PART 1: Adventure to the Remote Indigenous Community of Puerto Nuevo, Las Piedras – by Zoe Cole

Soledad Lake at ARCC

Soledad Lake at ARCC

Day 1: 9th February 2014

Sunday Fun Day at the Center (ARCC).  Today was a day off for everyone, to relax.  We played games, read our books etc, it was nice.  I also took the opportunity to take photos of Claire’s tadpoles so she could later ID them for her project. Jess and Alice made brownies for desert after dinner, using fresh Brazil nuts in the recipe.  Many Peruvian locals in the Las Piedras are harvesting Brazil nuts at the moment as this is the peak season for them, when all the nuts are falling from the canopy. I also had to get ready for our 7 am departure tomorrow to the indigenous community of Puerto Nuevo.  I packed up my stuff and made sure there was a spare tent available, intact and pitch-able.  It’s going to be a long stay in a very, very remote part of the Amazon rainforest… another day upriver from ARCC.

Day 2: 10th February

Today we departed for a 7-hour boat ride up the river, still deeper into the magnificent forest.  We left about 7 am, the boat was loaded with our crew, everyone’s kit, along with a 2 week supply of food.  The boat ride up was very nice as the rain held off, and we had the wind of the boat which felt amazing.  We had packed lunches made for us, which we ate as we passed endless forest with many huge trees that had fallen into the river along the way. Due to the high levels of water during the wet season many trees along the river banks can not keep balance due to eroding soil from fast flowing water.  Most of the trees in the Amazon spread there roots very widely in order to keep standing, but obviously sometimes the weight simply cant be sustained.  With the floods that we’ve seen recently the trees have had a tough job. We also saw spider monkeys, and my first sighting of a Howler monkeys!  I have been hearing their loud call a lot, so it was great to finally see them as they darted up a sandy bank, and swung into the hanging vines.  Howlers eat the clay on the sides of the river to protect their stomachs from some of the plants they eat which have strong toxins.

Howler monkey and Spider Money Eating Clay

Howler monkey and Spider Money Eating Clay

We arrived at the community around 1pm.  We were welcomed and everyone chipped in to help unload the boat.  Us girls were to sleep in the school, which is basically a big wooden shed. The whole community consists of about 15-20 huts and the community members are almost all related. With our visit to the community, the plan was to give the opportunity for them to install running water and a flushing toilet.  Before, the community would fill up buckets from the river and take it back to their houses.  I noticed how they used the flushing loo, but also the long drop which they’d always used before. The community has a Head Chief and wife. Rosita was the chief’s wife, and she wanted to welcome us with a traditional drink that the woman make with yucca, which, is a root vegetable that is fermented (often using saliva!!), and it can become quite strong.  I had a few sips but it was not my taste, and the team thankfully discretely helped me with it.  The drink is called Mazato.  I went to set up my tent, and a few of the little girls of the community followed us,  interested to see what we were up too.  They spoke in a very strong dialect of the Spanish; even the people who spoke Spanish struggled to pick up some words. I knew that these next few days were going to be tough, in terms of living conditions.  I found myself in awe that people can lead there daily lives in such seemingly harsh conditions.  The rainforest is one of the least comfortable places to be at the best of times.  I was attacked by waves of sand flies, which are little devils.  I wore long sleeves and long trousers, but still my arms and legs are destroyed with bites–just covered in them, and I have to resist the URGENT need to scratch.

First night sleeping in the tent, well it takes some getting used too.

Sunset from Puerto Nuevo Indigenous Community

Sunset from Puerto Nuevo Indigenous Community

Day 3: 11th February

Today we had a meeting with a few of the people in the community; to introduce ourselves and them to us. We had the opportunity to tell them why we had come. The reason we came to the community, in fact, was because Lena is working through Fauna Forever doing a research project on medicinal plants.  Lena wants to understand how the community uses plants against illnesses.  Brian, one of Fauna Forever’s coordinators, also wants to explore the forest here to see if he can find any interesting species.  Brian is a herpetologist, which means he mainly studies reptiles and amphibians.

After the meeting we were ready for the day.  We split up into two teams and our group went with one of the locals to make a trail.  This basically means getting a machete, and cutting through thick bush, spiny bamboo, and the rest. We managed to cut through about 2.5 KM in about 5 hours and came back exhausted, and very thirsty!  I had to down several glasses of water.  In the field, you can drink loads but because you sweat so much it doesn’t keep you as hydrated as usual.  I had to take some time out, as my head was thumping and I almost passed out with exhaustion and lack of water.

Later in the afternoon I went birding with Alex who knows a lot about Neotropical birds, what species they are etc.  We didn’t walk far, I took out my tripod and managed to set up my equipment to get a feel for capturing birds. I went to bed exhausted.

Kids at the Puerto Nuevo Community

Kids at the Puerto Nuevo Community

Day 4: 12th February

I laid in till about 7 am, which here is a long lie in.  I went out and did a walk with a few of the team, just seeing what we could find.  The trail was a loop which was about 2 KM, so were round it in just over an hour.  The ground is very wet and muddy.  I don’t think I mentioned earlier, but wellies (rubber boots) are the most useful footwear in this climate.

After lunch it started to rain, but it eased off and we were able to set up some pitfall traps.  Some of the community came out with our team to help find a spot where we could set the traps up.  When we found the perfect spot, it began to rain cats and dogs, soaking everyone, yet we continued with our job which was to dig holes and place large buckets into the holes with long plastic sheet walls between each bucket. It took us about 3 hours to complete it, and we hope to get some results in the coming days.  Hopefully we’ll get some lizards, snakes or frogs, we shall see.  If a frog and a snake fall into the same trap, I have a bad feeling that the frog would not make it to the next day!  The trail between camp and the traps is very muddy and has some steep patches where we have to scramble up the banks. We also have to cross a river.  There is a tree fall that we can balance across to get over.

 

Peru and Brazil, by Jinnie Yeo

This is a blog entry by the very talented travel writer, photographer and good friend of Dave’s, Jinnie Yeo.  Jinnie, Jo, Alex and Brendon (Dave’s friends from London) came to visit him in Peru in May 2013 and had a chance to see what Fauna Forever does in the rainforest.  If you want to know a little more about Fauna Forever, the magnificent ARCC, Machu Picchu, Cusco or Rio – read on…

Please visit Jinnie’s blog which includes very helpful travel tips and tricks, hiking and nature travel advice, great stories and adventures from all around the world: http://curiousjinnie.wordpress.com/

 

MP

I had mixed feelings about going to Peru. I’d wanted to see Machu Picchu since I was 21 so I didn’t know how it could ever live up to my expectations after wanting to see it for so long. Also, I’d been to a lot of jungles already (in Asia, Central America and Africa) and lots of jungle ruins. Well, I was pleasantly surprised, Machu Picchu is spectacular, it lived up to every expectation and I found myself running around, really excited to explore more of it. But let me start from the beginning.

