Bio-diversity Research

Ornithology

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Since Taricaya was founded in 2001 we have been studying the birds of the reserve to gather information of this group as indicators of ecosystem health. With expert ornithologists on site, we have intensively collected data over the years using 3 different methods: (1) fix point observations at different stations around the reserve to study bird behavior, numbers and climate; (2) mist nets at different stations for bird banding to study population dynamics, impact and seasonality of migrants, behavioral traits and much more; (3) opportunistic sightings when we are working on other activities in the forest; which has allowed us to learn a huge amount about the birds of the reserve and we have even registered species not thought to be found in the area.

There are hundreds of specific relationships between birds and other animals and plants and the presence or absence of these bird species reflects directly on the ecosystem. We must continue to analyze and process the data and design sound conservation strategies, monitoring the reserve and our bird populations, as they can tell us a lot about everything else happening in the forest.

  • Transect maintenance: Clean and clear the areas for bird monitoring.
  • Bird Observations: Take an early morning and late afternoon walks to our platforms. Use binoculars and the bird guide to help identify the species of birds you can see during your watch. Fill out the data sheet.
  • Bird banding: Help the staff in charge of the project to set the nets in the different stations. Spend a full day in a station with open nets to capture birds for bird banding and identification. Fill out the data sheet.
  • Sightings: When in other activities take a notepad, pencil and camera in case you encounter any species of birds you can photo register.
  • Data processing: Work in the lab in passing the data to the computer for analysis.

About our bird diversity:

  • We have compiled a list of 481 species of bird for the reserve. This is close to the world record for an area of less than 500 hectares.

About Fix Point method:

  • The fix points are observation platforms in different habitats and canopy levels.
  • One of the fix points is the CANOPY WALKWAY, observation platform at 45m on top of an ancient kapok tree, highest in South America and accessed from the ground by a 90m long hanging bridge.
  • This method has allowed us to identify which birds are common in certain types of forest.

About Mist Nets method:

  • In an initial study of 12 weeks over 6 months we caught and banded 512 birds.
  • We joined forces with CORBIDI, an international bird organization, and using their coded bands we have now caught and released close to 2000 birds.
  • Biometric data, GPS coordinates, habitat type and age has been recorded for every individual captured.
  • In total we have logged over 20,000 mist netting hours.
  • Because of our amazing bird diversity, we have hosted three international bird banding courses at the reserve with international experts arriving from all over the world.
  • Taricaya was the first internationally recognized bird banding site in Peru. Our on-going research in one fixed location is unique.

About opportunistic sightings:

  • When a bird is seen and a specialist staff is not on site, volunteers take photos and bring them back to us for identification.
  • A huge sighting has been an adult female Harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja, the biggest bird of prey in South America, and its baby, nesting on a Shihuahuaco tree. This species of bird is a great indicator of a healthy forest.

Mammalogy

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Since Taricaya was founded in 2001 we have been studying the species of non-flying mammals of the reserve to gather information of this group as indicator of ecosystem health. We have collected data over the years using different methods, including census for population abundance, walks looking for tracks/scats for presence-absence.

We have also identified colpas, where mammals feed on clay to help digest unripe food, to monitor the mammals of the reserve. We have systematically identified several such locations and in the larger ones have installed platforms to observe the wildlife.

In the case of rodents and marsupials we have performed several studies using Sherman, Tomahawk and pitfall traps. These traps allow us to catch them for identification and then release.

One important method we use is remote sensor camera surveys. We have been monitoring the area with sensor cameras since 2012 and have captured on film most of the mammal species one would expect to find at the reserve. The information from the camera allows us to identify individuals and record their movements around the reserve to monitor species populations and register increased presence in the reserve.

