What's Going On?

Observation Tree Platform

Agroforestry

High-terrace Rainforest Discovery

Herpetology and Discovery of Adandoned Gold-mining Site

Making Coffee From Scratch

Artificial Bullet Ant Nest

Caiman & Mammal Monitoring

Discovery of Lake 2!

Giant River Otters at Lake 2

Discovery of Lake 3

Egg of Undescribed Spider Species

The Bat Boat

Egg Excavation of Black Caiman Nest

Mammal Corridor

Boat Hauling to Lake 2

The Island

Upgraded Plant Nursery

Finding the South American Bushdog

 

 

Observation Platform in the Trees!

 

From wading through forest ponds with piercing volumes of croaking frogs to crouching low among the brush in the hopes of not startling the little armadillo rapidly scuttling across the forest floor, our monitoring both day and night of numerous animals has rewarded us quite well. Although we can observe and record the behavior of a wide variety of animals living at ground level, other creatures are overlooked due of their arboreal lifestyle. Based on this undeniable reality, it appears that our terrestrial nature has confined us to the ground, separating us from the seemingly impenetrable, secret world taking place high within the canopy. 
But what if there was a way to elevate ourselves and take us closer to the canopy? After scouting out various scenic points, we found a way to construct an observation platform within the trees! What makes this platform different from your typical observation tower? Rather than using pre-cut wood as our foundation, which quickly deteriorates in tropical regions, we chose to secure the platform on a healthy living tree. The use of a living base not only minimizes our presence, it also provides greater resistance to environmental factors such as humidity, rain, fungus, and termites that can threaten the stability and safety of the platform. With this new observation site established, we can broaden our monitoring efforts and learn more about our canopy residents!  

 

From wading through forest ponds with piercing volumes of croaking frogs to crouching low among the brush in the hopes of not startling the little armadillo rapidly scuttling across the forest floor, our monitoring both day and night of numerous animals has rewarded us quite well. Although we can observe and record the behavior of a wide variety of animals living at ground level, other creatures are overlooked due of their arboreal lifestyle. Based on this undeniable reality, it appears that our terrestrial nature has confined us to the ground, separating us from the seemingly impenetrable, secret world taking place high within the canopy. 

But what if there was a way to elevate ourselves and take us closer to the canopy? After scouting out various scenic points, we found a way to construct an observation platform within the trees! What makes this platform different from your typical observation tower? Rather than using pre-cut wood as our foundation, which quickly deteriorates in tropical regions, we chose to secure the platform on a healthy living tree. The use of a living base not only minimizes our presence, it also provides greater resistance to environmental factors such as humidity, rain, fungus, and termites that can threaten the stability and safety of the platform. With this new observation site established, we can broaden our monitoring efforts and learn more about our canopy residents!  

Here’s our Recognition List of People on the project who helped make this dream possible! THANK YOU!!!! 

  • Scouting Crew-->Shari, Violaine, Sloane, Luisa
  • Disarming of old tower/material transport--> Hannah, Laura, Clara, Emily
  • Material Transport/Platform Set-up--> Asa, Zhen
  • Securing Foundation/Varnishing/Accessorizing-->Amar, Ines, Ana

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Agroforestry

Notice how much more ground is visible in the bottom picture than the top. The large green

bushlike plants are the invasive kudzu we have begun to eliminate.

 

 Many plants in the agroforestal system, like this coffee, have begun to produce fruit which we recollect.

 

This month we focused more on our agroforestal system, since plant growth increases during the rainy season. The volunteers helped us eliminate kudzu, an invasive plant species that was taking both sun and nutrients away from our other plants. We combed through every square-inch of the garden and took an inventory of all our plants. This enabled us to create an agroforestal plot now made available for future use. Now that we knew how much extra space we had in the garden, we were able to collect and plant other useful fruits such as pineapple, star fruit, mango, sugarcane, and several palm tree fruits. The volunteers played a significant role in the addition of over 100 new plants!

We went around Lake 1 to gather orchids and bromeliads to bring them back to Panthera and plant them behind the swamp. Both orchids and bromeliads are epiphyte plants, meaning they can grow and live on other plants. While most orchids lack smell, we have managed to find 2 different species whose flowers omit a beautiful, sweet smelling fragrance. Found in areas near the orchids, bromeliads are capable of supporting their own aquatic ecosystem. Small creatures including frogs, crabs, and salamanders reside in these plants because it provides them with a permanent water source especially during the jungle’s dry period. Our goal in planting orchids and bromeliads behind the swamp is to expand both plant an animal diversity within Panthera’s land. The more biodiversity within Panthera, the more protected they will be from negative human impact from tree logging, goldmining, and hunting.

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High Terrace (highland) rainforest

Since September, our efforts to find high terrace rainforest had proven to be quite complex. The difficulty of navigating through the aguajal behind Lake 2 took up large amounts of time and forced us to retreat various times back to Panthera due to limited daylight hours. However, we decided to set up a campsite and spend the night at Lake 2 so we could extend our length of expedition time. After spending a couple hours crossing a kilometer of flooded aguajal, we finally reached dry land which was immediately followed by a steep incline. This 20-25 meter incline indicated the apparent change in elevation from the aguajal to the crest of the high terrace rainforest. This forest contained different species of plants than those in lowland, a strong smell of animal life accompanied by numerous amounts of their trails, and permanent water sources. These quiet streams and small pools of water trickling down the hill were cold, clean, and crisp. Our goal for the future is to camp in this high terrace rainforest so we may explore more of the area. We hope to find both flora and fauna residing exclusively in high terrace, as well as more permanent water sources.