A very close friend of mine, Dave (he’s like my ‘brother from another mother’), moved to Peru to do conservation work in the Amazonian rainforest four years ago.  As I said before, I’d actually been wanting to visit South America for a long time, even before Dave moved there, so in May this year Alex and I decided it was time to go and see it for ourselves and also see what Dave was getting up to.  One of my best friends, Jo, and her hubby, Brendon, decided to join us.

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I was very excited, not least because this would also mean I have now been to every continent in the world except Antarctica.  One day. One day!!

Dave and I decided to split doing an itinerary for the trip.  He would obviously plan the jungle side to the trip and I would plan the rest.  I always split my trips up a bit into a bit of activity, exploring and chilling right at the end. It makes for a real adventurous trip, albeit not the most relaxing, but I prefer getting the most out of a place and seeing as much as I can when I go somewhere new.

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Well, I’ve done a dozen itineraries, I enjoy it and I know how to research places, find things off-the-beaten-track and decide what the best stuff to do are – for Alex and I.  Planning a trip for friends is a very different kettle of fish. You have to consider what they like and what their standards in accommodation etc are. Somewhere down the line, it dawns on you that if anything goes wrong or isn’t up to scratch – you’re to blame.  Keep that in mind before offering to plan a trip that involves others! It’s much more stressful. Luckily nothing major went wrong but it made me realize that maybe I’m not cut out for being a travel agent after all.

We landed in Puerto Maldonado after a long flight and a sleep-over in Sao Paulo involving many yummy (and strong) Caipirinhas .  Dave was there waiting to pick us up from the tiny airport.  I jumped on his motorbike with him and the others followed by tuk-tuk, Asian style!

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After a really good meal in town, we spent the night at the Fauna Forever base (where Dave works).  These guys are great, if you’re interested in doing conservation work or volunteering or even if you’re just interested in taking a gap year and going somewhere off the beaten track and want to give something back to Mother Nature, I highly recommend getting in touch with them:  www.faunaforever.org

The next morning we hired motorbikes and drove through muddy jungle roads to a nearby animal sanctuary, we saw a peccary & some really cute but very smelly baby peccaries, some beautiful toucans and my favourite:  howler monkeys.  The howler monkeys were very friendly and we got to hold them, they didn’t seem to mind my ‘Elmyra Fudd’-style over-petting either :) a real treat and a highlight for me! We didn’t have too long here as we had to get back to catch a cab to Lucerne and then a boat out to ARCC (where we would be staying in the jungle)!

IMG_7291 The boat took us up the Las Piedras river, deeper and deeper into the jungle.  It was around a 6 hour journey and we enjoyed the scenery and some local cuisine (chicken, egg and rice wrapped in a big palm leave – delicious!) whilst on the boat.

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After we got settled at ARCC (so beautiful & serene), Dave took us on a night walk in the jungle.  What an experience! Your senses are heightened and when you turn of your flashlight it is pitch dark, all you can hear are jungle sounds (monkeys, crickets and who knows what else?!) and you can just imagine a jaguar watching you!  Our time at ARCC was special.  Like I said before, I was really excited to see Dave but had my reservations about going to yet another jungle.  This time though, I did get to experience something new because unlike before I actually saw what the interns (conservationist, biologists and scientists) got up to and it was really interesting. Coming to ARCC you actually learn a lot about what is going on around us and how conservation work is really important (and not in a boring way, but a really interactive, interesting way).  Also, I saw some very big trees in this jungle – some of the biggest I’ve ever seen. I was hugging as many as I could (don’t ask – a very strange habit I’ve had since childhood).

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Dave was great and organized a lot of fun activities for us whilst at ARCC.  We did many jungle walks, Alex’s favorite was a very wild, bushwhacking one.  We swam in a stream, smearing mud on our faces and spent a day tubing slowly down the river, admiring the jungle, monkeys and blue parrots as we floated down.  We picnicked on the river banks.  We also spent time on Lake Soledad and spotted a baby camen and some big river otters whilst sipping cold beers and eating Peruvian sweets.

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We went up a ladder (to heaven – literally!) attached to a huge tree and had a chance to sit on the look-out deck and see the jungle from high above! Jo & Brendi made it up the ladder as well, even though they have fear of heights!!

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One morning Alex and I made our way down to the lake really early and it had a blanket of mist over the top – stunning.   I went to the jungle prepared for eating boring rice every night and nothing else but to my surprise the food was really, really good! One night we had Peruvian Causa (Layered Potato and Tuna Salad) – so good! I wish I could remember more of the dishes, I just know we had big hearty meals and every one of them was tasty.  Evening meals consisted of three courses.  You definitely do not go hungry here!

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If you are interested in ecotourism and want to get away from it all or if you would like to get a bit more involved with fundraising or volunteering, ARCC is amazing and all the people involved with them are so warm, welcoming and interesting.  Have a look: www.amazoncenter.org.

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By the time we left the jungle, we were all so chilled out and the London rat race was well and truly forgotten.  I spent six blissful days not picking up my phone or going near a computer once – this doesn’t happen very often!

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On the 23rd May we did the boat trip back to Lucern where we played a game of soccer with the local children (they annihilated us, I couldn’t even get ONE goal!), before getting a taxi into Peurto.  Back in Peurto, Dave took us to a Thai restaurant called Anaconda lodge:

http://www.anacondajunglelodge.com/

The Thai food there is amazing! And I got to once again hold a friendly little howler monkey:)

After lunch we flew to Cusco.  I’ve had altitude sickness before (in Lijiang, China) but I was hoping I wouldn’t get it again.  WRONG.  My first day in Cusco was unfortunately spent in my room, hugging the toilet. My head was throbbing and I couldn’t keep down any of the coca tea I was given to help with altitude sickness. Luckily I was in a really nice room – we checked into Nino’s hotel and it was lovely.

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Poor Brendon was also sick, I’m not sure if he was puking or not but I know he spent the day in his room as well. Luckily by that evening, both of us felt better and were ready to hit the town with the others.

