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

The second week’s survey is in full swing. Completing the second week’s team, Christy, Stephen & Suzie arrived on Sunday and went through their training sessions on Monday. From Tuesday on four teams have been going out every day for transect surveys.

Anh, Ed, Neil & I had some spare time in the early morning on Sunday to explore Fredrik’s frog transect located in the forest behind the small village of San Pedro – the home of six families – up at the Blanco river about 45 boat minutes away from the main lodge. Due to very low water, it took us about an hour to get there – we would not have made it without Mario’s brilliant boat driving skills!

Mario_S San Pedro village_S

Not having been visited for more than a year, the path was completely grown over and hard to find. To everyone’s excitement quite a few poison arrow frogs (Ranitomeya flavovittata) and another even rares species of the same family (Ranitomeya ventrimaculata) were spotted – have a look at the picture. They are amazing little creatures no bigger than a thumbnail.

Ranitomeya ventrimaculata_S

Back at our study site around the ARC, we add new sightings to our summary sheets every day. We have tuned in to the various monkey calls – at least when they are close enough for foreign ears to be recognised. Watching the monkeys while they are watching us from high up in the trees is an entertaining job. They make a lot of noise – not hard to guess what they want to tell us: go away!

A visitor of a different kind swung by on Tuesday evening during dinner time: a porcupine wandering about nibbeling the wood of the station’s balustrade. Very kind of him to pose for a few pictures before strolling away. An Emerald tree boa was also spotted – a rare finding.

Emerald tree boa-2_S

Other rare sightings during the surveys are collared peccary (so far only tracks have been recorded) and an agouti family patiently sitting in front of a den to be watched for 10 minutes or so.

porcupine_S

I will come up with a complete list of sightings and the results of the camera traps after the last survey day, which is on Friday already! 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/amazonia)”

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

 

Everyone on the team worked very hard over the last few days walking transect trails in the morning and doing canoe river surveys or track trap checking in the afternoon. I would never have thought we would beg for rain, but the river level has dropped constantly to an alarming level. And as it drops, the river reveals its secrets: logs and fallen trees making boat rides difficult if not impossible. Keep your fingers crossed that rain comes soon for some relief not only from the heat.

We exchanged SD cards of all ten camera traps yesterday, also checking battery levels and functions. The cameras are all good for working day & night out in the field until the end of the expedition. Alfredo, Fredrik, Gabriel and Anh opted in to do the long walk to terra firme to also check on both cameras set in the most remote area of the study site. My guess is that they were keen because they were also secretly hoping to come across the troup of red uakaris again on the way. Surprisingly they were sighted once more within the trail grid on Thursday. Neil & Doug accompanied by Gabriel were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the rare monkey species that only occurs in the northeast of Peru and some isolated pockets in Brazil.

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Many more fascinating species were encountered during the first expedition slot. As regards the expeditions’ target species, results so far are sightings of nine out of fourteen present primate species, tracks of jaguar and jaguarundi, collared and white-lipped peccary, paca and red brocket deer. Other mammal sightings include tayra, three-toed sloth, river otter, red squirrel, pigmy squirrel and armadillo. And, of course, the ever so cute yellow-crowned brush-tailed tree rat!

Overall the teams have walked 44 km of transect trails in four survey days, the total walking distance is about double of it. 40 km of transect were surveyed from the canoes thanks to the local field guides Gabriel, Julio, Mario & Oscar paddling and steering the canoes up and down the Tahuayo river. Nine cells of the study area have been covered each measuring 2 x 2 km.

Anh, Ed and Neil (all staying for the second slot) & I said goodbye to Ana, Brenda, Doug, Imogen, Katie, Lanse & Mary today. Thank you everyone for coping with the heat & humidity, blisters and putting sweat into the project. You have helped collecting valuable data that are slowly but constantly adding up to a precious knowledge base of the area and its wildlife.

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/amazonia)”

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

Red uakari monkeys sighted!

We’re on our third survey day and the list of target species sightings is getting long. Most excitingly a troup of about 60 – 80 red uakari monkeys was sighted on Tuesday, the first survey day after the training sessions.

It was on the long hike to ‘terrra firme’, the study area’s high grounds that never get flooded, when Manuel, one of our local guides, heard the monkeys call from further away off the trail. While he stood his ground with team members Katie and Lansing, Fredrik equipped with a camera and a 600 mm lens was sent off to hunt for some pictures. This primate species is most elusive, they travel at impressive speed and have only been seen in the area once this year in March. Fredrik did an amazing job – see the picture he brought back for everyone to enjoy.

red uakari_IMG_1672

Not even fresh jaguar tracks found on the same day on the trail connecting the Tahuayo and Tangarana river made it top on the list that day. In total ten camera traps have been set in various locations throughout the study area to capture their presence…hopefully! Other species being recordedsare brown and white capuchin monkey, Squirrel, titi, saki and owl monkey, as well as moustached and saddleback tamarins.