 

Alexandra Lopez

 

 

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Herpetological Monitoring and the Discovery of an Abandoned Gold-mining Site

 

As the frequency of rain increased, so did our chances of finding frogs and snakes. We were able to spot and catch at least 1 snake each during our snake and frog monitoring. A variety of frogs were also collected, due to the many pools of water created by the rain where these amphibians chose to congregate. Since our monitoring takes place at night, we put any snakes or frogs we found in their own enclosures and identify them the next day. We use an identification key to figure out the exact species of an animal while also teaching volunteers how to use it.

On an excursion through the forest, we decided to take one of our less explored paths. This day we unexpectedly came across an abandoned gold mining site. The site is of particular interest to us because gold mining is illegal unless it is done on land that has received authorization. We took pictures of the gold mined area and searched for other places where more mined areas could be. We were unable to find any others.

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Coffee Party

 

    

   

Top right: raw bean after extraction and drying process

Top left: toasting raw beans in pan (notice bean color changes)

Bottom right: toasted beans put through coffee grinder

Bottom left: ground coffee from the toasted beans

*For coffee plant images, refer to January Blog

 

This month was an explosion in coffee production! In order to harvest the coffee, volunteers helped pick the ripe red coffee cherries from the trees. After all the fruit was collected, it was dumped into a large bucket of shallow water where it sat for 24 hours. Since the coffee bean is the seed of the fruit, we must extract it from its encasing. Soaking the fruits in water softens the flesh, allowing the seed removal process to be quicker and more efficient. After all the beans were isolated, they were set out on a flat surface and left in the sun. During the course of a few days, the drying process of the beans was routinely checked on by the volunteers. Once the beans had completely dried, they were brought inside. They now were ready to be toasted over fire. While the beans were toasting, we explained how raw coffee beans are essentially both odorless and tasteless before they are cooked. Within ten minutes, the familiar aroma of coffee began to fill the room. When the beans had toasted, they were ground up and stored in an air-tight container. Those who participated in the activity were finally able to taste the coffee they had made from start to finish!

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Artificial Bullet Ant Nest

 


 In an attempt to study the nest structure and behavioral patterns of Bullet Ants, we constructed a hand-made glass terrarium that would be used as our official ant nest. After the glass case was assembled, it was filled by volunteers with buckets of various soil types. These different layers were deliberately added to mimic the composition of the forest floor. Next, we located a Bullet Ant nest within the forest and transferred the individuals from their original nest to the artificial one we had constructed. The Bullet Ants accepted their new home in the glass case and have constructed their intricate tunnels which we are fortunately able to view. We hope to construct an additional glass terrarium that will be connected to the artificial nest by a tube. The new terrarium will be used as a foraging ground for the ants. This would be a safer and easier way for us to feed them while also stimulating and maintaining their hunting instincts.

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Caiman and Mammal Monitoring

Caiman and Mammal Monitoring

 The caiman monitoring project was officially launched with its primary focus on black caimans, although the research has been extended to include two additional species (Schneider’s Dwarf and Spectacled) currently inhabiting the region as well. Lake 1, Gamitana Stream, and the Madre de Dios River are the three sites where monitoring takes place.

 

Later in the month, a partial image of a jaguar was successfully captured on the game camera. This image provides concrete evidence of jaguar presence in the area, especially in places near the aguajales. 

 

Alexandra Lopez

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*For previous entries of the blog, please refer to the French version of the website. You can use the Google translation provided at the top of the page.

Virgin Lake Exploration

This month we managed to bring an expedition boat to explore and navigate the waters of Lake 2 since our first discovery of its existence in February. Only the left side of the lake was able to be explored since a fallen tree had blocked the entrance of the right channel. In contrast to Lake 1’s clear black water, the coloration of this particular body of water takes on a murky red hue. It remains uncertain as to what is present in the water that makes it this color.

 

An adult black caiman with an estimated size of about 4 meters (13.2 feet) has been spotted on multiple occasions during the daytime although two other juveniles have been seen only once. Despite it questionable water consistency, the second lake supports a large amount of fish, thus providing a suitable habitat for these crocodilian dwellers as well as other biodiversity.

Alexandra Lopez

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Game Camera footage of Giant River Otters

Giant River Otters at Lake 2

With the fluctuating water level of the second lake, we were able to bypass the fallen tree trunk and explore the right channel. On this side of the lake we were very fortunate to find an area of dry land along the bank containing the excrement of giant river otters, thus indicating their presence at the lake. Giant river otters are endangered and exist in small numbers outside protected reserves. Later in the month a game camera was installed on this exact spot where both image and video footage of a group of 7-8 Giant River Otters were obtained. Furthermore, satellite imaging reveals that this site is connected to high terrace rainforest. In the near future we hope to find a way to access this high terrace rainforest since this type of terrain is known to have a biodiversity much different than that of the lowland rainforest.

Alexandra Lopez

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Discovery of a New Lake

Lake 3 Discovery!

A body of water we gave the name of lake 3 was found on the east side of the sanctuary using satellite imaging. Here we discovered an adult black caiman of around 3 meters (10 feet) that appeared to be completely unafraid of our presence. This particular caiman was confirmed to be a female defending her nest on a small island opposite from where we were standing. Since nest building and egg laying takes place between October and November, females tend to be more irritable around those who venture near her nest. Our objective is to evaluate the eggs and construction of the female’s nest. However, we must first create a safe and effective way of doing so without scaring the female or disturbing the natural state of the nest.

 

 

Alexandra Lopez

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