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Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates

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Monthly Update - October 2005

Razor-Billed Curassow

Yet another month has flown by and here I am again reporting the latest goings on in the Peruvian rainforest. October has been a month for consolidating many projects and preparing ourselves for the imminent wet season. It has started to rain more regularly and the river has now risen to cover the dam causing us to remove the wheel and pump until the levels drop again next May. It has been a very satisfying time as we have been able to finish many odd jobs that have been lingering for a while now.

Turtle Hatching

Firstly, with the newly published coordinates of our reserve limits, it was imperative that we cut new trails along the designated borders to prevent illegal poachers and timber merchants entering the area. We had heard chainsaw activity from the lodge itself and upon investigation we found evidence of people entering the area. These new trails and signs will hopefully keep people out but should this not prove sufficient deterrent then these new trails marking the exact reserve limits will give us reference points to report the illegal activities to the relevant authorities. The good news is that we have now completed around 75 % of the borders and the rest will be completed in November. It has been hard work but the volunteers have laboured dutifully and the results were well worth the odd blister!!

I cannot think of a more satisfying feeling than watching animals that you have nurtured through good and bad being successfully released back into the wild. In October it was the turn of three of our White-bellied Parrots (Pionites leucogaster), we have five in total but two still remain in their aviary as their wing feathers are still regenerating. Over the course of two weeks the three playful birds were taken from their cages daily to allow them to strengthen weakened flight muscles and encourage them to recognise their future territory. They loved the new found freedom and within days the flying practice meant that they grew from strength to strength. Needless to say they are now completely free and it is wonderful to see them hurtling around the lodge site and exploring further and further each day. They are already much more independent and appear three times a day by the kitchen to request breakfast, lunch and dinner respectively!!!!

White-Bellied Parrot

The animal release program received new residents also in October and a first for us at Taricaya were three magnificent Razor-billed Curassows (Mitu tuberosa). These giant birds spent most of their time foraging on the forest floor for fruits, seeds and other vegetable matter and these feeding habits have made them easy targets for hunters. The meat is said to resemble turkey and in many areas of the Amazon the curassows have been hunted to local extinction. Books have recorded sightings as close as Lake Sandoval, part of the Tambopata-Candamo National Park which joins up with the Taricaya Reserve, and so I am confident that when we release these majestic birds their chances of survival, and idealistically, repopulating the area are good. Belonging to the same family as the curassows (Cracidae), we also received a female Spix's Guan (Penelope jacquacu). Unlike the curassows the guans rarely drop to the forest floor and we have several sightings of wild animals along our trails. The presence of wild individuals in our reserve is a great indicator of animal confidence as guans are one of the first species to disappear in an impacted area. Once she gains weight and confidence flying we will release her quickly in the hope she finds a wild mate.

With regards to the turtle project the exciting news is that over half the rescued nests hatched during October and our new techniques for protecting the nests appear to have paid dividends. Last year we suffered huge fatalities from a parasite known as "perrito de dios". This burrowing beach cricket is a natural predator of turtle nests and its larva break through the shell and feed on the young turtles inside. I am very pleased to report that so far this year we have a survival rate of over 75% (over 300 young turtles) and very few incidents of parasite infection. In the wild there are always some individuals that are still-born, others die soon after hatching through weakness and so such a high success rate is a real tribute to the careful management of the eggs by volunteers and staff alike and a better project design all round. Let us hope that the remaining nests have the same hatching rates and that the newborn turtles grow strong in their short stay with us before being marked with codes for release.

Again I would be amiss not to mention some of the sightings from observations performed this month. The most exciting is undoubtedly the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) seen close-up near one of our swamps and a great indicator of a healthy ecosystem. Elsewhere the smaller anteater known as the Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) was seen several times around the reserve.

That wraps up October and leaves me to sign off until next month where I shall be reporting further on the turtles, an update on the animal release and lots more news from the Taricaya Reserve.

Stuart Timson
Conservation Manager
Taricaya Research Centre
06th November 2005

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