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lunes, 25 de noviembre de 2013

UPDATE: Primate News

The 20th November 2013 turned out to be a very exciting day for the Primate Team at PLT. We are very happy to confirm for the first time that there are two separate groups of Azara’s capuchins (Sapajus cay) living in the reserve’s Atlantic Forest fragment and there are still Black and Gold howler monkeys inside the reserve. The Primate Team right now consists of two volunteers (Anna, Ireland and Johanna, Sweden), one intern (Christina, Denmark) and myself. We had been searching without luck for just over a week but this is the nature of working with such small, fast, arboreal animals so we didn’t loose faith and we persevered. And it was worth it! As we walked through the forest I looked up. There they were: three adult capuchins in the trees about 250m to our left. As we ran to the next fork in the trails a small juvenile scuttled up the tree right in front of us. Christina and I took one trail and Anna and Johanna circled round on another. After following the monkeys for about half an hour we walked back to find the others, heard a rustle and saw the silhouette of a monkey off to our left. As we watched, the monkey began to move from behind the branches and my suspicions were raised – it was enormous. Then as it walked out onto an exposed branch I realized why: we were looking at a female howler monkey! Then just when I thought the morning couldn’t get any better I received a phone call from Griselda. She asked me if I had found the monkeys because she was watching loads of them (6) cross the road. I said yes we had found them to which she replied “ok so you are in the south forest”. We weren’t. We were in the north, roughly a kilometer from where she was watching more capuchins. Confirmation for the first time that there is more than one family group living in Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca!! Come and join us in Paraguay and learn about primatology through field work with these amazing creatures – www.paralatierra.org/volunteer

miércoles, 20 de noviembre de 2013

Party Time for Chickens!

One of the main aims of Para la Tierra is to support the communities closest to Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca. The biggest community outreach project that we run is the Female Empowerment Project. Funded by the Rolex Award for Enterprise, this project provided three communities surrounding the reserve with chicken houses (gallineros) and incubators. The purpose of this project is to give the women of the communities a chance to financially contribute to their families through raising and selling chickens. To raise money to push the project forward PLT and the communities of San Jorge and San Fransisco threw a party in San Jorge. After two weeks of careful planning Saturday the 16th of November finally arrived – and it was pouring with rain. We patiently waited out the morning, fingers and toes crossed that the rain would stop. By 1pm the rain seemed to be beginning to fizzle out and Karina, JP, Jorge and myself headed out to San Jorge to begin to set up for the football tournament. After dropping off Karina and JP, Jorge and I began the first of several runs to collect everything necessary for the party. The first stop was San Fransisco to collect the women and lots of ice! Then it was back to the reserve for the cool boxes for the beer. While waiting for the guards to load the boxes I received a phone call for Karina. Due to the rain no one had turned up for the football and it was time to call up the troops! Mike, Greg and Nathan were loaded into the back of the car with the cool boxes and we raced back to San Jorge. Teaming up with JP the boys began the football tournament. Slowly but surely people began to show up. Karina and myself headed back to the reserve to bring the girls and by the time we returned there was a small game going on. Karina and I set up the bar while Jorge and Antonio began the beer sales at the side of the football game. After an hour of playing in the heat and humidity the boys had attracted a crowd of 20-30 people and when the game was over they returned to the bar extremely red-faced, dirty and sweaty but having had a great time! The boys left to shower and we were hit by hurdle number 2 – the man we had hired to bring a giant speaker system and run the music for the party refused to come because of the rain. With the party teetering on the edge of cancellation Karina came to the rescue and negotiated that a man from the neighboring house bring his small speaker system and we use that. When this wasn’t loud enough Griselda and I raced back to her house to bring her sound system. Everything was set. The rain had stopped. We held our breath and waited for people to arrive. As we waited we noticed motorbikes pulling up, and then leaving again. Now the volunteers really stepped up and saved the day. With no-one else on the dance floor the group got up and started the party! Anna, Kath and Vicki stood at the door selling beer to attract people inside, Johanna, Nathan, Greg, Christina and Mike danced with the local children and by 10pm the party was bouncing. The volunteers and JP danced the night away while Karina, Jorge and myself ran the bar and Conce DJ’ed. Bingo and a raffle broke up the party and gave everyone a much-needed chance to sit down and cool off. Just when we thought the party was starting to wind down around 2am Mike made the night of the Paraguayans by doing “the worm”. Not to be outdone this quickly escalated into a dance off. Girls vs boys. Karina and me against Mike and one of the Paraguayan guys. The boys went first and as we watched we knew we had no chance but we went for it anyway! As we hit the floor, the music stopped! A rather embarrassing but hilarious end to what had been an amazing night. Though the final figures aren’t in yet it is looking like the party was not only a great success in that everyone had a fantastic time but each community has also raised enough money to push the project forward. Thanks again to all our amazing volunteers who made the night. If you want to come out and join in the fun and make a difference while doing it check out www.paralatierra.org. Becca

