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Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates

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Monthly Update - November 2008

Measuring the snake!

As we draw towards the end of another great year at Taricaya it would be understandable if we were to ease our foot of the pedal thinking in a well earned break and recharging the batteries for 2009. Nonetheless, we have been working as hard as ever and I can report on yet another fantastic set of achievements over the last few weeks. As usual my problem is where to begin! With return visits from Mauricio Ugarte and Hugo Zamora we have been making great progress in our biodiversity studies; a live satellite feed by NHK to Japan has put us on the map in Asia; an invite to the Palma Real Community anniversary; and co-hosting the first course on animal management to be given in Puerto Maldonado have all kept us incredibly busy.

Pheasant Cuckoo

I always get excited when we welcome back old friends from the Arequipa Museum of Natural History as it means that our biodiversity investigations will leap forward once again and this month was no exception. In any field of biology, be it snakes or birds, bats or butterflies, the taxonomy is always changing and it was heartbreaking as we had to reassess our bird list and reduce it from 387 species to 380 upon Mauricio's arrival. This was due to new studies that have joined some species into just one, or other studies that now consider former species, sub-species. In short it made our target of a 400 species total for November that much harder to attain. Determined not to be beaten we started to hang our mist nets in zones of the reserve where we had yet to complete much research and amazingly on the final afternoon we caught species number 400 for the Taricaya Reserve. New discoveries included: the Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris), the Pheasant Cuckoo (Dromococcyx phasianellus), the Tawny-bellied Screech Owl (Otus watsonii) and the Elegant Woodcreeper (Xiphoryincus elegans). We are pushing ever closer to the world record for species in an area smaller than 500 hectares and we already have the highest recorded diversity of birds for the Bajo Madre de Dios region (Puerto Maldonado to Bolivia). I have also collected photos of over 200 species found in the reserve and so we are closing in on another goal in the publication of a photo guide to the Birds of Taricaya/SE Peru.

Tawny-bellied Screech Owl

Mauricio was not the only one making headway this month as Hugo Zamora returned to study our numerous bat species. Many of you will recall that Hugo found 28 species on his first visit earlier this year and we were all excited about what his second visit would bring. The weather was not kind to Hugo and many a volunteer would return soaking wet with little to show for hours in the forest but the spirit of Taricaya is never one of surrender and as the rains started to ease off Hugo started to find some very fascinating results. Not only was he surprised once again by the quantity of bats we have around the reserve he was also able to identify six new species for the reserve including the Spear-nosed Long-tongued Bat (Lonchophylla tomasi), the White-lined Fruit Bat (Platyrrhinus infuscus) and the Hairy-nosed Bat (Mimon crenulatum). This brings our current total to 34 species and I look forward to Hugo's return next year and increasing our list further.

Volunteers at course

All our findings from the diversity studies are now also published on the Taricaya website in the projects section so if you wish to find out more about our birds, bats, butterflies, reptiles and much more you can just click and see it all.

I mentioned last month the arrival of NHK for a live feed production to Japan and on 8th November at seven in the morning the programme went on air. After a week of preparatory work it all came together on the day and the hour of live television went very smoothly. Some of the volunteers appeared in the program working at the pilot farm and the whole operation was exciting for us all. A kind gesture from NHK was a donation for our projects with social benefits and this enabled us to visit Palma Real on their anniversary and present them with a new peki-peki motor for the school boat and an amplifier for school events. These prizes were in recognition of their hard work during the turtle repopulation project and tied in perfectly with the concept of conservation that the Japanese film company wished to portray. I wish to thank everyone who has been involved in this process as it has been a long journey to get the Ese'eja natives on board and working with us. The presentation of these awards on their anniversary will have a huge impact on our project success in the future and our next initiative is a manageable reforestation project with Brazil nut trees within the confines of the community.

White-lined Fruit bat

It is unusual to reach this stage of an update without some new information on the animal rescue centre and this month I have some great news here also. In conjunction with Amazon Shelter, Taricaya co-hosted a brand new initiative in Puerto Maldonado. Edward Diaz (Amazon Shelter) and I gave a course on Management and Maintenance of Animals in Captivity. With the support of INRENA (government agency) we gave a series of presentations in the auditorium of the local university and then a practical course the following day in El Jaguar, Puerto Maldonado's zoo. The idea behind this was the ever increasing number of animal rescue centres/zoos and an apparent lack of experience in their management. It was a great success and several volunteers decided to assist in addition to local biologists and students. The event was split into animal groups: mammals, birds and reptiles. With course participants asked to select which field they were more interested in for the practical part of the course. Edward and I would get them to help us capture the animals, check their health and take biometric data for future use. The idea of creating a network with the current rescue centres will make our work much easier as we will be able to share expertise and interchange residents should one centre be better developed to deal with certain species. These initiatives are all new and it is an exciting time for us all as we try new ideas and attempt to get the government to become more dynamic in both their attitude and administration.

Next month I will look back on another great year at the lodge and the hard work continues with volunteer numbers still high..

Stuart Timson
Conservation Director
Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad, 4th December 2008

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