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sábado, 1 de noviembre de 2014

"Futuro Paraguayo"

On the 22nd of October, 30 teenagers from the San Blas High School were invited to the reserve to take part in the first session of “Futuro Paraguayo” – Para La Tierra’s new natural science children’s club. Jorge and I are extremely lucky at the moment to have the assistance of PLT’s first community outreach intern, Vivi Magistra. Since Vivi arrived at the start of October we have carried out 3 lessons in Santa Barbara primary school (our current visits happening every second Monday) and a visit to the San Blas (two high school and three primary school classes). Last Wednesday marked the beginning of our new program that Vivi hopes to also offer to the children of tourists during the summer season. The day prior to the teenagers visit was spent planning. Our goal was to show the students as much of the reserve as possible and also take the opportunity to show off the PLT Natural History Museum providing a chance to see specimens of the reserves varied wildlife. All of the interns were roped into the preparations including: creating tokens of animals and collecting material from different habitats, opening pitfall traps in the Atlantic Forest, setting Sherman traps in the Cerrado, catching small fish in the lake and making sure GPS and camera batteries were charged. Everyone went to bed extremely early that night, though sleep did not come easily!! The next morning we woke at 05:30 to finish preparations. We were ready by 07:30 and thankfully had time to gulp some tea or coffee and at 8am we received the call – the students had arrived. Jorge welcomed the students to the reserve in the local language of Guarani. Everyone looked extremely excited as he explained how the day would work: the students would be split into three groups and each group would take part in an activity in a different part of the reserve. Between each activity there would be a 10-minute break where we would provide cold juice and then the groups would rotate. Activity one was lead by Jorge. He took the children on a tour of the museum, explaining the importance of the collection and showing examples of some of the species found in Laguna Blanca. One of the highlights for the children had to be the demonstration of scorpions under a blacklight (they glow bright green!) and the HUGE male and female tarantulas that Olga had caught in her pitfall traps. Outside the museum a game had been set up with four trays, each representing one of the reserves habitats: the lake, the Atlantic Forest, the Cerrado and the Transitional Forest. The children were given small animal tokens and had to match the species with its habitat. The museum tour ended with an explanation of the importance of camera trapping and Jorge then took the group for a walk down Arroyito trail and demonstrated how to set up a camera trap in the field. Vivi was in charge of Activity two: pitfall traps and GPS training. This activity began on the beach with a demonstration of how to use the handheld Garmin GPS units. The children were then given GPS’s and instructions to use them to reach a point (Destino 1) that had been marked the night before. For the first group, enthusiasm took over and they ended up completely lost in the seasonal pond! However, in the end all three groups made it to their destination: an open pitfall trapline. Vivi then explained how to install and check a pitfall trap, what creatures you can expect to catch and why you have to be cautious in case of catching spiders, scorpions or even a venomous snake! As I spend most of my days wandering around the Atlantic Forest it was a nice change of scenery for me to take Activity three: Sherman trapping in the Cerrado. We walked out to the Cerrado where Sherman traps had been laid the night before. I explained the use of Sherman traps and the importance of studying small mammals, using the Clyomys laticeps as an example. I then gave a short explanation of the importance of studying habitat as well as animal behavior and demonstrated the use of a quadrat before the children got to have a shot of throwing it. After each group had taken part in each activity we returned and they completed a short exam. Overall the answers were excellent and showed that everyone had not only been listening carefully during each activity but that they were also thinking for themselves and beginning to understand the importance of conserving Laguna Blanca. Overall, the day was a huge success thanks to the hard work of everyone involved and we look forward to bringing the high school children back to the reserve in November! Until next time, Becca