jaguars. peccaries. monkeys. deer. dogs. rodents. marsupials. armadillos. tapir. tayra. coati. anteaters.

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
* All training provided *
Understanding the diversity, distribution, population dynamics, and optimal conservation strategies for forest-dwelling mammals in Amazonian Peru

Team Objectives

The Mammal Research Team, headquartered in the city of Puerto Maldonado, is tasked with developing baseline datasets on the diversity and abundance of 45 species of mammals at numerous field sites across the Madre de Dios region of Amazonian Peru, and to monitor changes in these variables over timescales ranging from months to decades. By undertaking sampling throughout the year, in dry and wet seasons; across various habitat types, including floodplain and terra firme forest; and in contrasting land-use categories, such as reserves and national parks, native community forests, ecotourism concessions, Brazil nut forests, timber extraction zones, bushmeat extraction areas, and forests associated with agriculture and cattle ranching; and also by collating climate data at each study site, the team is able to determine the relative importance of each variable, understand the patterns and trends in diversity and abundance in time and space, and ultimately predict the current and future conservation status of mammals across the entire landscape.

Lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

(Photo: Tom Ambrose)

Mammal team identifying tracks

(Photo: Holly O'Donnell)

Methods Used and Skills Taught

The mammal sampling methods that our volunteers and interns learn and implement under the leadership and supervision of our professional mammal research coordinators, include unbounded line transects, camera traps, pitfall traps, track traps, and GPS-enabled species encounters mapping. Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use and teach, include R, SPSS, Distance, Mark, Estimates, and QGIS. Each week, sampling is undertaken Monday to midday on Saturday, after which everyone is free to relax and explore the local area. Each field site has 4-8 line transects (totalling 8-24 km in length) which are sampled in the early morning, late afternoon, and at night;  10-20 camera traps operating 24 hrs a day; 8-16 pitfall traps; 8-16 track traps; and the team has two handheld GPS receivers to collect the precise geographic location of mammal encounters. Click here for precise details of sampling protocols.

A Typical Day

Research days are split into morning, afternoon, and nocturnal sampling sessions. On each research day, two sessions are completed, for a total of around 7 hrs of active field time and data input per day. On most morning sessions, sampling begins at 5:30 am, after a very early breakfast (box breakfast also available), with line-transects and track traps and lasts for 3-4 hrs, followed by checking pitfall traps for rodents and/or changing out SD cards on at least one of the camera traps. On returning to the research station, data from this session is entered into the laptop and the team shares and discusses any interesting encounters that they may have had with other research teams present. Lunch is served at 1 pm, after which team members can relax for a couple of hours. At 3:30 pm, the late afternoon sampling session begins. Lasting until sundown at 6 pm, this session is again used to census line transects and track traps or to relocate camera traps and maintain the transects clean of debris. After dinner, which is served at 7 pm, line transect sampling begins for the nocturnal session, with team members using headlamps, powerful spotlights, and sometimes even sound recording equipment. Saturday mornings are usually set aside for habitat monitoring, which is undertaken within modified Gentry plots, or catching up on any missed sampling sessions from the previous week.

A female Red brocket deer (Mazama americana) caught on a camera trap deep in the Peruvian Amazon (Video: Fauna Forever)

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Participation Fees

1 week     -  US$ 500

2 weeks   -  US$ 900​

3 weeks   -  US$ 1200

1 month   -  US$ 1600

6 weeks   -  US$ 2200

2 months -  US$ 2850

3 months​ -  US$ 4100


All meals (veg options available) and lodging (shared rooms), scheduled transfers, field training and supervision, research permits, research activities, local expeditions on Sundays.

Not included

Flights, non-scheduled transfers, clothes washing, rubber boots, rain poncho, personal medical issues.


Any time of year. We recommend successful applicants arrive in the city of Puerto Maldonado (PEM) on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday if at all possible. The city is served by daily flights from Lima (LIM) and Cusco (CUZ) via the airlines Latam and Avianca. 

Non-profit Fee Breakdown

Transfers 4% 

Accommodation 18%

Meals 14%

Equipment  4%

Repairs 4% 

Communication 18%

Staff 14%

Profit  0%

Recommended Reading

Field Guides

Published Articles

Peres (1997) Primate community structure at twenty Western Amazonian flooded and unflooded forests. Journal of Tropical Ecology 13(3), 381-405.

Tobler et al. (2008) An evaluation of camera traps for inventorying large-and medium-sized terrestrial rainforest mammals. Animal Conservation 11: 169-178.

Marques (2009) Distance sampling: estimating animal density. Significance 2009: 136-137

Endo et al. (2010) Game vertebrate densities in hunted and nonhunted forest

sites in Manu National Park, Peru. Biotropica 42(2): 251-261.

Salvador et al. (2010) Large mammal species richness and habitat use in an

upper Amazonian forest used for ecotourism. Mammalian Biology 76(2), 115-


Kjimji et al. (2013) Are rainforest owl monkeys cathemeral? Diurnal activity of

Black-headed owl monkeys, Aotus nigriceps, at Manu Biosphere Reserve,

Peru. Primates.

Tobler et al. (2013) High jaguar densities and large population sizes in the core habitat of the southwestern Amazon. Biological Conservation 159: 375-381.

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals

A Field Guide (2nd edition)

L. Emmons & F. Feer


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