THIS IS A SEASONAL ACTIVITY

  • Mammal census: Walk along the trails following the methodology to identify and register the mammals in the reserve
  • Sightings: As you walk along the forest look for tracks or any evidence of mammals to determine its presence in the area, note any opportunistic encounter on the field.
  • Traps: Help the staff install the different traps and capture the small mammals for identification. Fill out the data sheet.
  • Data processing: Work in the lab in passing the data to the computer for analysis.
  • Sensor cameras: Take the cameras into the forest and set them at fixed intervals along the trails. Come back to collect the information taken by the camera and process it into the computer. Help clean and maintain the equipment.
  • We have recorded 64 species including 5 feline species, 8 primate species and 21 species of rodent.
  • Indicator species, such as tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) and red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), are present in the reserve and reflect an absence of hunting and represent a balanced ecosystem.
  • Top predators such as jaguars (Panthera onca) and pumas (Puma concolor) are present in the area, these indicate an abundance of prey species which is only possible in a healthy ecosystem. 
  • We had a resident female jaguar called Preciosa at the rescue center and she was visited by 3 different male jaguars in 3 consecutive years. The males did not mind us and moved around the center facilities with no fear. In 2016, the last male became too confident choosing tne ground underneath a staff bungalow as his sleeping site.
  • In alliance with the National Park and the WWK we had the first relocation of a wild animal. The male jaguar was captured from our area and transferred to another area inside the Tambopata National reserve away from human populations.

Herpetology

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Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles. Amphibians are often the first animals to disappear in an area that has been severely impacted and so monitoring their populations and diversity is essential when designing any conservation strategies. Tropical rainforests provide ideal living conditions for amphibians and as reptiles are the main predators of the frogs and toads their presence should be expected also.

Since Taricaya was founded in 2001 we have been studying the amphibian and reptiles of the reserve to gather information of these groups. With our expert herpetologist on site, we have intensively collected data over the years using pitfall traps, night walks and opportunistic encounters.

Currently the herpetology project is on standby but we continue to monitor the species of the reserve in opportunistic encounters. After ten years of research we have a very extensive species list but we must continue to register a high diversity of amphibians to ensure that the ecosystem is healthy.

About the project

  • We have registered 51 species of amphibian and 63 species of reptile: a total of 114 species.
  • We have our own field guide called “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Taricaya Ecological Reserve”

    You can download it HERE

About the methods:

  • Pitfall traps are a standard technique for studying amphibians. Long strips of plastic are staked in the ground along an imaginary line of 30m creating a wall about 40cm high. Every 5m a hole is dug and a bucket placed. Frogs and toads walk into this unnatural barrier and follow it sideways looking for a way around. Whilst following the wall they fall into the buckets and can be collected and studied the following day.
  • Night walks are excellent for studying and capturing both amphibians and reptiles as strong flashlights can be used to search for the reflective shine from their eyes. Membranes covering the retina shine brightly in direct light and enable us to capture them more easily.
  • Opportunistic encounters: Volunteers and staff always carry plastic bags when covering the reserve’s extensive trail system and animals are brought back to the lodge for identification before being released in the same area.

Bats (Chiropterology)

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Bats have an essential role to play in the ecosystem of the tropical rainforest as predators, pollinators and seed dispersers. The study of this group is essential and their presence and population numbers can provide us with an excellent indicator of the health of the ecosystem.

With an expert chiropterologist on site, we have been studying the bats of the reserve using mist nets in different stations around the reserve. Sampling has been performed from the ground level up to a height of 6m and every individual is photographed and bio-metric data taken before release.

We have also designed pioneering methods to get mist nets higher up into the mid-canopy and tree tops and sample more elusive species. 

During the day we also walk the trails looking for bat roosting sites and nests. Very little is known about the life history of many tropical bat species and we are investigating factors such as preferred tree species for nesting, feeding habits and seasonal variations and population dynamics.