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Cusco is a great city, it feels like somewhere different but it has all the things to make your stay there comfortable.  Many, many, great restaurants to choose from.  Cool bars.  Cute local markets, selling everything from sheep’s heads to bread, to these strange jelly deserts, to gifts and flowers. Everything you can think of. It has beautiful old churches, impressive Spanish architecture and cute cobbled streets.  You can spend a long time just exploring this place with its different nooks and crannies.

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24th May:

We travel by taxi to Ollantaytambo and got the train to Aguas Calientes where we stayed overnight.  I would have loved to do the Inca hike but you have to book way in advance for this and we missed the opportunity.  The train ride was beautiful though, going past lakes and streams and passing through the Andes.  Agues Calientes is a very touristy spot but it’s quite cool in its own way. Definitely only a one night stop-over town before MP though!

Alex ate fried guinea pig, which tastes a lot like chicken but they serve it with a face and everything! Eeeeeek.  Not for the faint hearted. We all drank Pisco sours – a really yummy Peruvian cocktail.

The next day, we got up really early and stood in a queue around 5am hoping to catch a bus and be one of the first people to arrive at Machu Picchu for the day.  In the rush to get out the door and all the excitement, I totally forgot my passport! Rookie mistake! :( Luckily the officials let me in but REMEMBER your passport when going to see MP! Even though it doesn’t say this on the ticket, they want to see it.

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We were rewarded for getting up early by the most amazing site: low fog hanging over the ruins and hardly a person in site! Alpaca’s lazed around while we crept close to them to have photo’s taken with them.

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Alex had heard about the Inca Bridge from someone back in the UK, so we headed off to look at it (it was built by the Incas as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu for the Inca army) the trail is cut into a cliff face with a 1,900 feet drop on the one side!

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After having a rest and admiring the views we decided to move on, seeing as I didn’t have my passport, I couldn’t do Huayna Picchu but only Brendi seemed to fancy doing that anyway, so off he went to climb it, whilst Dave, Jo, Alex and I opted to do the Sun Gate walk.  It’s a very scenic trail and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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That evening we got the 19:30 train back Ollantaytambo and stayed the night at Hostal Iskay – a great spot where Dave and his mom stayed before.

The next day we got to look around Ollantaytambo a bit more.  A small but very cute place.  It feels a bit like a mid-western cowboy town :) It’s hot, there are Cactuses everywhere, dust and dirt roads.  I loved it. A local lady was selling barbequed sheep hearts, which Jo and I tried – they were really tasty! Alex and I also got to see some more Inca ruins for free – snuck in through the back way – local knowledge makes all the difference! Thanks Davey! :) We spent some time looking around a local market and before we knew it, it was time to leave.

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Dave organized for us to go via La Terraza de los Incas’ in Chinchero to see some local woman colouring wool with insects and plants – very interesting! And they showed us how they weaved the material into blankets – hard work.  We took some photo’s and made our way back to Cusco and back to Nino’s.

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The next day was Jo’s birthday, we had a bit of a special meal that evening at: Uchu steakhouse, Calle Palacio 135 Cusco (thank you food bloggers – I found this restaurant recommended by a Foodie in Cusco!) Dave had mahi-mahi (a white fish from the Peruvian coast), Brendi had alpaca and the rest of us had steak – all served on hot plates with chips or mash and sauces. Alex also had the ceviche to start and I had the chocolate mousse dessert.  All very good, as was the wine!

The next morning, Dave took us for a big breakfast at Jacks – OMG! Again: amazing food! : http://jackscafecusco.com  The fresh mango juice with lime was the best juice I’ve ever had in my life!

The next day, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Dave and head home via Rio.

We booked into ‘Ladeira do Castro’ in Santa Teresa, which was lovely but don’t eat there – much better places to eat for much better value!

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Santa Terresa is a bohemian neighbourhood with bars and galleries, I loved staying here.  We ate at: Espirito Santa and had Piranha soup.  The food was great! :http://espiritosanta.com.br/

We also went to Copacabana and Ipanema beach, where we were lucky enough to see pods of dolphins passing and jumping out of the water.  Copacabana reminded me a lot of Durban in South Africa, prettier but similar.

We ate a Brazilian meat feast in Copacabana – the meat was amazing! Sorry, enough about food.

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After just relaxing on the beach for a day and having a walk around the beautiful Jardim botanical gardens, it was time to catch a flight back to London.

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By the way :  Rio airport:  don’t bother going through security early and don’t expect to do any shopping after going through – there is nothing! Also, when flying into Rio, we couldn’t draw money from the banks in the airport (strange!) but don’t panic, banks in town work.

An amazing trip, none of us will ever forget.

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An Update From the Field Team – by Emma Stroud

Fauna Forever is alive and well, operating as a collection of interests, accents, passions, projects, and characters. In an increasingly apathetic world, it’s refreshing to meet young adults who have such a remarkable talent and passion for nature and science. The work that people are doing here at FF is new, innovative, and science for the current world. Fauna Forever is a host to the modern science geek and tree hugger alike: Typically bright and caring people who are willing to roll up their sleeves, slather on insect repellent, and go out to try to understand and protect the wild and beautiful habitats they have traveled so far to be a part of.

For the past month, FF’s interns and coordinators have been living and working at the Amazon Research and Conservation Center (ARCC), a stunning piece of forest that Fauna Forever will soon co-manage. It is set on the lush Piedras River, within the Region of Madre De Dios, which lives up to its name, in English: Mother of God. ARCC has an incredible biodiversity, in part thanks to the oxbow lake on which it sits. It boasts a threadwork of pretty streams and trails that crisscross though the forest. The space which ARCC inhabits is almost virgin land, affected relatively little by loggers throughout its history, which helps explain the extraordinary number of animals one comes across in daily life at the center.

Currently, Brian, the herp expert and herp team coordinator, who has a knack for recalling the scientific name of any snake, frog or lizard this side of the moon, has been working with Australian intern Marnie on running transects and setting up tadpole pools throughout Madre De Dios, as well as monitoring breeding behavior. The two have also been creating a frog call identification library, and have begun to create a system to identify future frogs based on this technology. Brian has also been working with Welsh intern Henry, who is currently about a month into his nine month stay here at FF, to study and research snakes. Talk of pit tagging and tracking the incredibly venomous Coral snake is underway as well. Danger all in the name of science!