miércoles, 13 de noviembre de 2013

Encarnacion and Tirol

This past week Greg and I spent a few days in southern Paraguay in the city of Encarnaciόn. The reason for our trip was to visit Paul Smith, PLT’s scientific co-ordinator and founder of Fauna Paraguay. We had collected a few interesting species of frogs at Laguna Blanca that needed DNA analysis to determine their species status. While we were in the area we also wanted to explore the city and visit a nearby large tract of near pristine Atlantic Forest at Hotel Tirol. Greg is our new butterfly intern at RNLB. He is full of enthusiasm and has an outstanding gift to draw illustrations of wildlife from photographs. He decided that it would be great to join me on the trip to firstly meet Paul, and secondly to try find some interesting wildlife at Hotel Tirol. Encarnaciόn is a growing city that is on the north shore of the mighty Rio Parana. This is a beautiful river that unfortunately was dammed in the past, destroying a lot of biodiversity. Never the less the city is moving forward and has a lot going for it. The recent development of a promenade and beach is a major attraction, as well as some fine dining and amazing architecture. Once a year in February the city holds a major carnival that attracts people from all over the world. The first two days were spent with Paul. After analysing our frogs with a local Argentinian professor, we decided on a whim to explore a religious sanctuary on the east of the city. The sanctuary has some great views over the river to the Argentinian side. It was a very warm afternoon so wildlife was not plentiful. We did manage however to see lots of Eastern Collared Spiny Lizard (Tropidurus torquatus) on the walls, and a few birds including Hook-billed Kite, Dark-billed Cuckoo and Rufous Gnateater. That evening we were taken to a local marsh to try and find some frogs. The marsh was unfortunately polluted, but even so two species of adaptable frogs called from the reed beds. We watched males of the Dwarf Tree Frog (Dendropsophus nanus) and Purple-barred Tree Frog (Hypsiboas raniceps) trying to attract nearby females. It’s a sad story though knowing what the eventual outcome for this population will be. After getting our fill of the city, it was time to visit Hotel Tirol. Paul accompanied us for a few hours on our first evening. Our main target was to find and photograph the Schmidt’s Stream Frog (Crossodactylus schmidti). This species is only known from a small, fast flowing stream at this one site in Paraguay. We wasted no time, signed into our room, put our bags down and headed for the valley. We were very determined to find this species, and our efforts paid off when three were found within the first hour. These frogs are very sensitive to change. Without the fast flowing, clear water they would have disappeared a long time ago. The next day we spent time searching the grounds around the hotel. There were plenty of butterflies out that kept both of us occupied for hours. We lifted a log along one of the many well defined paths to find a very rare worm lizard (Amphisbaena darwinii) lying beneath it. These worm lizards spend most of their lives beneath the ground surface only getting pushed up after heavy rains. We spent time on the stream trying to find more Schmidt’s Stream Frog’s with no success but we did happen to come across a Sepia Snake (Thamnodynastes strigatus) probably also hunting for the frog that was eluding us. The following morning it was time to pack our bags and prepare for the long journey back home to Laguna Blanca. While waiting for the bus outside the hotel entrance, I saw a teenager across the road throwing a stone into the grass. I instantly ran towards him to see what the boy had found. To my surprise he picked up a huge Black Tegu lizard (Tupinambis merianae) and threw it onto the road. The lizard was badly wounded from the rock, but still tried to get away. I watched as one of my beloved reptiles got kicked continuously and then put under the boy’s bike to finish him off. The whole time the boy had a smile on his face, he seemed proud of his achievement. He tied the Tegu onto the back of his bike and went to show some nearby people that congratulated him. Unfortunately this ioccurs here in Paraguay and in a lot of other places around the world. Many wildlife populations have dropped significantly because of habitat destruction, pollution, overhunting and needless killing. I am not sure what the teenager did with his prize, but it is a scary thought knowing that the dwindling populations of wildlife within the country lie in the hands of youngsters like this. Para La Tierra’s mission is to protect threatened habitats and its inhabitants. We are working hard to try to educate the future generation about the plight of nature and how we can try conserve it in the interest of the local people. Come join us to help us understand this beautiful country that much more so we can make Paraguay a better place for the future. Until next time. JP