Seven Species Added to Los Amigos Bird List

White chinned swift over the CICA clearing in September 2006: The first record for Madre de DiosIn August-September 2006, fieldwork at ACA Los Amigos research station by Drs. Joseph Tobias and Nathalie Seddon (Oxford University, UK) added seven new bird species to the Los Amigos list. The new species include the Whitebellied Seedeater (Sporophila leucoptera) and the Whitechinned Swift (Cypseloides cryptus).

Both of these sightings were documented with photographs, and represent the first records for the department of Madre de Dios, Peru. Indeed, there is no previous documented Peruvian record of the Seedeater, and the Swift is only known from a handful of specimens (mainly old records from the department of Puno, Peru). Their discovery is just another example of the vast biodiversity of Los Amigos yet to be explored.

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Brazil Nuts as an Economic Alternative

Brazil nut grower opening the brazil nut podsIn July Luz Marina Velarde, Director of our Brazil Nut Program, organized a workshop on sustainable management of Brazil nuts in the Madre de Dios region in Peru. Approximately 50 local Brazil nut growers attended the workshop. Delegates from Brazil and Bolivia were also present.

The purpose of the workshop was to give Brazil nut growers a framework to share experiences and discuss the different techniques they have developed over the past years in their respective communities.

The workshop also helped address issues affecting local communities, such as environmental and social risks and benefits associated with the use of Brazil nuts as an economic alternative. Ms. Sara Hurtado and Mr. Amancio Ibanez, harvesters in the areas of Alegria and Alerta of Madre de Dios, discussed how their lives have improved with the use of Brazil nuts as a sustainable development and economically viable alternative.

In Madre de Dios, Brazil nuts represent more than half a year’s income for thousands of families. ACA promotes regular workshops to increase awareness of the benefits resulting from harvesting Brazil nuts, not only for the community but for forest conservation as well.

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Welcome César Morán! Our New Conservation Director

Photo of Cesar MoranCésar Morán, an experienced Peruvian environmentalist, joins the ACA family as our new Conservation Director starting this month.

César was born in Lima, Peru, and studied Zoology at the La Molina University in Lima. He then pursued a Master’s degree in Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry. César has a vast experience in the environmental conservation field. He developed a hands-on environmental education program at the La Molina University aimed to teach school children in Lima about organic gardening.

Later, he worked for seven years as Project Coordinator for the Machu Picchu Program, a debt-for-nature swap between the countries of Finland and Peru which supported the park in environmental issues. We are delighted to bring him along in our journey and are confident that he will help ACA accomplish major conservation goals. Welcome César!

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Remembering Vanessa Sequeira: A Passionate Conservationist and Member of the ACA Family

Vanessa Sequeira in the Peruvian AmazonOn September 3, 2006, Vanessa Sequeira, 36, a dear friend and former member of ACA was killed in the Brazilian Amazon. She was working on her doctoral research for Costa Rica’s Center for Tropical Agricultural Research. Her dream was to promote programs of sustainable development in the Amazon region. She worked side by side with local communities and helped them develop techniques that would benefit them economically without cutting or destroying the forest. This goal became a priority in her professional and personal life.

She was a passionate conservationist who worked hard to see her dreams come true. When she first joined the ACA family back in 1999, as Field Director of the Brazil Nut Program in Peru, the program had just started. As she took over and assumed many responsibilities, she laid the groundwork for ACA’s advances since. She turned the Brazil Nut Program into a sustainable economic and ecological alternative to ensure the conservation of the Peruvian Amazon. Her legacy in the conservation field and at ACA has been tremendous. Her hard work with the Brazil Nut Program made ACA a worldwide pioneer in the field.

Vanessa was a wonderful person with an incomparable passion for her work. She has left us a valuable scientific, professional and humanitarian heritage. She will always be in the hearts of Brazil nut growers, her colleagues in the environmental community and all of us at ACA. May Vanessa be always remembered with love and respect, and may her legacy continue for decades to come.

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Funding Research Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow

Scientist working at Los AmigosIn 2003, ACA and its Peruvian partner, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA), launched a grant program to support research in the Amazon region. Since then, the program has granted 90 scholarships. All this has been possible due to the generous support of the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.

The main objective of this research grants program is to provide economic assistance to young scientists to conduct research at our Los Amigos station.

There are three grant categories that support field research in pure and applied biology and resource use and related topics:

  1. Grants for Peruvian undergraduate students
  2. Grants for master’s and doctoral students, and
  3. Seed grants or matching grants for post-docs or established researchers.

In 2006 ACA and ACCA awarded 21 grants: 4 to Peruvian undergraduate students, 7 to master’s and doctoral students, and 10 to established researchers at the post-doc level. Research projects conducted by these students include topics on climate change, vegetation inventory, plant-animal interactions, fishes, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, and many others.

Results from this work will help us better understand the Amazonian ecosystems and to develop strategies to help preserve the richest rainforest on Earth. Our research grants represent a significant financial resource for Latin American scientists. Of the 90 grants awarded to date, 54 have been given to Peruvian scientists, 2 to Argentinean scientists, 2 to Brazilian scientists, 2 to Colombian scientists, and 1 to a Mexican scientist.

We are very proud of the research activity and results generated by these grants and hope to continue offering them for many years to come.

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ACA Opens New Research Station in Southern Peru’s Cloud Forest

In June, ACA’s Wayqecha Research Station, located at 2,900 m of elevation in the cloud forest region of Cusco, Peru, opened its doors to researchers from around the world. In the months of July and August alone, Wayqecha hosted 29 different researchers from various American, British and Peruvian institutions, such as University of Florida, University of Missouri, Texas A&M University, and Oxford University.Wayqecha cabins overlooking the Kosnipata Valley

Wayqecha Research Station aims to protect the cloud forest’s biodiversity as it facilitates research which will lead to a better understanding of this ecosystem. Cloud forests receive hundreds of inches of rain every year. Their trees, mosses and soil work as giant sponges capturing the abundant rainfall and then releasing it slowly into a network of small streams and creeks that represent the smallest tributaries of the vast Amazon drainage.

Cloud forests are of critical conservation value for many reasons:

  1. they contain a vast storehouse of species, many of them narrowly endemic
  2. They are among the ecosystems hardest hit by the amphibian extinction crisis
  3. They will serve as natural corridors for plant and animal species pushed uphill by global warming.

At the moment, Wayqecha is ready to receive up to 12 people at a time. The station is equipped with 3 cabins for researchers, a dining room for up to 40 people, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a camping area. Satellite internet and VOIP are also available.

In addition to research in the cloud forest, ACA is actively involved with communities in the region to develop sustainable resource use practices.

We have three projects already in place:

  1. Extraction of essential oils from medicinal plants
  2. Production of high-quality cooking oil from the native Sacha Inchi plant
  3. Production of natural dyes used to color traditional textiles.

The new Wayqecha station is just 175 km from our Los Amigos station in the Amazonian lowlands. Together, research at these sites will provide a full panorama of the biodiversity and climate changes in the Andes-Amazon region.

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