Brian with a Yellow-footed tortoise

Pat, the Canadian caiman coordinator, spends late nights out in the field, wading through waist deep streams or out on the lake paddling the catamaran, catching caiman with his bare hands to tag, measure, record, and release. Mark, a British wildlife photographer accompanies Pat most nights to take close-ups of the striking reptiles and also finds time to venture out on his own, taking photos and setting out camera traps to capture the other animals skittering across the forest floor. He plans to publish a book of all the photographs he’s gathered.

Taking data on Smooth-fronted caiman

Alice, heading up the mammal team spends the wee hours of the morning following and tracking primates and helping English intern Hanna with her camera trap project which focuses on collpas (clay-licks) and the animals that frequent those spots. She has tirelessly gone though over a thousand individual videos, collecting data and recording her findings.

Alice looking for primates

The team still found time to celebrate Halloween recently as Pat and Brian carved faces into turtle shells which they found in the forest, for makeshift and jungle-y jack-o-lanterns. They also went out for an extra spooky night expedition attempting to capture black caiman on the catamaran.

Halloweeeeeeeeen with The Terminator

There has been very exciting news related to camera traps. Along with the various small animals that frequent Hanna’s cameras, Mark managed to capture footage of a puma and a margay and Pat discovered wild dogs on a camera placed way up a winding stream. This is an extremely rare capture, and an incredibly exciting one for FF and ARCC.

The Fauna Forever team has said goodbye to ARCC for the moment, and are stationed in Puerto Maldonado for the next week while resting up and enjoying a little city life. They plan on heading back into the field to PIE (Piedras Biodiversity Station) after the arrival of several new interns. More adventures to come.

Deforestation in the 2013 IPCC Report Summary on Climate Change

29/09/2013 – According to the latest summary report on climate change by the IPCC, scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report also concludes that since 1750: “deforestation and other land use change are estimated to have released 180 [100 to 260] GtC.” This means that deforestation and land use change has released an amount equivalent to around half of all carbon emissions released by fossil fuel combustion and cement production, globally, which is 365 [335 to 395] GtC.

“Of these cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions, 240 [230 to 250] GtC have accumulated in the atmosphere, 155 [125 to 185] GtC have been taken up by the ocean and 150 [60 to 240] GtC have accumulated in natural terrestrial ecosystems (cf. cumulative residual land sink).”

Download the latest IPCC Report Summary on Climate Change, release on the 27th September 2013.

The report was released only a few days after Guido Lombardi released heart-breaking aerial footage of more than 30,000 hectares of forest completely destroyed in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios due to gold mining.

 

Aerial Footage of Guacamayo in Madre de Dios Amazon rainforest

The Story of a Girl’s Heart, Stolen in the Amazon – by Office Intern Cora Chan


Introduction: An anthropology student from Hong Kong going to Puerto Maldonado in Peru to do a summer internship in a non-profit organization called Fauna Forever.
It was 15 June 2013. The girl arrived at Puerto Maldonado in Peru and pleasantly greeted by a wonderful wooden lodge in the middle of bushes and trees—it is the Fauna Forever House.

She soon realized she has made the best decision to have come here. With her anthropological perspective, she was overwhelmed by the dynamics in Puerto Maldonado in the first few days. Not to mention all the extraordinary people she met in FF. The second thing she realized was her unusual identity—being a Chinese and being an office intern. Being the first office intern here, her works include washing dishes in the house, cleaning the shared bedroom and bathroom for volunteers and interns, cooking Chinese meals……just a few examples. Oh, just a quick fact, the wonderful wooden lodge she stayed in is both the office and her home, therefore all the household works she has been doing is actually “office”-related. Well, back on track. The real office work includes sorting out the enormous article library, looking for potential cooperation with universities and volunteer agencies, doing airport pick-up and so forth. It’s basically about all the back-up or administrative support for the sake of the smooth running of FF. The workload largely depends on the period one stays, the proficiency in Spanish, and how well you are in taking the initiative to discover tasks you can work on.
Just another quick fact, normally interns or volunteers will go up to ARCC (Amazon Research Conservation Centre, which is the major research center inside the Amazon Rainforest) a day or a few days after they arrive at Puerto Maldonado, depending on the boat schedule. It takes a three-hour drive and another 2.5-hour boat ride from the FF house to ARCC.

As the girl is office-based, her schedule is a little bit different from other volunteers and interns. After working in the FF house for two weeks, she finally got the opportunity to go up ARCC for a week. It was a mind-blowing journey for her. At the very first day of the journey, she caught sight of a jaguar on the boat ride. Then there were great otters, caimans, tarantulas, monkeys, loads of birds and snakes. The highlight of her journey is surely the night when she went out with the caiman team. They saw a snake (Black-headed calico snake/Spanish: aguaje machacuy) eating a rat! They stayed for almost an hour just to watch the snake swallowing the rat from half-way till finished.

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During the week in ARCC, she joined the bird team, the mammal team and helped with a girl who is working on her butterfly projects. Basically, the bird team mainly do mist net capture and point count. Going out at around 5:30 every day in the morning, the bird team sets up nets to capture birds, identify, ‘process’ (check molt limits, age, weight, measurements, health, sex, etc.) and photograph them before release. Point count is about walking on trails, observing and recording birds, and taking data of all sightings.

One of the tasks of the mammal team is to trace some groups of monkeys. At the day the girl joined the mammal team, she followed a group of saddleback tamarins. Leaving the formal trail, she went into the forest by pushing aside all the entangled branches and leaves. Following the group for almost 5 hours in the morning, the girl could not forget the moment when the tamarin stared at her.

Deep in the jungle, the girl also met some glass-winged butterflies and a funny unknown bug.


Apart from the astonishing animals she saw every day, the lifestyle in the jungle is surprisingly preferable. Zero reception of Internet or signal in phone and computers allow her to read a lot or do things she really likes. Moreover, power goes off every night at around 9, so healthy lifestyle is the only option. Accompanied by the peaceful symphony of nature, falling asleep and waking up are one of the best moments in a day.
The week in the jungle passed in a blink. It’s just one more week before the end of her month-long internship. The girl felt extremely uneasy every time she thought of the remaining days. She made another decision, which is to cancel her Cuzco trip and stay in FF for another 5 days. It’s hard for her to say goodbye because of the relations she has developed with her fellows. Being around with a majority of American or British, it feels like another cultural exchange for her. And living in the FF house with the Kirkby family and Dave (the co-founders of FF) feels like living with a host family. The meetings, the unstoppably laughter, the live music, the little chats, her unforgettable birthday, the touching farewell dinner…countless moments are kept deep down in her heart.
It’s a dreamland here. Dreams arise and dreams come true, slowly, yet in progress. With part of her heart being stolen and kept in the forest, the story temporarily comes to an end.