THIS IS A SEASONAL ACTIVITY

  • Help the staff set the mist nets to be opened at night and catch bats. Help fill out the data sheet.
  • Follow the staff in search of roosts and nests during the day.
  • In Taricaya we have recorded 67 species of bats, 6% of all known species on the planet, which is big for our area making us true biodiversity hot spot for this group.
  • Bats tend to have a bad reputation among local people because of the wrong idea that all bat are vampires (blood sucking animals as Dracula). This is totally far from the truth. Most bats eat fruit, insects or fish.
  • Two species of fishing bat (Noctilio leporinus and N. albiventris) found in the reserve where part of a program researching mercury pollution from gold mining activities. Mercury levels in captured individuals was measured as they feed primarily on fish and are excellent indicators of the mercury levels in the environment reflecting levels of pollution.
  • We work together with the Bat Conservation Program of Peru (PCMP for its initials in Spanish) to raise awareness about the importance of these animals for the ecosystems and to help people change the misconception of bats for their conservation.

Entomology

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The tropical rainforest is home to hundreds of thousands of insect species, if not millions, and biologists discover and record new insect species daily. Effective conservation strategies should consider the importance of insects.

In 2014 at Taricaya we started to project to study this group. With our expert entomologist on site we have collected specimens using 2 methods: manual captures on walks along the trails using plastic containers and nets and pitfall traps, simply designed with small containers buried in the ground to catch terrestrial insects.

The collected animals are brought back to the laboratory where they are identified using classification keys and one of each species is mounted using entomological pins for future reference. This methodology is essential as the classification of insects is incredibly difficult. One can open a book on butterflies and see photos of hundreds of species that appear identical to the naked eye. By producing a collection of individuals that have been successfully identified we can speed up the classification process with recaptures.

THIS IS A SEASONAL ACTIVITY

  • Insect walk: Follow the staff in charge of the project with containers and nets to catch the insects you can find along the way.
  • Lab work: Help the staff mount and identify the specimens collected.
  • Data input: Help process data into the computer.
  • To date we have identified 508 species from 12 different orders and 96 families.
  • This includes butterflies of which we have 281 registered species and dung beetles of which we have identified 34 species.
  • Insects are important as prey, pollinators, disease vectors (important natural biological controls) and predators within the forest ecosystem and birds, amphibians, reptiles, plants and mammals all rely on insects in some way.

Botany

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The plant diversity in the Amazon rainforest is overwhelming. Estimates claim that one hectare of jungle can be home to over 3,000 different species of plants. In 2009, we studied the plant diversity inside the reserve with an expert botanist. For a hole year we collected periodically specimens from different habitats located within the reserve (sterile samples, flowers, fruits and seeds) to take into the laboratory for processing and identification. Also, several tree samples were marked around the reserve and were evaluated on a monthly basis to discover the phenological state (life cycle) of the species to determine a pattern for flowering and fruiting respectively.

Another study of timber species was developed with a forestry engineer a few years later. All around the reserve we identified and marked 4 important tree species with commercial value for timber. Also, as part of the Spider monkey reintroduction program, a plant study related to the fruit trees that are part of their diet was developed. Trees that are known to be food for this species of monkey and many other wildlife where identified and marked to assess the fruit production and food availability of the forest for wildlife.

We must resume the investigation to expand our knowledge of the plant diversity within the reserve, to evaluate, analyze and understand patterns of forest behaviour, productivity and processes of regeneration and determine the ancestral value and use of plants, etc. In this way, we can apply forest management techniques designed for long-term conservation of the rainforest.

THIS IS A SEASONAL PROJECT

  • Plant walk: Walk along the trails to identify plants with a specific use or value following a local expert.
  • Tree marking: Revisit the marked trees to renew or fix the information tag and take data on the tree.
  • Plant collection: Take samples of specimens from the forest and take to the Lab for processing and identification.
  • We have 257 species identified- 185 angiosperms (flowering plants), 24 pteridophytes (ferns) and 48 mycophytes (ferns).
  • A “matero” is a local person with knowledge of the plants in the rainforest. We have received his help to identify many species of plants within the reserve.
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