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Conservation and Environment in Peru: Monthly Updates

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Turtle project

On 5th November Taricaya Research Centre celebrated its 12th anniversary. Since the project’s conception in 2001 we have received close to 1800 volunteers and looking back over the years I am simply overwhelmed by the dedication and hard work from both staff and volunteers alike. Twelve years ago there was no such thing as the Taricaya reserve; animal rescue centres did not exist in Peru; the concept of releasing captive-animals back into the wild was unheard of; mahogany plantations were believed impossible and poly-cultures an alien concept to local farmers. These are just some of the long term impacts our conservation work has had on the area and further afield both nationally and internationally.

Turtle Project

Vaccinating domestic animals in native communities

It has become tradition that we release our baby turtles on the anniversary of the project as “taricaya” is the local name for the freshwater species we save (Podocnemis unifilis). This year we released our baby turtles in two locations as we had artificial beaches located at Taricaya and at the school of the Ese’eja community, Palma Real. The latter beach was home to 30 nests collected from the Heath River on our successful pilot project with the National Parks. At Taricaya, we housed the same number of nests from the expedition and others collected from our usual beach allotted to us by the government. The project with Palma Real was a resounding success and it was immensely satisfying to see the local children getting excited by the release of their young hatchlings. They hold the key to the species’ long term future and this type of hands-on education is priceless.

I am pleased to report that we released close to 1000 baby turtles spilt between the two locations and there remain close to a hundred eggs still to hatch. However, the likelihood is that these remnants are unviable as the maximum hatching period is no more than 90 days after laying. We may get a few more babies if lucky but I suspect that majority of these eggs are the unsuccessful ones common in all wild nests.

Animal Rescue Centre

New howler monkey enclosure

As we continue to work on the new carnivore enclosures the heavy rains have made progress a little slower. We have had to take advantage of breaks in the weather as the wet season has arrived in earnest. The seasonal drop in numbers for the Christmas period has meant that we have been concentrating most of our work on the rescue centre as the animals require our attention all year round. We are very excited as our female tapir (Tapiris terrestris) appears to be close to giving birth again and this, our second captive birth, is very exciting. With our new extended paddocks we are able to separate the pregnant mother from the other two individuals and provide her with solitude and tranquillity for the final phase of her gestation.

Three-toed sloth

It is very satisfying that we are starting get more captive births in the rescue centre as it suggests not only that our animals are healthy but also relaxed and unstressed. In the case of the tapirs we hope to release our captive bred animals back into the wild to help boost the wild numbers. Eventually we shall have to change the breeding pair at Taricaya to vary the genetic pool of our local populations but for now it is exciting that we are getting such positive results. My next hope is that our razor-billed currasows (Mitu tuberosum) start to breed more quickly as our first chick is growing quickly into a sub-adult and losing its juvenile plumage.

Elsewhere we have received some new animals at the centre and the latest arrivals have all been baby monkeys. This month we have received a red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), a Peruvian (formerly known as black) spider monkey (Ateles chamek) and a saddleback tamarin monkey (Saguinus fuscicollis). All three were very young and almost certainly victims of hunting and the loss of their mothers. So far all three are responding well to treatment and a diet of bottled milk and vitamin boosters. Fingers crossed that they will survive the critical first few weeks of separation from the mother and will grow quickly so that they can join our troops being prepared for release.

Biodiversity Studies

Canopy walkway

Every December I like to recap all our research and biodiversity data as these projects continue year in year out and slowly we are increasing the number of animals and plants that we can identify in the reserve. Taricaya is undoubtedly one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and this makes our conservation work even more important.

To date we have identified 64 species of non-flying mammal, 65 species of bat, 451 species of bird (number has been reduced due to taxonomic changes grouping several species together as one!), 49 species of amphibian, 62 species of reptile, 281 species of butterfly, 34 species of dung beetle, 84 families of insects (new research started in 2013), 213 species of plant and 44 species of fungus!! Some of this research has been put on standby such as butterflies and plants as we change our resident experts at the centre but the exciting new work in the fields of entomology and ornithology are still producing great surprises. I am confident that 2014 will prove once again a great year for all our research and biodiversity studies.

In addition to the actual number of species we have seen a rise in animal sightings in the area and these include top predators such as the jaguar (antera onca), puma (Puma concolor) and harpy eagle (Harpia harpya). The presence of these majestic predators indicates a very healthy ecosystem and further proves that our conservation efforts are having a positive impact on the area.


I am optimistic that next year will be another of dedication and success. As we approach the magic figure of 2000 volunteers to work on the project the future looks very positive. 2014 will see us present more of our work in the fields of ornithology and mastology, continue our pioneering work in the field of animal release, ongoing outreach and environmental awareness progams, biodiversity research, the turtle project and so much more…….

Stuart Timson
Conservation Director
Projects Abroad
7th Jan 2014

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