Our all women power team (group 4) has arrived safely on Okambara to join the fray. We’ve been through the training and biefings and Susan now knows that the reason for the big ears of African elephants are not that they can hear better 😉 Kristina was brave and took Sylvia, Allyson and Ginny for driver training even though Sylvia had not driven a manual car for 25 years. All are now well prepared for the upcoming data collection and we made sure they will remember all the GPS, compass and telemetry skills out in the field. The second day ended with Joerg’s presentations and a lovely rainbow over our camp when it started to rain. Weather patterns really are changing!
On Monday Andrew, Julia, Terrence and Josh had a tough day working in the heat and built a great new hide at Bergposten so we are now able to observe the animals under the comfort of a sun shade / roof.
Over the last few days we have found the box traps empty, but with their doors down and inside one of them John noticed a big mess. Something must have been in there. When we checked the camera trap pictures yesterday we found we had captured another predator: a honey badger went into the trap at night, but somehow made its way out (probably between the bars) before we could get there in the morning.
When looking through the other camera trap pictures we had another big surprise: our first cheetah picture!
Finally, we decided to call our latest leopard capture “Omusamani” (meaning “old man” in Herero). His collar is working and the data are coming in.
Yesterday we punched the rest of the data for this group into the computer before heading out to watch the African sunset. When you get this this group should all be packed up and ready to go. Thank you everyone. Roll in group 4!
On Friday we had a very early start with everyone still a bit drowsy from the leopard celebrations the night before, but we bravely handled the cold at 06:30 and counted more than 13 different animal species during the vehicle game count. On Saturday morning, we found another (most likeley a leopard) kill (a zebra foal), so we decided to set up a box trap nearby. Kristina and I checked the trap on the day off and found fresh hyaena tracks close by.
The nights are not too cold any longer, so on Saturday night we decided to be brave again and have a couple of beers at the campfire. The Southern hemisphere sky at night was amazing.
As I write this, Brian, Derek and Ann are checking the box traps. Let’s see what they come back with.
We catch animals quicker than I can write. Yesterday morning started with the release of our hyaena and just an hour later (I was just about to send pictures for the diary), Ann, Derek and Brian called in and with news of a big male leopard in the first box trap they checked. So we quickly changed the schedule for the day again (stay flexible! ;-)) and were lucky that the vet happend to be on the farm and had time to come immediately. Everyone was quickly called in from their activities and we all went straight to witness the big male leopard being collared. It needed six blokes, almost an hour, a lot of discussion and even more laughs to set up a small cover tent, but in the end we managed to sort it all out and were able to put a GPS/GMS collar on the 62 kg male leopard. The collar will now send regular messages with the animal’s location to Kristina. We decided to spend noon and all afternoon at the collaring spot and foregoing lunch were able to release the leopard after some hours. We arrived back at camp in the late afternoon very hungry and tired, but, as you can imagine, very happy!
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.
Hello again from Namibia, this is Jenny your expedition leader for the rest of our Namibia expedition. After five successful groups in the Altai mountains, I arrived in Namibia on Saturday just in time to meet and greet group 3 on Sunday morning. Even with the time being changed to daylight savings, all 10 team members (including John, who joins his seventh expedition with us to Namibia!) were on time and keen to start collecting data under the Africa sun. Kristina and I kept everyone awake with presentations and equipment training until 21:00 on our first training day.
On Monday it was driver training as usual and when we returned to base, we heard that the non-driver group had activated two box traps and spotted, besides all the different antelopes, a predator that is really hard to see: a honey badger!
On Tuesday, as we approached the first trap, Kristina noticed that both gates were closed and as we went closer we couldn’t believe that we have already captured a predator: another brown hyaena! This trap seems to be at a very good spot as it has already yielded two brown hyaenas, one leopard and a caracal. What a morning. Everyone is preparing behind me for our afternoon activities and Hendrik, Sandra and John are excited to get the SD cards and look at the pictures of our camera traps.
Stay tuned for more updates and pictures as soon as I can get to an internet connect that will not buckle under a few KB.
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…
For our last few days the rhinos have been appearing for most of the groups, standing very close to one of the routes to a main waterhole. They are very calm and a joy to observe as we head out to our respective jobs. The elephants have also moved closer to camp and continue to entertain us with their disappearing acts. They have been observed eating and trying to knock down trees and have often been seen travelling on the tracks for some distance before walking into the bushes and vanishing.
We have seen quite a few juveniles of several species during this last week, the new-borns arriving with the spring here. There is a four-day old giraffe, several baby oryx that look like little fluffy cows (although I’m told that their distinctive long straight horns grow very quickly) and we came across a very calm sable antelope with three young on Wednesday. The acacia bushes are coming more into bloom and with the warm weather the spring smells are wafting over the savannah now. Flipflops around camp are becoming fashionable with a growing feeling that the cold has really gone for this year.
As the end of this slot approached a bottle of whisky appeared from John’s bag and the last three nights have produced an increasing number of tasters each time. We even managed to stay up past 22:00 on Wednesday night, pretty much unheard of due to the early mornings, fresh air and early darkness (06:00) in these parts. For our last evening we all headed out to find the ancient rock art that is marked on our maps as a little way NE of base. We had a wonderful drive as the sun was beginning to set and spent a relaxed half hour with the rhinos before heading up the slope to the East. We stopped in what we thought was the right spot, but only found a rare example of ancient Namibian invisible art. After some serious searching we gave up and had a sun-downer whilst Kristina gave us a summary of the work that has been done here. We all got back in the Land Rovers and headed back only to be stopped after a few minutes by Kristina declaring that we were at the right spot – after a very short search we found a fabulous drawing of an oryx and some hunters, well worth it. A shooting star lit our way home and the evening finished with Joerg giving us a great summary of the elephant research that had been done.
Many thanks to all in slot 2. It was a very memorable 2 weeks with some great work and lots of expedition spirit! I am heading home too so all the best to Jenny (Kraushaar) who will be taking over as expedition leader for the remainder of the expedition, and I hope that Kristina, Joerg, and the next teams have a wonderful and productive time.
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.