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sábado, 27 de octubre de 2012

It’s good, no great, to be back!

Well helllooooo Para La Tierra, Man it’s good to be back and it is SO DAMN HOT! Anyone who has been following this blog will know that I’ve not been around for a while now as I “popped” (ha! 68 hours door to door if you fly from Rio!) back to the UK for a summer of visiting friends, family and festivals. And it was amazing but is now a distant memory as I settle back into life at Laguna Blanca. You’d think after two months away that there would be a gentle ease back into life at the reserve. How naive! It’s been all go from the word, well, go. I had a lovely group to arrive home to; Ruby who is undertaking a bat inventory, Grant studying beetle parasites, Georgia our primate intern and Airell a general volunteer who is getting involved in everything, are all here with myself, Joe and Jonny. And in the last few days Jacqui a primate team volunteer has also joined our group. Within days, nay, hours of my return we had a group of 15 students come and stay. They were from FaCEN; the biology department of the university in Asuncion and were here for two nights camping in front of the house and cooking over an open fire. The group had teams studying three taxa; butterflies, herps and bats, and on their only night of trapping the bat team caught a new species for San Pedro Department Lasiurus blossevilli, much to Ruby’s frustration! On Saturday night we joined the group for a bonfire and bilingual game of charades which I have to say was surprisingly successful, even if my team didn’t win! The FaCEN haven’t been the only group to come and stay. Paul Smith our Scientific Co-ordinator has just been for an overnight visit with 12 tourists. One of Paul’s other jobs is to host tours through Fauna Paraguay ( and because the avian fauna in particular is so diverse here, he often visits with groups of birdwatchers. This was great for us as not only did we get to meet some likeminded people we also took a trip up to the White-winged Nightjar land. This is a piece of cerrado north of the reserve is one of the last breeding sites for this critically endangered bird; our flagship species featured on our logo. The breeding site is actually precariously positioned on private land sandwiched between an area of marsh land and a eucalyptus plantation and is probably only still there as the marsh provides a fire break for the plantation. PLT are currently working hard to ensure the continued existence of this site. It was a fantastic experience bouncing over the cerrado at night on the back of the 4x4, using a massive spot light to detect eyeshine from the birds and being able to get near enough to the birds to take close up photographs. The volunteers all agreed it was a great evening. And although our group missed them Paul spotted not one but two maned wolf while he was there. Despite our extreme jealously we are delighted to add this sighting to our species list, especially as this species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. And in other news we are very happy to announce the publication of not one but two scientific papers. “Smith et al (2012) New distributional records of amphibians for Departamento San Pedro, Paraguay (Amphibia)” is a checklist paper of 12 new species of amphibians that we have found since beginning our amphibian inventory and is free to download at or on the PLT website at And “Smith et al (2012) The Didelphimorphia (Didelphidae) of Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca, Departamento San Pedro, Paraguay” is our opossum paper featuring all 6 species of opossum found at the reserve and is published in the most recent edition of Acta zoológica lilloana. And as an extra bonus, this journal chose one of our photographs for the cover picture of their September edition. Fame and fortune awaits! I think that’s all for this time, see you in a couple of weeks folks. Chauuuuuuuuuuuu Helen

domingo, 21 de octubre de 2012

Time Flies

It’s amazing how time flies. Our fearless leader Karina has been on vacation for 3 weeks already and it feels like just yesterday that she was handing over the keys to her office, the master list of arrival and departure dates and telling me with complete seriousness to be careful not to burn the whole place down. The first few days of her being gone definitely felt a bit weird; everything stayed the same, Ruby was still catching bats, Georgia still chasing her monkeys but there was just something missing from the place. It’s just not the same without her, however miraculously we have managed to keep PLT from completely imploding. I have to admit that the thing I disliked the most about Karina not being here was that I had to take over the weekly shopping. Thankfully Helen has recently returned from England and I immediately thrust that responsibility into her lap. She, having had a slightly overextended holiday in England, has come back full of enthusiasm and new ideas. She’s been tilling our garden and we’ve already got a beautiful bench of seedlings popping up out of recycled egg crates and milk cartons. In terms of the scientific progress, Ruby’s bat project has reached its halfway point and she’s caught an amazing amount of bats across 5 different genera and an estimated 8 species since we’ve started. Georgia is less than halfway through her project but has already completed an entire transect line of vegetation sampling and found at least one of the capuchins sleeping sites (The capuchins announced their displeasure of being awoken in the middle of their sleep by throwing their feces down from the tree tops to display that even monkeys can wake up on the wrong side of the bed/tree). Airell has been integral to both projects, helping Georgia on her late night forest treks and helping Ruby with preparing the bats that have been caught. He’s also spent a lot of time macheteing in the Atlantic Forest and trapping for opossums in the Transitional forest. On another note, I’m sure that the majority of you were aware that October 1st was International Bat Conservation Day and to celebrate such an important day Ruby, the forest guards and I went to teach a lesson in the local elementary school. We prepared a “A to Z, of Bat Facts,” powerpoint and Jorge did a fantastic job presenting it in a mixture of Spanish and Guarani. We finished the lesson with a craft where the students traced their hands on a piece of paper and cut and pasted them onto paper bat bodies. The lesson ended with the whole class flapping their paper bats about the room making high pitched squeaking noises. Happy International Bat Conservation Day to everyone. Joe