March 6th, 2014
By Gregory McCann, Habitat ID
Ecotourism is a popular growing trend, and this is especially true in tropical countries that have a wealth of biodiversity to offer the interested trekker. Cambodia is no exception. I have been visiting Virachey National Park in northeastern Cambodia for the past five years, but my most recent trip involved a special purpose: setting up 14 motion-triggered camera-traps throughout the park. Without giving away the GPS coordinates, let me say that they are strategically placed in areas where we have a great chance of capturing wildlife images. Sounds like a wonderful plan, right? But there is a problem –how do we check up on the cameras, change memory cards, batteries, clear away foliage that threatens to block the sensors and lenses? Send in the rangers, right? Not so simple.
Pre-trek camera and equipment check. Photo by Greg McCann.
In Cambodia—and in other countries throughout Southeast Asia—national park rangers are in many cases given no budget to go on a multi-day patrol in the forest to fight poachers, let alone to check cameras. These patrols and camera-checks usually have to be paid for by someone else, like a wildlife conservation NGO.
Ranger setting up a camera. Photo by Greg McCann.
The new NGO that I helped start, Habitat ID, sets up camera-traps in neglected “paper parks” in an attempt to prove—using photographs of wildlife—that these parks deserve being treated like “real” parks that receive adequate protection. However, even NGOs have limited budgets, as we do as a new organization. And so we must find a creative way to have the cameras maintained on a sustainable basis. Our answer: ecotourism.
We would like to have ecotourists who trek to Virachey’s beautiful and popular Veal Thom Grasslands essentially pay for the camera-checks. These hearty trekkers (it’s a 6-7 night trek, depending on one’s fitness level and the amount of time they have) would trek to the tourist camp as usual, but with the added bonus of being taken to our camera-trap sites to service the cameras. Not only will these camera-trap ecotourists be able to have a look at what kind of animals are roaming the park when no one is around, but they would also be allowed to download some of the camera-trap photos to keep for themselves and share with friends and family. Best of all, they will know that their participation in this activity furthered the conservation cause in the park, because if it wasn’t for them, those cameras wouldn’t be getting checked for some time.
Having serviced camera-traps in Thailand and Cambodia, I can tell you that checking on these devices in the middle of the jungle is thrilling. Keys come out, camera comes down, memory card is slipped into a device with a monitor, and everyone—rangers, porters, and NGO workers— huddles around brimming with excitement. Except it’s not a group of school kids crowding around the guy with a new comic book but people who have been to the forest many times yet still feel excited to see what kind of animals are prowling around.
We want ecotourists to experience this feeling, and they can do it in the Veal Thom Grasslands and also at the D’darr Poom Chop waterfall camp in the forests north of the grasslands, a location that offers spectacular swimming and the chance to service yet another camera on the upper Gan Yu River. To my knowledge only three Western people have ever seen this place (D’darr), myself included.
Wild pig skull. Photo by Greg McCann.
Ecotourists who trek to the Veal Thom Grasslands will therefore be helping the conservation cause in Virachey. There are other cameras that have been placed in a highly remote area near the Laos border and those take extra days to reach, but we imagine that ecotourists, as hearty as some are, probably don’t want to spend 2 weeks in the jungle. To get those distant cameras checked Habitat ID will raise the money to pay for the ranger’s Daily Supply Allowance (DSA) for the long trek to the international border, a very wild area of spirit mountains, carnivores, and, so they say, the Annamite Mountain Yeti, known locally as the “tek-tek.”
If we obtain photos of tigers or rhinoceros these will be deemed sensitive images and publicity will not be possible. Instead, other NGOs and the Ministry of Environment will be notified. However, we feel that sharing pictures of more common—but equally exciting—animals such as elephants, leopards, clouded leopards, sun bears, and other species is permissible. The fact is that local people know (and have long known) what kind of animals live in the park, approximately where they are, and about how many are still there. NGOs may like to think that they have insider knowledge with their camera-trap images, but the fact is that local people who are in the forest all year round have an excellent idea of what is still out there in terms of wildlife, and we aren’t really telling them something they don’t already know (as much as we might like to think so).
