You’ve been great team members and mates – I hope you’ve enjoyed the time out in the jungle as much as I did.

Take care, stay in touch and I hope to see you again somewhere…

Best wishes

Malika

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

For those of you waiting impatiently for the results of the camera traps, they are now on https://biosphereexpeditions.wordpress.com/ (apologies for only getting this out now, but my internet connection was virtually non-existent until today).

Without much further ado, we found three pictures of a jaguar. The pictures were taken on the trail grid on Saturday morning, only a few hours after the SD card was exchanged. It was on Saturday morning when our friend walked by – I guess he enjoyed the silence while we were on our way downriver to the main lodge. The camera was located at I9 so close to the footprint found a day earlier at G10. Unfortunately the pictures are blury due to a fungus covering the camera’s lense. Thanks to Photoshop, the result is not too bad, don’t you think?

jaguar-2

Another thrilling result is a picture of a jaguarundi taken at terra firme. For the first time ever the presence of this speices has now been proved by a picture – you can imagine that Alfredo is very happy about it. His first conclusion is that the elusive cat possibly never comes down to the flooded areas.

jaguarundi-3 L

A great number of other mammals were also potographed: opossum, red brocket deer, agouti… more agoutis, armadillo, paca and yes – you guessed it – a yellow-crowned brush-tailed rat! Considering that the camera traps have only been out for nine nights our work including long walks beyond the trail grid has already been greatly rewarded.

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

A day at base. Rain started again falling last night and did not stop, making it impossible to go out and do transect work on the trail grid.

Rain at base
Rain at base

Instead we used the time until lunch for more data entry: Kathy & Stuart volunteered to enter all transect sightings into the computer. Get a first impression of primate and other mammal encounters from the map below.

map1

Sven & Thomas diligently checked the medical kit, sorted out expired items and updated the kit list.

Thomas & Sven
Thomas & Sven

Pictures and videos were exchanged, equipment that won’t be used on the last full day tomorrow was checked and packed up. Details were discussed for picking up the camera traps from various locations. Luckily it cleared up after lunch, so that we were able to run the afternoon activities as usual.

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

Question: What can you read from the picture below?

jaguar track

Can’t see anything? Have a guess: it’s a jaguar track. Grace & Gary took the picture on Friday at the trail grid and its identity was confirmed by our field assistant Roger. Amongst the camera trap pictures was another good find: a tyra carrying something in its mouth. We’re still not sure what it is.

tyra

On Saturday we said goodbye to team one  – no, not all of them … Conny, Sven & Thomas are staying on for another week.

team1 small
Team 1

Kathy & Stuart joined them on Sunday. While the experienced team members continued with survey walks, Kathy & Stuart were trained up and joined the work schedule on Tuesday.

Kathy & Stuart
Kathy & Stuart

Rain started to fall Saturday night and continued all night and into Sunday morning. Puddles in the forest grew to lakes, before cascading into the creeks that feed the Tahuayo river. Within a few hours, the main river’s water level had risen – at the moment we are about 1.5 – 2 meters above normal. This is good news for our canoe surveys. Silently paddling along the river edges, we glide past bushes and trees standing in the water. And as water ripples gently along the hull, we glimpse and record monkeys here, an ant eater there, a sloth, a multitude of birds, caimans and other forest life. Even pink river dolphins made their way upriver and were seen not far from base.

And as we return back to base as night settles over the jungle, we enjoy the daily review sessions – no team ever returns without an interesting story to tell, a tale of an exceptional sighting or an encounter made in the forest. And at last we truly understand why this is called a “biodiversity hotspot”.

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).”