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domingo, 23 de junio de 2013

Batty Research

If you didn’t know already, bats are awesome. A few quick facts on bats: Bats are the only flying mammal. The order they belong to, Chiroptera, is the second most diverse order of Mammals in the world. The order contains 20% of all Mammal species, totaling 1240 distinct species. Bats can be split into different feeding guilds based on what they like to eat: insectivores, frugivores, sanguinivores, nectivores, some even eat fish and frogs! Bats vary hugely in size, the smallest (Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat) being about the same size as a human thumb; the largest (Giant Golden-crowned Flying Fox) is 800x the size, weighing 1.6 kilograms with a wingspan of 1.7 meters. Besides the fact that bats are extremely cool, and occasionally extremely cute, the main reason why PLT has decided to focus heavily on them is their importance as habitat engineers. Due to the huge level of diversity, bats contribute to the stability of an ecosystem in many ways. The fruit eating bats help trees disperse their seeds. The insectivorous bats help control insect populations that if left unchecked could wipe out certain species of undergrowth. The ones that drink nectar help pollinate certain flowers. And finally, conservationists rely on bats all around the world as indicator species. Because a healthy bat community relies on insects, fruits, nectar and occasionally frogs to survive, the only place you will find them are in healthy forests with an equal amount of biodiversity to the bat community. Here at Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca we trapped 14 different species and we are confident that there remain more to still be documented. There are 37 bats recorded in Paraguay and very little research has been done on them. UNTIL NOW! Annie Talbot has come to right that egregious wrong. Annie is Masters student working with University of Aberdeen to help PLT (and the rest of the scientific community) find out more about the wonderful creatures we have on site. She will be conducting general sampling across many different habitat types using mist nets. She will also use a bat recorder to document the ecolocation calls of the bats that fly around our heads but escape the nets. If you’ve ever heard that high pitch squeaking echo out from the dark night sky then you have heard a bat use sound to hunt for food. But the majority of the calls are too high frequency for the human ear to pick up. That’s the advantage of the bat recorder, it records on all frequencies and allows us to analyze and identify bats using their calls alone. The other aspect of her project is truly amazing. She has received funding for 10 GPS trackers that we will attach to the backs of a species of bat. With these trackers she will get a huge amount of data. She’ll find out about how they fly, how they navigate, how far they go in a single night, where they roost, what time they wake up and where they go to forage. This methodology has not been used in the past and so she is pioneering a brand new method for studying bat behavior. It is an honor that she chose PLT as her study location and we have high hopes for her project. Joe

martes, 18 de junio de 2013

On the move Para La Tierra

Since the beginning of the New Year, Para La Tierra has been moving and shaking. It all began thanks to the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, who have supported us in turning Para La Tierra into a model conservation organisation in Paraguay. In addition to setting up sustainable community projects and employing local Forest Guards among other things, their belief that we could do it has acquired us a new car – a Wingle 5 – and with it new opportunities. Large parts of Paraguay are still inaccessible, and even by bus travel is very difficult. The Chaco is just one of these places, where holes in the treacherous “road” are only the start of the problem. With our own transport we have been able to make several trips into the “green hell”, snaking our way to the far north of the country, discovering the Chaco’s spectacular views. As you may remember form Joe’s blog at the time, the Chaco is a wild and exciting place, boasting a vast biodiversity of strange and wonderful plants and animals. Within the year, we hope to have a second ecological station located at a beautiful Chaco reserve, and repeat some of the successes we’ve had at Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca in these past three years. More recently we found ourselves in Switzerland, at Rolex Headquarters. We spent four busy days meeting some very impressive people including James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) who recently piloted the first one-man mission to the deepest part of the ocean! We also had the chance to hang out with the equally impressive older laureates including Mark Kendall who has invented a new method of administering vaccine which doesn’t require the use of needles, and Sergei Bereznuk who is working to save Amur tigers in Russia. We also made a new connection with Erika Cuellar, who has dedicated her life to protecting mammals in the Bolivian, Paraguayan and Argentinean Chaco. We then had the privilege of spending our final day at the IUCN headquarters in Geneva, where we met some of the people behind the biggest conservation network in the world. We left Switzerland with hundreds of new ideas and a renewed passion for our work. Back in Paraguay, we are now entirely focused on the growth of Para La Tierra, but to do that we need your help. We are now just over half-way through our Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign to fund a new research station in the Chaco, and thanks to all of you who’ve donated so generously, we’ve already reached our baseline target of £5000. With this amount of money we’ll be able to renovate an existing house, making it ready for volunteers to come, explore and learn about this endangered but little-known world. But we want to do more. With extra funding we’ll be able to build an education program including a public museum helping people to fully appreciate what we are in danger of losing forever. If there’s enough left over, we’ll also be able to develop resources enabling children to get involved in science, training the next generation of conservationists, or just giving them a better chance in life. Please give what you can and we will send you a reward along with our everlasting gratitude. If you can’t or if you’ve already donated don’t despair, you can still help! This week we are running a referrals competition. All you need to do is visit the campaign homepage and click on the facebook, twitter or google+ links below the video. We can track referrals and will award a t-shirt to the person with the most! The current record stands at 15, surely you can beat that! Thanks again to everyone who has got behind us. Let’s get Para La Tierra moving once more – get clicking! Karina