The nature brings us together, and we dream to bring the nature and everyone together.
(Photos and a more detailed description of the girl’s daily life can be found at:https://www.facebook.com/cora.tszching/media_set?set=a.10151432968550946.1073741826.565120945&type=1)
*A heartfelt gratitude to Chris and Dave!

A Multi-Sensory Experience – by Primate Research Intern Megan LaFollette

Taken from her own blog (click here to go there now), this is a beautifully written post from our Primate Team Intern, Megan LaFollette.

 

One of the reasons that working with Fauna Forever in the jungle is so incredibly satisfying and fantastic is because of how many senses of a person it satisfies. When walking around in the jungle you are constantly being stimulated in so many ways.

Hearing

The sounds of the jungle are so very enriching. Other than the noise that you and your hiking buddies make, only the sounds of nature surround you. You have insects, birds, mammals, herps, the elements and more coming together in a wonderful symphony. Every morning and night I would hear the red howler monkeys calling in a territorial call. At night the owls (including the awesome Greater Potu) and the frogs joined in symphony. One night out on the lake we could even hear the territorial bellowing of a caiman. On monkey follows there were the cute calls of the monkeys, different for every species. During the day my favorite song was from the screaming Piha which is very complimentary, wolf-whistling at you despite your jungle appearance.

Being able to identify the sounds around me and actually use them to help with work was really fun and challenging. By the end of my time I could tell pretty well if the crashes in the trees were the sounds of monkeys, simply a tree fall, macaws or other birds, or even just the wind or rain. I can identify quite a few bird calls as well the calls of the monkeys. I know what a Tapir sounds like if you surprise them in the dark. I know whether a hawk moth or a bat has just flown by my head. So cool!

Seeing

Of course a large part of the human experience for many people is largely visual. It is one of our most obviously utilized senses it seems and that is no different in the jungle. During the day seeing movement in the branches of the trees is incredibly important for being able to follow monkeys and track their location. On mammal transects you have to be able to identify organisms after only getting a fleeting view of them. And I have gotten so much better at determining the difference between monkeys, squirrels, birds, and more.

Binoculars definitely enhance this experience. It is so much easier to determine whether a monkey is eating a leaf or a fruit (one of the things we record) when you magnify it. Birds as well are much better seen through binos (the affectionate abbreviation).

IMG_1137

At night visuals take on a new meaning. After the colors fade and movements become more difficult to detect, eye shine becomes your key to the night. Suddenly you are aware of spiders everywhere. I have learned the difference between a spider, month, frog, mammal, and bird eye shine. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen, but it did.

Smelling

Though not quite as prominent as the other senses, smell is still a fun part of the jungle experience. The “neutral” smell of the forest is quite pleasant, I think. Swamps have their own characteristic scent. The smell of yourself, your clothes, and fellow jungle mates is not so pleasant with notes of mold, sweat, and damp. Howler monkey shit also gives off a characteristic odor and you can also smell peccaries. On Mega Otter Fossil trail there is one turn in the path that is especially distinct to me because it always smelled of overripe fruit because of a nearby tree. DEET and bugspray are also common smells indicating an imminent venture into the forest. Rubbing alcohol indicates that you have just returned from the jungle and are fighting a mass of chigger bites. The smell of mosquito coils reminds me of sitting on the porch of the bungalow before or after dinner.

Tasting

 

My what big teeth you have!My what big teeth you have!

Okay, I suppose if there is one sense that is not really utilized in the jungle it would be that of taste. The food was good though. I especially enjoyed trying piranha and various fresh fruit juices. Though actually, on one of my last days I did try one of the fruits the monkeys enjoy, that of Astrocarium, and it is not half bad. But generally you are discouraged from sticking many things in your mouth in the jungle. It’s just not a very good idea.

 

Eating an Astrocarium fruit.Eating an Astrocarium fruit.

Physical Feeling

Of course there are many physical feelings that one enjoys while in the jungle. Going out into the field often comes with feeling hot and sticky and sweaty. Not really the most pleasant feeling, but definitely worth it. You also feel tired from walking, the water under your feet in streams. You feel the bugs around you. Getting stung and bit by Tangarana ants is not so pleasant. However, all this makes you appreciate the cold showers, the feeling of being clean becomes quite a treat.

Also interacting with a few creatures has also been a treat. Holding a baby caimen in your hands and feeling its tough scales. Feeling the strong muscles and smooth scales of a parrot snake and blunt headed tree snake. Feeling the smooth skin of a bicolor frog, triangulum, and more.

 

Baby caiman!Baby caiman!

Emotional Feeling

Probably my favorite “sense” that I experienced while in the jungle is that of emotional feelings. I love the excitement that comes from seeing something new or just something that you love. The satisfaction that you can remember the name of that bird that is calling or the fact that you just found a frog in the dark 10 meters off the path. The wonder that comes with watching a monkey that is watching you and wondering what it is thinking. The feeling of being blessed to be able to have such experiences. And the hope that the work you and Fauna Forever does might help these experiences be available to people for a long time.

IMG_0591

Can you tell I’m in love with the jungle?

Appearance of Uncontacted Indigenous Groups in Rio Las Piedras – The Need for Action – by Rob Williams (Frankfurt Zoological Society)

Taken from www.zgf.de and written by Rob Williams

The last three days have seen an incredible thing happen in SE Peru. Some 60-80 indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation (often called “uncontacted”) have appeared on the Las Piedras River, on the beaches opposite the village of Monte Salvado. They are considered to be of Mashco Piro tribe. They were asking through signs and shared words for plantains and red clothing. So far everything has been peaceful. Three years ago there was an attack where a 14 year old boy was shot in the abdomen with an arrow and as a precaution the 53 inhabitants of Monte Salvado are asking for an evacuation.

This is occurring just 160 km from the main square of the regional capital, Puerto Maldonado, now a bustling Amazonian city and gold mining hub, and just 118 km from the recently paved Interoceanic highway uniting Brazil with the Pacific.

