Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates
Monthly Update - March 2004
The month of March has positively flown by and as I look back now it seems hard to believe that we only completed the canopy walkway six weeks ago. Since that time we have had some of our most exciting wildlife sightings to date and whilst it will be impossible to list them all there are some very exciting new additions to our species lists.
During the month of March we have had the privilege of observing a female Slender-billed Kite (Rostrhamus hamatus) raise and fledge two offspring. Her nest was about 15m below the high platform and the walkway passes just metres from it. The Slender-billed Kite is a swamp dweller whose long hooked beak is ideal for feeding on snails and other shelled invertebrates and it would appear that our giant snails released into the swamps have enabled the mother to successfully raise two chicks whereas generally just one young kite would survive. We also have a nest of the Junin Red Squirrel in the same tree as the 46m-platform so the active mother was a regular sighting from the walkway.
Apart from the nests we have discovered the access to the canopy has allowed us to get excellent views of species usually only heard from the ground. These include parrots, such as this Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa), toucans and macaws. We have seen up close the Blue-and-yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna) and a first for the Taricaya area the spectacular Curl-crested Aracari (Pteroglossus beauharnaesii). This small toucan has a majestic set of colours that no illustration can do justice and we are very confident that as each week goes by we will increase our species list and have many more fantastic sightings.
This is a shot of a Couvier's (or White-throated) Toucan that I took on my first trip up to the platform. It was perched in a fig tree about 30m away. It was an overcast day but with better light allowing for the use of a longer lens the potential for photography of these canopy species is phenomenal.
It would be possible to overlook some of our other achievements of March with the excitement of the canopy walkway but our animal release program received a very rare new resident. We are now the proud caretakers of a 4-month old margay. The margay is one of the seven species of cat found in tropical South America and is slightly smaller then the better-known ocelot. It has been hunted for its fur and this cub has almost certainly been orphaned as a result of the mother being hunted for its pelt. Whilst being relatively young it is already a fearsome hunter and it is amazing to watch the way it stalks and kills the chickens we give it. This may seem cruel as we could just as easily feed it dead meat but for it to released successfully it must not lose its hunting ability. We plan to release it when it is a year old as it will have grown sufficiently to defend itself from its few natural predators. We hope it will remain in our reserve to eliminate its most feared predator, man!!
The pilot farm project is continuing to flourish and we hope to be harvesting our own rice in April along with sweet potatoes and beans. The volunteers have been hard at work weeding and tending the crops as the wet season always produces an increase in the quick growing pioneer species that threaten to choke and out-compete the crops. The same pioneer plants cause our trails to close very quickly if not constantly maintained and so this trail clearing has also been an ongoing job for the volunteers.
In April I plan to take the volunteers on a four day expedition to the famous macaw clay lick in the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve and so I hope to have some interesting sightings and activities to report from this trip next month.
Taricaya Research Centre
04th April 2004