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lunes, 18 de febrero de 2013

Where’s the Snow and Cold Weather?

On December 29, 2012, I was at the peak of mountain waiting to drop in on the slope with my snowboard. There was low visibility due to the blowing snow and the air temperature was approximately -20°C. Despite this, I inched forward over the edge and began my downhill ride. Fast forward six days and I found myself waiting at the bus terminal in Asuncion, Paraguay, sweating and having a hard time coping with the 35°C weather. Leaving the cold, Canadian winter and arriving in the humid, Paraguayan summer can be a difficult transition for a Canadian. However, I was still ambitious to see my new home at Laguna Blanca. The Para La Tierra staff and the local people working at the nearby resort greeted me with a warm welcome despite that I did not understand any Spanish and Guarani, which is the local dialect. For the next two months at Laguna Blanca, I unknowingly would have one of the best experiences in my life. By being a volunteer for Para La Tierra, I got to participate in many different projects occurring throughout the three different habitats: the cerrado, transitional forest, and Atlantic forest; which are all situated within the reserve boundaries. However, most of my time here was spent in the transitional forest setting up trail cameras deep within the understory to get photographs of the elusive little spotted cat and other rare mammalian species. Most of the camera images I retrieved were of shrubs moving in the wind, agoutis, armadillos, and cottontails. Despite this on-going disappointment and hoping for some rare animal, the trail cameras finally captured some breaking images. Three white-collared peccaries got their photographs taken. This was exciting because this particular species has not been seen in the reserve since 2005 and were believed to be extirpated from the area. Besides the camera trapping, I had many other highlights. The one morning, the primatologist and I were fortunate enough to see the local group of Capuchin monkeys within minutes of entering the South Atlantic forest. It was amazing to see the monkeys jumping from one tree to the next, and we also witnessed an infant holding onto its mother’s back. The museum curator and I got to catch small opossums in the transitional forest using Sherman traps, capture lizards using pitfall traps, and collect insects that were attracted to a spotlight. I also joined three marine biology students on the lake, and assisted with the capture of some fish using gillnets. In particular, I got to remove snapping piranhas tangled in a gill net. However, my favourite highlight at Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca was holding a white-winged nightjar in my hands. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a critically-endangered species sitting there in front of you. Although, I am sure that the nightjar was not feeling the same enjoyment as I was. When I was off the reserve, I got to celebrate a Paraguayan girl’s 15th birthday party. It was fun drinking with the staff, interns, and other volunteers at the party. Particularly, it was funny to witness the local men attempting to buy a dance with the female staff members by persuading the guys at Para La Tierra with beer. Secondly, everyone from Para La Tierra, including myself, had the opportunity to see Carnival in Encarnacion, Paraguay. It was a great time seeing the women in the parade, and having numerous spray foam fights in the VIP booth. Carnival is a must-see event if you visit Paraguay during January and February. If you plan to volunteer or become an intern for Para La Tierra, I would like to recommend a few things. First, participate in every Para La Tierra project and join the local people in some of the Paraguayan customs. Try something new and out of your element. You are guaranteed to acquire a wide range of valuable field skills and to maximize your Paraguayan experience if you do. Secondly, keep a journal. Your friends and family would like to hear about your Paraguayan adventure. Lastly, have some fun and make some new friends. I met people from different parts of the world, and I had a fun time hanging out with each individual. Even though this blog was a brief summary of my Paraguayan experience, I am sure whoever joins Para La Tierra will also have a great time! Adam Moltzahn – Canada 2013 Para La Tierra Volunteer

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