Exploring the Amazon with photographer Jessica Suarez

Exploring the Amazon with photographer Jessica Suarez, photo of Jessica SuarezThe morning is cool and a rainstorm seems inevitable today as clouds hang low over Villa Carmen Biological Station. Today is one of my last days as an artist-in-residence with Amazon Conservation and I’m anxious to retrieve my camera trap that I left a month ago in a dip in the trail on one of my favorite hikes. Trail nine is steep, gaining several hundred meters of elevation in under a kilometer. As I hike, macaws and parrots keep me company from tree tops, dropping fruit as they eat and chatter. As soon as I reach 800 meters I suddenly realize that I am hiking through clouds. This section of forest with its tall trees cloaked in mist is just magical. 

I make my way up to the small mirador and watch as waves of clouds move through the space obscuring and then revealing the bluish-green mountains and the confluence of rivers below. I spend time filming for my 360 video project, attaching the camera to trees hoping to relay the experience of this special scene. My primary project for my artist-in-residency is to pair 360 video with photos, camera trap images, audio and writing to re-create an immersive experience of what it’s like to be in the Amazon rainforest. As David Attenborough says, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no will care about what they have not experienced.” My hope is that this project will help others experience a bit of this amazing rainforest that has completely besotted me.

Exploring the Amazon with Jessica Suarez, Margay cat
Margay captured on a camera trap April 4, 2017, trail 9, Villa Carmen Biological Station.

As I sit and spend a few more moments absorbing the beauty of this place, a mixed flock of birds flit between branches above me. I start photographing them and identify stunning Paradise tanagers, and even a Masked tanager, a new bird for me! Finally, I wind my way down from the mirador to the dip to discover what wildlife my camera trap has seen over the past month. I can hardly wait to hike back to the station to see what images will emerge.

As I return to my cabin, the wind has picked up and thunder rumbles nearby. I quickly cover my backpack and pull out my rain jacket and as I descend the trail, the rain arrives refreshing and clean. Halfway down the trail I hear the familiar whimper of capuchin monkeys. One large fellow eyes me warily before disappearing all the while calling out to his troupe.

Later when I put the camera trap card into the computer, I am swept away with pictures of jaguars, margays, pumas, jagarundis, pacas, agoutis, opossums and giant armadillos. While I hope one day to see some of the animals in person, it is enough to know they are out there, walking these same trails I did, protected and safe. 

New conservation area established: Over 11,000 acres of forest protected

An area equivalent to over 8,000 football fields in the heart of the Amazon rainforest is now protected. After years of work supporting the Association of Young Conservationists of Alto Pilcomayo (AJCAP), ACA has helped declare the area of Alto Pilcomayo in the Peruvian Amazon as a protected conservation area.

What makes this new conservation area unique is that it is not owned by a single individual, but rather by the AJPAC association, an organization devoted to conserving the area. Alto Pilcomayo is now a territory where anyone in the AJPAC association can carry out conservation, research, and educational projects in the area as long as the purpose of those projects is to protect the biological diversity in the rainforest.

Alto Pilcomayo is located to the east of the city of Cusco, where the Andes mountains meet the Amazon rainforest. Many endemic species, such as woolly monkeys, Spectacled bears, and many species of amphibians, live in the forest. In addition, a wide variety of orchids bloom here. This area is also a crucial water source to 5,000 people living in the nearby valley of Kosñipata.