Although the local people say that there is no dry season in the rainforest, it’s been very dry over the last week. Only the odd rain shower cooled down the temperature ever so slightly. We’re sweating and drinking water and sweating and drinking – not even at night temperatures does it drop below 25-30 degrees Celsius. One benefit of the dryness is that all trails are much easier to walk, the palm swamps easier to cross, and there are far fewer mosquitoes.

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/amazonia)”

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

Everyone arrived safely at the Amazon Research Center. After a speed boat ride of 2 1/2 hours from Iquitos, Alfredo, our scientists, and our scientific assistants Fredrik & Andy, and I welcomed the team at the Tahuayo Lodge and continued to the ARC after some brief introductions and having lunch. While I am writing this, Alfredo is delivering a presentation of the research’s target species such as jaguar, puma and more than a dozen different monkey species. It’s a lot of input on the first day after a comprehensive safety briefing to prepare everyone for the jungle research work. We’ll continue with training sessions on the research equipment and data sheets tomorrow morning, before we go out for our first training survey walk.

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/amazonia)”

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

 

Friday 07:30 in Iquitos: I am at the A&E Tours office waiting for the shops to open. I was told that today everything would be back to normal after two days of general strike. All shops & markets were closed, the streets left abandoned. Only the odd motocar passed by. It was around the Plaza des Armes where the crowd assembled demonstrating against a government decision. When the shops finally opened again, I had 90 minutes left before the boat left…

All other preparations have gone well so far. Fredrik Tegnér, a Swedish biologist who will be assisting Alfredo Dosantos, head scientist on this expedition, arrived in Iquitos on the same flight as I. Fredrik spent three months at the Amazon Research Centre last year studying the Peruvian poison frog. Now with his degree under his belt, he will join us to support Alfredo with data processing for the report. Together we have set up some of the research equipment: the GPSs now have updated maps and trails on them and the expedition computer is waiting for the team to feed it with data.

We will meet Alfredo later today at the ARC and will then start discussing the work plan, schedules, etc. – I’ll keep you updated.

Saturday: Fredrik & I arrived at the ARC yesterday in the late afternoon. Alfredo & I have worked out a work plan and I am looking forward to meeting team 1 tomorrow. If you have any problems with getting to the assembly point in time please contact the A&E Tours office in Iquitos, by either phone or e-mail. Safe travels and see you tomorrow.

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/amazonia)”

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

Welcome everyone, this is the first issue of this year’s Amazonia expedition diary. My name is Malika, I’m a senior member of the Biosphere Expeditions’ staff and I will be leading our Amazonia jaguar & primates project in the Peruvian Amazon again this year. My bags are packed, I’m ready to go… (almost ;)). If my flights are on time, I’ll be arriving in Iquitos on 1 Sep around noon after picking up some more equipment in Lima.

I have been in touch with Alfredo Dosantos, our Peruvian expedition scientist, who told me about massive spring flooding and renovation work at our base: the Amazon Research Centre. But before meeting him there, I will spend a few preparation days in Iquitos. Checking equipment, preparing paperwork and shopping for missing items will be on my agenda before diving into jungle life.

I won’t have a local phone number, but will be available on my German mobile (for emergency purposes only!) until I leave Iquitos on 4 Sep. After that you can e-mail the office (on this e-mail) and they will relay a message to me.

That’s it for now. I’ll be in touch again with some more detailed information once I have arrived on the ground.

So as we prepare at this end, please can you do some more preparation too. In addition to studying the dossier, have a look at the “Methods & equipment” playlist. The bits that are relevant to the expedition are our cell methodology (explained for another expedition, but the principle is exactly the same), GPS, compass & map, Garmin etrex 20, camera trapping, binoculars and machete use.

Enjoy and I’ll see you at base in due course!

Malika Fettak
Expedition leader

 

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

Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)

We have now added a selection of pictures below. Enjoy and we hope to see you again some day, somewhere on this beautiful planet of ours.