Camera-trap Ecotourism is not something we are trying to patent (indeed, maybe people elsewhere are already doing it). On the contrary, we hope that this can be something that under-funded national parks all around the world can replicate. Creative ways are desperately needed to fund conservation in today’s world, and we hope that ecotourism can be used to pay for various initiatives.
On a final note, not only are the cameras being checked with this ecotourism scheme, but ecotourists are simultaneously paying for rangers to patrol deep into the jungle, which, due to budget constraints, rarely happens. We hope to be reporting back with good news in the future –satisfied ecotourists, serviced cameras, patrolling rangers, and wild animals smiling for the camera.
Our cameras are ready and waiting. Photo by Greg McCann.
Ecotourists can really contribute to conservation. Photo by Greg McCann.
GPS check shows we were just 400 meters from Laos. Photo by Greg McCann.
Rangers setting up a camera. Photo by Greg McCann.
Tourist camp in Veal Thom Grasslands. Photo by Greg McCann.
A camera trap. Photo by Greg McCann.
A view of the river at D’darr Poom Chop camp. Photo by Greg McCann.
D’darr Poom Chop camp. Photo by Greg McCann.
October 31st, 2013
By Simon Bradley and Tammy Mildenstein
It’s Halloween time again, and around much of the world people are decorating with images of ghosts, vampires, witches, black cats, and, of course, bats.
For the superstitious, there may be nothing scarier than the flying foxes of the Philippines, whose 2-meter wingspans make them the largest bats in the world!
In keeping with a popular fear and mistrust of nocturnal animals, Philippine flying foxes (which are actually fruit bats) are associated with a rogue’s gallery of eerie spirits that haunt Philippine nights and minds. While entertaining and spine-tingling, the lingering power of these associations can present challenges for bat conservation, but can also open up opportunities for engaging with the public. Tammy Mildenstein of SOS – Save Our Species project Filipinos for Flying Foxes, describes some of the legends she has encountered in her time working to protect these creatures.
The evening departure of thousands of flying foxes overhead could send the superstitious running for cover. Credit Tammy Mildenstein, Filipinos For Flying Foxes
Perhaps, most closely resembling this magnificent bat is Manananggal whose legend mirrors the same distribution pattern throughout Southeast Asia as flying foxes. This “aswang” – a Filipino term for a variety of vampire-like creatures – is a woman by day, but transforms into a fearsome predator after dark. As families prepare to slumber, Manananggal’s torso detaches in the middle, while the upper half grows bat wings allowing her to fly through the night in search of her prey: unborn babies. According to the myth, Manananggal lands on the roof of a home and drops her long, needle-thin tongue into the belly of a pregnant woman in her sleep to feast. Grisly and chilling? Yes. True? Unlikely, but a great ice-breaker for talking about flying foxes and setting the record straight on the true cultural and economic value of flying foxes, according to Tammy Mildenstein. Flying foxes are fruit bats, she explains, they don’t feed on human blood much less unborn babies.
Indeed there are others in the menagerie of mythological and winged menaces – all seemingly drawing inspiration from the Philippines’ rich diversity of bat species. For example there is Tik-tik and Wak-wak – both similar to Manananggal, named respectively, for their “tik-tik” nocturnal calls and the “wak-wak” sound of their airy flapping wings, both of which are reminiscent of the sounds made by flying foxes in flight at night. Yet another is Tiyanak – a creature in the form of a human baby, but with fangs and sharp claws that flies away as a black bird. Capre and Tikbalang take on other animal forms, and are said to be found in fig trees at night with red reflective eyes just like fruit bats.
Meanwhile, aside from inspiration for scares at bedtime, scientific research has shown these amazing creatures are vital to human survival. As pollinators and seed dispersers, flying foxes for example, are essential for maintaining natural forests, often the only source of fresh water, air, and timber and non-timber forest products. Flying foxes are also known to pollinate hundreds of agriculturally important crops for the region, explains Mildenstein.
Ironically, being nocturnal it is flying foxes which can become easily stressed by diurnal human presence near their nest sites. That is why a central component of the Filipinos for Flying Foxes project is to establish six roost sanctuaries to boost species populations allowing the bats and local communities to live in harmony.
