Peru Part IV: Cutting and catching

Last three weeks at LPAC

After saying goodbye to everyone at Boca Pariamanu, I transfer back to LPAC for my final three weeks as a volunteer. The new organization I’m with is ARCAmazon, where I’m joining as a Forest Ranger. I find out that our base at LPAC has been taken over by Dutch people: there’s four of us. As a Forest Ranger, I’m mostly working on conservation in the LPAC-concession and the new Jungle Keepers-concession right across the river. Together with Rory, Elvis and Chizito, we cut through dense forest to create a path right along the JK borders. It’s tough work, especially when you unknowingly come across a tangaranga tree. This tree, that supposedly has medicinal properties, has a symbiotic relationship with a certain type of fire ants. The ants live inside of the tree and protect the plant from any damage done by other plants and animals, such as, unfortunately, me. To cut the borders far away from LPAC, we organize a two-night campout in the forest, using triangular tents suspended from three thick trees. Although swimming in the forest stream and cooking on an open fire is wonderful, the operation can’t be called a succes: in the morning of the second day, Chizito takes a wasp sting in the eye, forcing us to canoe back.
Around LPAC, we cut new trails and monitor the area for any mammals, guans and human activity. It shows me how amazingly well this small part of the rain forest is doing. Large groups of the endangered black spider monkey are seen almost everyday. In total, I manage to see an astonishing ten different species of monkeys during my time at LPAC. One of my most precious experiences in Peru revolves around two spider monkeys. As I’m taking a walk through the jungle on my own, two of them spot me before I see them. They come incredibly low and seem to be communicating about me. They’re checking me out, just as I’m checking them out. At that moment, we are equally interested in eachother.
My three fellow Dutchies are all doing their own research in the forest. Liselot intensively studies the spider monkeys around camp, identifying each individual and closely monitoring their movements. She unfortunately misses the group of 23 that I spot one day. Marjolein builds traps to find dung beetles for her research, showing us the diverse beauty of these strange animals. And Piet tries to catch as many snakes as possible. Mostly, he’s on the lookout for yellow tailed cribos and rainbow boas. Helping him out with this proves to be a lot of fun, but also a challenge. They’re quick, fierce and often well camouflaged. Nonetheless, I manage to bring back racers, calico snakes and boas.
I see some amazing mammals that I have not seen before. On a solo night walk, I see a giant armadillo slowly scurrying away in the distance. A capybara sits in the shallow water of the river with a cowbird on its head. One night, Piet and I take a small canoe up the stream behind camp. For the first time, I see a huge tapir wading through the water. It’s a beautiful and strange sight.
It’s almost impossible to mention everything I see and experience in these three days. From watching saki monkeys swing from tree to tree and seeing the trail system literally turn into a river, to picking up a tarantula and having a tree crash down on our platform. I have a near-death experience as I’m almost bitten by a wandering spider in my life jacket. Liselot saves me by calling out the dangerous critter. My final two days are especially amazing. On my penultimate afternoon, I see the last half of a big rainbow boa slither under a root. After what can only be described as tug of war with this powerful constrictor, I safely bag the boa and triumphantly take ‘Ozzy’ back to camp, where he is measured and PIP-tagged. The last morning, Piet and I get up before dawn to try and see a roaming jaguar. We walk very quietly along the trail, but without any luck. As we hike back, we notice an abundance of new cat tracks and furballs. We’ve been followed. The jungle awards us on my last night walk with a relatively rare sight: two adult tapirs crashing through the trees; a mating couple. On our way back, we wade through the stream to catch caiman, some of the best fun I’ve ever had. I leave the next day in the early morning, back to Puerto Maldonado. The next day, a new adventure wil begin: meeting my parents again.

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A golden silk orb-weaver (genus Nephila) weaves a very strong yellow web.
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I mistook this strange lifeform for a fungus, but thanks to Reddit user squidboots over at /r/mycology I now know this is a parasitic plant called Ombrophytum violaceum.
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Barred monkey frog (Phyllomedusa tomopterna).
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The hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) is an incredible bird. Before food reaches its stomach, it ferments in an enlarged crop. This produces a foul smell and gives the bird its nickname ‘stinkbird’.
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A pair of mating stick insects.
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Unidentified spider.
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Ozzy the rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria), after measurements and PIP-tagging.
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The rainbow boa has to be one of my favorite snakes.
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Rainbow boas are highly popular pets in the western world, resulting in a large number of different morphs available.
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A brown capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella) in a palm tree on our camp grounds.

 

 

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