Frankfurt Zoological Society has been coordinating with the local indigenous Federation FENAMAD and regional government and is offering logistical support for a voluntary evacuation of the people from the community of Monte Salvado. We were keeping quiet to protect all people involved, but since the news broke yesterday in the Peruvian news (http://www.rpp.com.pe/2013-06-26-pobladores-piden-evacuacion-por-presencia-de-nativos-no-contactados-noticia_607821.html) there will surely now be many articles and opinions on this. We therefore want to give some background to the unusual event, the history of the region and the people involved. We hope to contribute to the understanding of what is happening and why?

LAST GREAT WILDERNESS

This region of Peru is one of the last great wilderness areas on earth. Over the last 4 decades several areas have been protected, starting with the creation of Manu National Park 40 years ago, then the creation of the Alto Purus National Park in 2004, and finally the creation of 4 territorial reserves that were established to protect the indigenous groups living in voluntary isolation. Peru has one of the best legal systems, offering the strongest protection for Indigenous Groups in Voluntary Isolation. In general no access to these areas is allowed, but there is a remaining dispute on hydrocarbon concessions overlapping territorial reserves. These protected areas in South Eastern Peru now form one of the largest complexes of protected rainforest in the world and are adjacent to similar areas in Brazil. In addition to being the home of some of the last Indigenous Groups in Voluntary Isolation it is also one of the most biodiverse places on the planet with a globally outstanding variety of plant and animal species, and is an important carbon store.

Madre de Dios

Protected areas and territorial reserves around Manu National Park (photo courtesy of André Bärtschi)

In the 1990s illegal loggers extracting Big-leaf Mahogany Swietenia macrophylla, the most valuable hardwood in the Amazon, invaded much of the area along the Las Piedras river and other tributaries of the Madre de Dios river. Up to 5,000 people were considered to have been working on the Las Piedras river alone at one time. Firm action by the state and support by conservation NGOs led to order being restored and the limits of the parks and territorial reserves being generally respected subsequently. Fortunately, much of the area is very remote and difficult to access, with fluvial transport being the only real option, thus making control of the region relatively easy.

THE LAST FEW PEOPLE IN THE WORLD LIVING A TRULY TRADITIONAL LIFE

Indigenous Groups in Voluntary Isolation are now only found in the Amazon basin, mainly in Brazil and Peru, but with some small groups remaining in adjacent border areas of Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. These are the last few people in the world living a truly traditional life, being 100% dependent on their immediate environment for all their needs. They lack resistance to common diseases and exposure to these can easily kill them. Of the 7+ billion people on earth only a few thousand still live in this way.

The Mashco Piro are one such group. They live in the Purus arc, a geological formation dividing two major drainages of the Amazon, that of the Ucayali and the Manu river. They speak a language in the Piro or Yine linguistic group, and can be understood by Yine villagers who live adjacent to the Territorial Reserves. The word Mashco was a derogatory term that originated from missionaries for natives.

Las Piedras River Madre de Dios

Indigenous Groups in Voluntary Isolation are now only found in the Amazon basin, mainly in Brazil and Peru, but with some small groups remaining in adjacent border areas of Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.These are the last few people in the world living a truly traditional life, being 100% dependent on their immediate environment for all their needs.

Anthropological studies suggest that they had started to settle but then abandoned agriculture and became nomadic again to avoid contact and now live by hunting and gathering and some small plantings. They seem to move seasonally from the headwaters in the wet season following the rivers downstream and living on the beaches in the dry season when they harvest Podecnemis unifilis turtle eggs.

The most famous incident involving the Mashco Piro was the conflict that took place with the rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald whose killing of them is dramatized in Werner Herzog’s 1982 film “Fitzcarraldo”.

In the last few years there have been increasing sightings and evidence of Mashco Piro groups in the areas adjacent to the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve and Manu National Park. Whilst most of these incidents have been peaceful there have also been various hostile contacts that have left people dead and wounded. In both Manu and the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve they have entered control posts and taken pots and pans, string, machetes and even clothing.

MONTE SALVADO

Missionaries originally established the village of Monte Salvado by bringing Yine from the Ucayali river in order to make contact with the Mashco Piro. The missionaries have long since gone but have left behind a remote isolated community that have little option but to log the forest that has been titled to them and collaborate with illegal loggers and drug traffickers that plague the region. Surely, it is time to consider relocating the village, for the safety of both the Mashco Piro and the villagers themselves, providing new livelihoods for the latter nearer to the education and health services they yearn for and more space for the Mashco Piro.

Adjacent to the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve are a series of forestry concessions. Many of these have been over-harvested and are now effectively abandoned with the concession holders no longer paying their fees to the government. Inadequate control and corruption has meant that these areas have been largely over-exploited and are no longer of commercial interest. Such concessions could therefore easily be annexed to the Territorial Reserve allowing an increased area of movement for the Mashco Piro. It is worth noting that there are a few concessions that have operated legally and provide certified timber but if these areas are being used by Mashco Piro it is surely in their interest, as well as that of the loggers themselves and the consumers eager to buy certified timber, to find a solution that compensates the concession holders and to withdraw the concession licenses.

MASSIVE INCREASE IN DEFORESTATION

This news coincidentally comes the week that a new study is publicized that shows that Peru has the fastest rate of increase of deforestation in the Amazon (it jumped a massive 47% between 2011 and 2012).
[Full article available at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0626-amazon-deforestation.html?fbgnpg]

If the Peruvian Government and society is serious about protecting the Indigenous Groups in Voluntary Isolation immediate action is needed to reduce threats to them and expand the area available to them for their seasonal movements. The Manu-Purus block is home to one of the last remaining large populations of these peoples and despite being one of the most remote and wild areas on earth it is being pressurized by development:

  • To the north-west continuing gas exploration encroaches on the Nahua-Nanti Territorial Reserve and the buffer zone of the Manu National Park, with increasing activity in the area as the companies prepare for seismic surveys. Seehttp://news.mongabay.com/2013/0624-hill-explosions-manu.html
  • A legal proposal in congress aims to get a road or rail connection through both the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve, the Purus National Park and the Purus Communal Reserve. The motive is supposedly “national security” but it might easily facilitate intensive illegal logging.
  • Drug trafficking has been increasing in the area, and local people report virtually daily flights by small aircraft and also use of the Las Piedras river for shipping Peruvian produced Cocaine to Brazil and Bolivia.
  • Illegal logging continues in the northern edges of the complex.
  • Illegal gold-mining is increasing along the Pariamanu river in the south.