So the legends may live on, and keep a couple of kids awake at night, but maybe if Filipinos for Flying Foxes is successful, staying up past bedtime will be to marvel at the sight of the world’s largest bat taking to the sky as darkness falls….all around you! Mwuhahaha! Happy Halloween!
October 30th, 2013
By Eleanor Warren-Thomas
Ladybird, Amazon-style. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
The day begins at around 5 a.m., when the sounds of motorbikes revving, dogs barking, wood being chopped and shouting men start to permeate the room. I haven’t needed to set my alarm for weeks.
I am here to help run a project on Brazil nut harvesting from lowland rainforests in Madre de Dios, in the Peruvian Amazon. Brazil nut collection from these forests forms a huge part of many people’s livelihood in this area, and the project aims to improve knowledge about the variation in Brazil nut production, which changes among trees and between years for as-yet unknown reasons.
Brazil nut trees, known locally as castaña, take decades to mature and start producing nuts in the wild, so the majority of the productive trees in these concessions are enormous – at least a meter across at the base – and are some of the tallest trees in the forest. Brazil nut trees are protected by law, and in some areas they stand alone in areas cleared for pasture. In many other areas, they form part of standing intact forest within concessions owned by local people, who walk well-managed trails through the forest each year to collect the nuts by hand.
Today we are starting out from the only hospedaje in the little town of Alegria, and will travel about 20 km along a dirt road to visit a castañero who lives in his Brazil nut concession. My colleague and I load the rear pannier of the motorbike with two rucksacks full of tents, food and multiple pairs of socks. Calling in at our favorite breakfast spot, we find that there is ‘no quinoa in town’ so make do with sweet bread and strawberry yogurt from one of the grocery shops. Sitting outside the shop, we attract the attention of two kittens who attempt to scale our trousers, and a puppy who finds he doesn’t have the ability to climb, but is happy to make do with finishing off the yogurt pot.
Motorbike loaded and ready to go. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Squeezed onto the motorbike, we head along the tarmac road out of town, and turn off onto a red dirt road. After rain, these roads take on the texture of butter and are perilous for motorbikes, but today it is dry and fine. The morning is cool and the clouds are low, rubbing out the tops of trees and swirling across the road. We fly along the road and the plastic bag full of eggs and bread that I am clutching flaps madly in the wind. The road is full ofhazards – soft rivulets of mud, hidden bumps, the occasional wooden bridge – requiring expert driving.
The red road. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Forty minutes later we arrive, windblown, under an enormous mango tree dripping with fruit that guards the front of our host’s house. Set in a field of tough tropical grass are several wooden buildings that house grandparents, a daughter, a son and their spouses. Ducks and chickens roam about amongst the fallen fruit, and two dogs bark in cautious greeting. It is mango season here, and the soft thumps of fruits hitting the ground are frequent. We are invited into the kitchen, an airy building with a handmade thatched roof, where a neat three-ringed charcoal burner made of compacted mud is roaring. Two cups of hot “chapo” are handed to us as a welcome second breakfast – sweet plantain mashed with sugar and spices using a specially selected stem of a young “quillabordon” tree that naturally forms a whisk-like shape.
Under the mango tree. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
As the day starts to heat up, our 77-year-old host dons his canvas shoes, picks up his machete and leads us into the forest. We quickly leave the strong sun behind on the open road and enter a perfect green corridor as we follow a narrow logging road into the forest. The huge tire tracks have formed long-lasting puddles in the soft clay soil, that are filled with tadpoles. This part of the forest feels special – we walk for about half an hour without encountering any logged trees, and the forest seems particularly dark green. Hidden birds shout from all around us, and the soft mud reveals the presence of deer, peccary and agouti. The soft ground after rain tells all sort of secrets – in other forests we have seen fresh tapir tracks only hours old, and even ocelot prints.
Ocelot prints. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
We veer off the road onto a carefully cleared path, the ground cloaked in big brown leaves from the towering castaña trees. As we crunch along, I have the odd impression of being on a walk through an English woodland on a summer’s day, until my eye is caught by a 6-inch electric blue butterfly floating along the path. Blue morpho butterflies seem to be found everywhere here, often in what seem to be leks of male butterflies flashing their wings at each other in clearings and on paths.
