Camera Traps: Continuing the Monitoring of Forest Health

Tapir Camera Trap
Tapir photographed with camera trap

Our camera trap efforts at Santa Rosa de Abuná are part of our larger camera trap initiative to monitor biodiversity in the Amazon. To date, we have recorded well over 10,000 photos and videos from our camera traps, which enable us to track the presence of a variety of fauna including large, predators like jaguar, that are indicators of a healthy ecosystem.

Some of the species captured on our 76 camera traps at Santa Rosa have an endangered status (Near Threatened or Vulnerable) according to the IUCN Red List, including Jaguars, Giant Anteaters, Tapirs, and Pale-winged trumpeters.

Giant Anteater
Giant Anteater photographed with camera trap

Showing consistent evidence of these species in our conservation area helps demonstrate to governments and others the need to protect the unique biodiversity that lives there. For instance, we have been able to show, through a density analysis of our camera trap efforts, that Santa Rosa and the indigenous territory of Tacana that we protect have a healthy jaguar population of 4.3-6.6 jaguars per every 100km2 (39 miles2).

First Melanistic Jaguar Photographed in Bolivia
First melanistic jaguar photographed in Bolivia


Our camera trap efforts in Bolivia have also caught on camera a jaguar (Panthera onca) with a very unique complexion. The animal is a melanistic jaguar, a color morph which occurs at about 6 percent frequency in populations, giving it an almost “black” look that is a stark contrast to the species normal orange/ brown complexion. This is the first time this type of jaguar has ever been recorded in the entire country of Bolivia.

MAAP #84: New Threats to The Peruvian Amazon (Part 1: Yurimaguas-Jeberos Road)

The efforts and international commitments of the Peruvian Government to reduce deforestation may be compromised by new projects do not have adequate environmental assessment.

Image A: New Yurimaguas-Jeberos road crossing primary forest. Data: Planet
Image A: New Yurimaguas-Jeberos road crossing primary forest. Data: Planet

In this series, we address the most urgent of these projects, those that threaten large areas of primary Amazonian forest.

We believe that these projects require urgent attention from both government and civil society to ensure an adequate response and avoid irreversible damage. For example, in the case below, it is not known whether there is an environmental impact study.

The first report of this series focuses on a new road (Jeberos – Yurimaguas) that threatens a large expanse of primary forest in the northern Peruvian Amazon (see Image A).

Açaí Safety Harnesses Facilitate Harvesting and Save Lives

Promoting forest-friendly livelihoods that are safer, more profitable, and encourage conservation

Omar climbing an acai tree using new safety harnessWe have been working with the açaí and Brazil nut harvesters, who depend on the Santa Rosa de Abuná conservation area for their livelihood, to improve how they locate, gather, and process the forest goods they sustainably harvest. This is a key conservation and community development strategy for providing local people with the incentive to keep forests standing, as many of the globally in-demand fruits and nuts they harvest can only grow in healthy forests – not in large-scale plantations. With this strategy in mind, we help families improve their income by growing their local economies through instituting ecologically sustainable activities that protect the forests they call home.

Açaí harvesters usually climb 10-15 açaí trees a day with heights reaching up to 65 feet to bring down bundles of açaí weighing dozens of pounds – a tiring and dangerous activity. In 2017, we worked hand-in-hand with community members to design and test prototypes of a safety harness that would meet their needs in the field. This year, we built on their experiences from the previous year’s harvest season and improved the design and features of the harnesses. We distributed 90 new climbing safety harnesses to harvesters in five communities of Santa Rosa. The beneficiaries were enthusiastic because the harness is much safer and more efficient to use. All of the harvesters were trained in how to use the equipment and began utilizing them immediately in the current harvesting season.

harvesting brazil nutsThe new harnesses have already proved their value. One of the açaí harvesters, Omar Espinoza, used the new harness to climb a 50-foot high açaí tree, which he does on a daily basis during the harvest season in order to collect the fruit that generates almost all of his family’s income. Due to a misstep coming down the tree with a heavy branch of açaí in hand, Omar fell from a height of about 40 feet, head first. Thanks to one of the features in our safety harnesses – aptly called a “life line” – he was stopped from hitting the ground and just dangled from the harness instead. His head was just a few feet from the ground. Using the harness he had before this project would have meant a certain fall. Had it not been for this new equipment, he would have faced severe and debilitating injuries or possibly, death.

“This is a dangerous job, and there have been many accidents,” Tomás Espinoza, Omar’s dad, says. “No one knows it but us. At times we feel like we have been forgotten by the rest of the country. It’s good to have the support of [Amazon Conservation].”