We call upon the Peruvian Authorities to take decisive action immediately. As there is no other continent in the world where Indigenous Groups in Voluntary Isolation exist, Peru bears a huge responsibility to protect its most innocent and vulnerable citizens.

A Line in the Road – by FF Journalist Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

Right - protected, left - unprotected - Giles Crosse

Some hours outside the Fauna Forever base in Puerto Maldonado, the extent of deforestation, primarily caused by goldmining in the area, becomes apparent.

Paradoxically, the forest on one side of the road sits within the reserve, whilst the forest on the other side of the road is ravaged by pollution, mining, toxic chemicals and human impacts.

It’s a stunning illustration of the occasionally ill advised nature of environmental law. What makes forest on opposing sides of road more or less vulnerable to destruction comes down to a piece of paper and a strip of tarmac.

Equally, there are no patrols, no towers, literally no form of intervention, control or governmental presence here to ensure that the protected forest remains so. It is protected solely in name, not in action.

This begs the question of how long miners and other individuals seeking a more profitable form of existence will respect rules without any concrete form of enforcement. Insiders tell me this lack of enforcement comes down not to a lack of centralised cash, but a lack of governmental will.

Deforestation in the unprotected Peruvian Amazon - Giles Crosse

The extent of the destruction and our ability to mine the heart from the earth are truly shocking when witnessed at first hand. This is not to deny that enormous swathes of Peruvian rainforest remain intact and unspoiled, but to act as a warning to their potential future.

The answers to these questions remain complex. Why does a government whose resources and profitable future exists in the rainforest allow such ill advised practices to take place? For how long can it waste the heritage it is denying future Peruvians?

These questions are not for external NGOs to answer, but for internal policy makers to face up to.

Along which road does Peru's future lie? Giles Crosse

The answers to the dilemma will define work patterns, standard of life, global climate change and the lives of millions of human beings. They are crucial, tangible and undeniable. Yet they must be made internally, not internationally, in order for the most meaningful decisions.

Will tomorrow's rainforest look like this?

Or like this?

 

Will skeletons line tomorrow's roads?

Or bountiful resources for future generations?

Whilst these issues may seem vexed and challenging, in reality they really on intelligent, resourceful decisions, which create the right opportunities for rainforest to be protected.

The actual protection may stem from private businesses, NGOs, government, or, most meaningfully, from ordinary Peruvians.

These are the people whose land this is. These are the people whose incomes and livelihoods depend on this land. These are the people who deserve a stake in the future of this most bountiful of environments.

Let us hope tomorrow’s futures can be bright.

Oneness – by FF Journalist Giles Crosse

 I read this lovely, meaningful excerpt from ‘Alex and me’ by Irene M. Pappenberg, which I felt keen to share on these pages…Alex was her Gray Parrot with which Pappenberg carried out research into animal sentience, communication and thought.

‘Exactly how scientists came to espouse ideas about animal minds that were so at odds with what non scientists would call common sense is fascinating and instructive.

It bears exploring because it tells us a lot about ourselves as a species. Humans have always tried to make sense of the world and their place in it. Foraging people, living in close harmony with nature and her rythmns, see themselves as closely connected to other living things in their worlds.

They see themselves as an integral part of the whole of nature. We see this expressed in the mythologies and folk tales of Australian Aborigines and Native Americans, for instance….

Aristotle, in the fourth century B.C.E, constructed a view of the natural world that is, in its essence, still with us. He ordered all living and non living things on a ladder of perceived importance based on mind.

Humans were at the top, below the gods, a place earned by our great intellect. On lower and lower rungs were the lesser creatures, and finally the plants; lowest of all was the mineral world.

The Judeo-Christian tradition enthusiastically adopted Aristotle’s blueprint, in which humans were given dominion over all living things and the earth. This description of nature became known as the Great Chain of Being. Humans were not only different from all of God’s other creatures, but also distinctly superior.

The most important lesson that Alex taught us concerns the place of Homo Sapiens in nature. The revolution in animal cognition of which Alex was an important part teaches us that humans are not unique, as we long believed.

We are not superior to all other beings in nature. The idea of humans’ separateness from the rest of nature is no longer tenable. Alex taught us that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature.

That ‘separateness’ notion was a dangerous illusion that gave us permission to exploit every aspect of the natural world – animal, plant, mineral – without consequences. We are now facing those consequences: poverty, starvation, and climate change for example.

My philosophy of life is based in an appreciation of the holistic nature of the world. Who knows what other amazing things we might have seen through our window into Alex’s mind had he stayed?

In any case, he did leave me this great gift of what was once known and embraced but was lost: the oneness of nature and our part in it.’

Slash and Burn – by FF Journalist Giles Crosse

Giles Crosse

 

There is here in Peru, and in many developing countries, a strong tendency to burn things. When that comes to rubbish in the streets or toxic chemicals that is a bad thing.

Then again, in the EU incineration of rubbish is one of the largest forms of waste disposal. This of course does not make it right or necessarily good, but it does illustrate that these approaches are not confined to shanty towns or barrios. They are also used, invested in and supported by some of the richest governments in the West.

Of course, burning in agriculture to clear land is also a widely used and debated approach.

There is perhaps insufficient space in these pages to enter into the scientific and environmental arguments behind these points. They are complex and even experts in the subject fail to reach consensus.

More interesting is the ethos behind burning things.

Without using scientific arguments, it seems plain that allowing a field to lie fallow ought to enable a greater quantity of goodness to return to the soil than rushing to send the vast majority of this into the heavens in smoke and fumes.

Equally, if we create something so virulent that we need to burn it to find a way to get rid of it, then perhaps it might have been wiser, certainly in terms of waste disposal, to have opted for a less harmful product in the first place.

But burning can also cleanse and destroy viruses. Viewed without emotion, it is little more than a process which converts one form of energy and material into another.

I do not condone incineration of rubbish nor the destruction of vast swathes of rainforest through burning. Yet perhaps even more worrying is the mindset that burning belies. It speaks of a short termism, a lack of vision and a desire to sweep our mistakes under the carpet. It is often a violent, destructive process.

Maybe burning things isn’t the problem, it’s why we allow ourselves to do it in the first place.

Giles Crosse

 

 

Corresponding with Caiman – by FF Journalist Giles Crosse

Might Caiman inhabit these waters?

Patrick Champagne, a Fauna Forever researcher, is set to carry out a groundbreaking study into population densities of Paleosuchus trigonatus, a widely distributed species of caiman found in South America.