Best wishes

Biosphere Expeditions

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Continue reading “Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)”

Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)

Overall we have had a very successful week in the desert and Steve the scientist is really happy with the data we have collected; particularly gazing at oryx bottoms to score their body condition while they are feeding – and of course the fox jackpot. Each individual oryx of twelve herds has been scored and the team members will all bring back hundreds of photos of oryx backsides! Six months ago the feed was increased due to the poor condition of the oryx. Our preliminary results of the expedition show that they are now generally very healthy and well fed.

Health oryx (and their bottoms)
Health oryx (and their bottoms)

Last night we enjoyed dressing up for an evening at the bar of the Al Maha Resort with drinks (and desserts!) It was well after bedtime by the time we returned to camp (at 22:15), so we had an extra long lie-in until 07:00 this morning : ) It seems like we had only just set up camp when it was time to break it down again.

A big thank to everyone on the team – so much can be achieved in such a short time with so many eyes and ears. Research like this would not be possible without your contribution!

Eyes & ears
Eyes & ears

Another thank you goes to Starwood Group for supporting conservation by making sure we were well fed (like the oryx).

Safe travels to everyone for their onward journeys, we will be on our way back home on Monday and will be in touch with a link for everyone to share their photos. Hope to see you again some time somewhere!

Malika and Kate

Team 2014
Team 2014

Continue reading “Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)”

Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)

What day is it again today? Western timings have lost their meaning out here in the desert. It is day four of our expedition and everyone has passed an intensive training regime on the research equipment, data sheets and dune driving.

Training
Training session

Apart from the Biosphere Expeditions participants, a number of rangers from our partner Al Maha resort also attended our training sessions to get an insight into conservation work on Sunday.

Al Maha rangers with expedition scientist Steve Bell (left) and expedition leader Malika Fettak (right)

On Monday, we set ten live and nine camera traps, started the health assessment of Arabian oryx through body condition scoring and our vegetation survey of the DDCR within our 2×2 km quadrants.

Oryx body scoring
Oryx body scoring

Tuesday we hit the jackpot, a lucky day not only for our scientist Steve. Why? Because we caught a sand fox in one of the traps! These tiny big-eared foxes are one of the rarest species in the area. A maximum number of twenty are estimated to be present inside the Dubai Desert Conservation reserve, an area of 227 square kilometres! Its mass is no more than 2 kg. We captured an adult male of 2+ years. Tricia, Branko, Yvonne and Martin were the lucky team members attending the procedure of sedating, measuring and micro-chipping him.

Sand fox in the live trap
Sand fox in the live trap
Measuring the sedated sand fox
Taking a blood sample from the sedated sand fox

Of course, the catch was the story of the day today when sat around the campfire for the daily review. Trevor, together with Kate and Branko comprising today¹s northern team, reported excitedly about “his” bird encounters and how he finally got to see three Macqueen bustards in the wild. Thrilled as he was he even tried to communicate in Arabic with some farm workers showing around a self made drawing of an eagle owl in order to find out whether they might have seen one. Spotting an Arabian red fox made Mark¹s day – another lucky encounter on a survey walk through the sand dues, even though he keeps on saying that he is not a good wildlife spotter 😉

Around the campfire in the evening
Around the campfire in the evening

Everyone has settled well into base camp, experienced refreshing showers in the afternoon, freshly cooked vegetarian dishes for dinner and early breakfast at 6:00. Work starts as the sun rises at around 7:00. The weather has improved and there has been no rain for the last couple of days. But after the rain, the desert is bathed in oranges and reds at sunset and the dunes reveal their full beauty in the early morning hours shortly after sunrise. It’s a magical place we are working in!

Continue reading “Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)”

Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)

The sun has returned to the DDCR and looking at the long-term forecast it is pretty good apart from the chance of some showers over the weekend. We have replaced the old worn-out tents with new fully waterproof ones so there will be no worries about kit getting wet.

It has been really busy in camp today with the DDCR staff fitting solar electrics, Steve the scientist moving in and sorting out camera traps and the cook setting up the kitchen all at the same time. Our cook for the week works at the Al Maha Resort (who are supporting the expedition by providing all our food and the cook) and he specialises in vegetarian menus.

From now on vehicles will not be allowed in the area where you can see them on the photo and camp will become more peaceful. We have been unpacking and checking all the equipment today – only a few days to go now…

camp2

This morning there were lots of oryx tracks about 10 m from my tent where a group had passed during the night, so they are obviously not concerned by our presence. After the rain on Tuesday the wildlife is looking freshly washed and the sand tracks around the reserve are a little easier to drive on.

Tomorrow we will be doing last minute preparations and we look forward to meeting the team at 08:00 on Saturday morning!

Continue reading “Update from our Arabian desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)”