Omar climbing an açaí trip using the new safety harness. The striped lifeline saved his life once already.

Global Big Day 2018: Peru won second place, but we set some records ourselves!

Birds are stunning animals, and are able to bring groups of people together to share the same passion: birdwatching! On May 5th, I experienced perhaps one of the most exciting and inspiring events of my life. From the organization, advertising and planning of more than 500 teams and more than a thousand of people throughout Peru, to the enthusiasm and big expectations of our team at Los Amigos. This Global Big Day (GBD) triggered a competitive, healthy contest among countries, regions, cities and remote locations throughout the world with the incredible objective of increasing the knowledge and valuing birds of all species and the importance of their and their habitats conservation. Peru gained second place globally with 1490 species registered in 24 hours, while Colombia won first place with 1542 species. A difference of only 52 birds!


On May 5, Los Amigos strategy…

Los Amigos has a diverse array of habitats, making this forest a unique place for birdwatching and for any passionate naturalist who is looking for those rare or endemic birds. Due to this mosaic landscape, our team, which was led by three expert birders (read our last note), aimed to cover the largest variety of habitats throughout the Big Day. We started before dawn, splitting our team in two: one group walking through terra firme forest, bamboo patch, and the airstrip, and the other going through floodplain, secondary forest, and Cocha Lobo oxbow lake. Before the sunrise, a thick morning mist covered the enchanted Amazonian forest allowing us to hear the calls of the Barred-forest falcon, Amazonian motmot, while we were also able to appreciate the gorgeous display of a Blue-crowned manakin male, among others. Close to noon, the heat and sunlight was intense (as usual), and was followed by the silence of Amazonian birds. After a quick lunch, we got back to the trails and this time our two teams switched trails covering the same habitats done in the morning plus river edge forest along the Madre de Dios River. The day before the GBD was very rainy, causing the beaches along the river to disappear the following day. Despite that, we were still able to register shorebirds such as the Great egret, the Ringed Kingfisher, and others.

Within less than 452 ha (Los Amigos Biological Station total area), and after more than 13 hours and 20 km walked, we ended our Big Day with a total of 299 bird species, including some noteworthy birds such as the Black-faced cotinga, Pale-winged trumpeters, Long-crested pygmy tyrant, Blue-headed macaws (to check the complete list, check our eBird hotspot in the following link: Proud of our record, we are happy to announce that Los Amigos and its team members (Fernando Angulo and Alex Wiebe) are included among the first 10 Top eBirders in Peru with more than 250 species registered, demonstrating that this place is a real birding paradise. However, more than the numbers and the winners, this past GBD 2018 will be remembered by the passion, cohesion, increasing interest and participation of thousands of Peruvians, including bird guides, biologists, but also citizens not related with this field that got together to support a magnanimous environmental cause. As Fernando Angulo, LABO Advisory Member and team member of Los Amigos GBD, said: “Peruvian birders: we have won ourselves and the objective for this GBD has been surpassed. Peru had registered 160 more species than 2017.”

And we know that we can do more! Keep it up, birders around the world!

MAAP #83: Climate Change Defense: Amazon Protected Areas and Indigenous Lands

Tropical forests, especially the Amazon, sequester huge amounts of carbon, one of the main greenhouse gases driving climate change.

Base Map. Data: Asner et al 2014, MINAM/PNCB, SERNANP, IBC
Base Map. Data: Asner et al 2014, MINAM/PNCB, SERNANP, IBC

Here, we show the importance of protected areas and indigenous lands to safeguard these carbon stocks.

In MAAP #81, we estimated the loss of 59 million metric tons of carbon in the Peruvian Amazon during the last five years (2013-17) due to forest loss, especially deforestation from mining and agricultural activities.

This finding reveals that forest loss represents nearly half (47%) of Peru’s annual carbon emissions, including from burning fossil fuels.1,2

In contrast, here we show that protected areas and indigenous lands have safeguarded 3.17 billion metric tons of carbon, as of 2017.3,4

The Base Map (on the right) shows, in shades of green, the current carbon densities in relation to these areas.

The breakdown of results are:
1.85 billion tons safeguarded in the Peruvian national protected areas system;
1.15 billion tons safeguarded in titled native community lands; and
309.7 million tons safeguarded in Territorial Reserves for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.

The total safeguarded carbon (3.17 billion metric tons) is the equivalent to 2.5 years of carbon emissions from the United States.5

Below, we show several examples of how protected areas and indigenous lands are safeguarding carbon reservoirs in important areas, indicated by insets A-E.