“Unlike other crocodilians there have been insufficient resources applied to the study of this species. Most of the literature on this species derives from studies conducted by William Magnusson during the eighties and nineties.” he explains.

Pat’s research project will estimate the density of caiman at a selected site using passive integrated transponders (Pit-Tags) to mark and identify recaptured individuals over the period of eight months.

“If the population density is studied at a site with minimal anthropological disturbance, the results may be used in future studies to estimate the anthropological impact on this species.” he comments.

During the day, the study area will be searched for presence of caiman, building a knowledge of the site’s nature. Animals will be located by sampling the streams after dark on a five-day basis. In order to reduce disturbance and influence, any portion of the study site that was surveyed during the day will not be surveyed that night and portions of the study site will never be surveyed on consecutive nights.

“Animals will be captured and handled humanely to minimize the stress of the animal and the handler.” Pat reveals.

“A catch and release pole will be required to restrain individuals. Under no circumstances will the safety of the animal or the handler be sacrificed. Once captured, each animal will have its jaw secured using a rope or electrical tape. I have used electrical tape and noted that it does not adhere to the surface of the snout, and can be used to restrain the mouths of smaller individuals.”

With the support of Association Fauna Forever Tambopata and a funding grant from a generous donor, Pat will add to the knowledge we have of a species that is an integral part of South American biodiversity.

Out of the Airplane Window – Travel from Canada to Peru – by Research Intern Pat Champagne

I began my journey in Moncton, New Brunswick, a city 30 minutes from my hometown of Sackville. As I hauled my hockey bag-suitcase out of the van I began regretting the five pieces of luggage I required for my eight-month stay in Peru. With all this luggage, I appeared awkward and cumbersome compared to Sam, a student from Moncton that would be accompanying me on the long series of flights from eastern Canada to eastern Peru, and who had but a small carry on and an impressive looking backpack.

Fauna Forever Intern Patrick Champagne

Me before flight

We took off from Moncton at 5:30am, it was odd to see the familiar boreal landscape and salt water tidal rivers disappear from beneath me, knowing that soon the similar, yet alien amazon rainforest, with its muddy colored rivers would be appearing from below as I land in Puerto Maldonado. This flight to Toronto, although short, seemed long because any conversation was drowned out by the low and incessant hum of the small airplane’s engine and the flight itself was to short for a nap or to watch a movie.

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Las Piedras – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

Giles Crosse

An hour or two upriver from the Lucerna port, the protected reserve in the Las Piedras region of this part of the Amazon comes into force.

It’s a remote, isolated, largely untouched and largely unspoiled wilderness, where man’s influence has been limited and nature still reigns in the jungle light.

Unsurpassing beauty and calm are at work here. But human encroachments have occurred, as a road enables illegal logging to take place. Empty shotgun shells have been found here by the Fauna Forever team, evidencing the brutality and the cheapness of life that belies this form of existence.

As yet, government officials have taken little or no action to protect the reserve in the form of guard posts or in the form of watch towers or communications. Laws at this stage have no concrete affirmation beyond cabinet rooms or red tape.

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Escape from the jungle – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

Lucerna - Giles Crosse

Often the most interesting days are the least expected. Arriving by boat at Lucerna, to unload and return to FF headquarters in Puerto Maldonado via car, it transpired storms had flooded out part of the road, leaving our return route to humanity impassable.

Strict rules are meant to prevent vehicles using the carreteras that link Lucerna and the main highway during bad weather, as the road becomes yet more damaged and dangerous when heavy trucks pass over the waterlogged ground.

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Soulful ecology – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

Perhaps there is a simple answer to why man and nature seem increasingly divorced in modern times.

 

Giles Crosse

 

Countless millions are donated, pledged, fundraised and created to enable the work of global NGOs, constantly seeking to improve and deliver a more rational approach to the planet and our place on it.

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Jaguar – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

The ARCC ecotourist and research facility is located some three to six hours upriver from Puerto Maldonado. After a 5AM boat departure, a visit to the centre offers some of the richest rewards available in this part of the Amazon Basin.

Meandering along these tranquil waters is a moving experience. Breathing, flowing rivers drift through beachheads and shorelines rich with tropical trees, majestic with age, and simple, dignified beauty.

Huascar sun from below - Giles Crosse

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Experience the magic – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

ARCC - Giles Crosse

Flowing waters guide healing; a lifetime’s emotion framed in a moment
Angels flit softly; to sunscapes and palm light surrender your soul
Under shadows and skylarks the truth bids you nearer, the silence most welcome, cathartic and clear
Nature’s epiphany constant as starlight, the tiniest creature, the world as a sphere
Ask not for distractions, crave not mirrored lies

For futures are present, reliant, come freely, both trustworthy, blameless and shown in these skies
Orphaned by sadness, seek not redemption
Rejoice in translucence, let clarity calm
Evermore freely step back from your chaos,while
Vistas of solitude soothe and disarm
Even when gifted these strange constellations, that wander and watch and perceive from above
Remember your world lives, remember your choices, be guided by mindfulness, presence and love

Huesca river - Giles Crosse

FAUNA FOREVER – experience the magic

Scorched beauty – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

Sunset, dust, corona - Giles Crosse

 

 

Pueblo Viejo – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse

Viejo - Giles Crosse

I’m often intrigued by how certain individuals maintain a sense of calm and dignity amid the most challenging circumstances, whilst others become crushed and diminished by similar challenges.

Might this have something to do with how we live and work? Is it any coincidence that the boatyard in Puerto Viejo emits a calm sense of purposefulness and meaning? Yet a London stock exchange, outlined in stark strip lighting, shares none of this empathy or sense of space.

Maybe this is because boatyard workers in Viejo use natural materials, work in sunlight, alongside a flowing river. Perhaps it is because their daily tasks involve building transportation, to help educate, encourage and improve.

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Obelisk – by Giles Crosse

Categories:Giles Crosse, Sustainability

Puerto Maldonado sunset - Giles Crosse

Fifteen minutes walk into town from Fauna Forever HQ is the Obelisk. This tall, brutish building offers some of the best views across the city and out into the rainforest.

It also offers some serious food for thought regarding sustainable consumption, future cities, pollution and the hub of many arguments here in the Amazon.

The latest trend in Western societies is for futurism in cities. Smart grids, that link in automatically and charge appliances overnight when power is cheaper and less damaging. That detect when you are coming home from work and prime up low level light and heating systems. Even communal washpoints that save on water and electricity are all likely to spring up in the sustainable metropolis of the future.

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