Blue morpho butterfly wing. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Brazil nut trees tower over us at regular intervals, some more than an arm-span in diameter and 40 meters high. The carefully maintained paths lead from tree to tree, each trunk cleaned of lianas and giving the appearance of columns holding up the green canopy. Piles of emptied “cocos” – the hard outer shells that contain sets of individual brazil nuts – lie at intervals along the paths, partially hidden under leaves and ready to twist the ankles of unwary walkers.
A castañero makes a temporary shelter from the rain. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
High-pitched squeaking from the trees betrays the presence of saddle-backed tamarins which peer inquisitively at us as we respond with our own squeaky noises. They seem reasonably confident around people despite the fact that they are often taken from the wild as pets here. In the past week howler monkeys, titi monkeys and spider monkeys have all also come within earshot, or even partially into view.
The presence of so many animals despite so much human activity in the forest is wonderful, and seems to demonstrate how fundamental the economic value of brazil nut trees is for the health of these forests. Although selective logging and hunting of local wildlife continues, the presence of producing castaña trees preserves patches of forest where its structure is undisturbed and the shade is deep and cool. Wildlife is persisting well into disturbed areas, but for me the dark green patches feel like safe havens.
After five hours of walking along forest trails our host leads us back to his house in time for lunch, where we are served rice, beans and fried plantain washed down with sweet tea. His wife and daughter spend the day in the house, preparing food for us strangers along with the family without a thought. At 77-years-old, our host understandably prefers to spend the afternoons napping on a bench in the shade of his mango tree, leaving us free to visit the stream that runs past the house and bathe in the sandy bottomed pool they have created through clever use of a log dam. Tiny fish swim about, palm trees provide shade overhead and the musical song of oropendulas drips from the trees. More tamarins swing past to peer at us, as we nibble on mangos and cool our feet in the water. I can’t help but smile as I think back on the day and hope to myself, long may the dark green persist.
Brazil nut flowers. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
October 18th, 2013
By Jemma Smith
This stunning photograph is of the sun setting over the River Nile, which is said to be the longest river in the world with a staggering 6,670 km (4,160 miles) in length and discharges an average of 3.1 million litres of water per second into the Mediterranean Sea. It is long been disputed where the exact source of the river is, however, many believed it to be Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The River Nile travels through eleven African countries on its journey to the Mediterranean. There has long been conflict between countries on ownership and management of the Nile and its vital water that is used by millions of African farmers and is also home to a large diversity of wildlife.
August 13th, 2013
By Claire Salisbury
The bus journey to Mindo winds up and out of the high, dry valley in which Quito sits between volcanic peaks, and then down into the wet, lush cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes. This is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, within the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot, and recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. Mindo is a quiet little place, surrounded by forested hills which often disappear into the clouds. We arrived in the rain at dusk, and made our way along virtually deserted streets to our accommodation at Cabañas Armonia (http://www.birdingmindo.com/armonia.php). This is an orchid garden masquerading as jungle, and we were led to our little cabin, one of a handful tucked away amongst the plants. After the dry, thin air of Quito, the humidity, the smell of the wet vegetation, and the chorus of frogs, were wonderful.
Photos by Claire Salisbury.
The family that owns Cabañas Armonia maintains feeders for hummingbirds, and these tiny birds drink litres of sugar water between them every day. Watching and listening to them whirr, chirp and squeak is hypnotic, and catching them with your camera becomes an endless challenge.
Highlights of our stay at Cabañas Armonia included lazy birdwatching from our private hammock, with toucans and hummingbirds among the many species that regularly passed by. The garden is home to some 200 species of orchid, some so small that a magnifying glass is needed to appreciate their beauty, others unmissable in their extravagance. Wandering amongst them was a fascinating introduction to their variety and diversity. We also went for walks along the quiet lanes that lead out of town, which took us through verdant green valleys, coffee plantations, and lush vegetation, and rewarded us with sightings of gaudy tanagers, toucans and aracaris, and a stunning quetzal.
On our way back to Quito we visited Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve (http://www.bellavistacloudforest.com/), 1000m higher up the mountains than Mindo. We got off the bus at a small village called Nanegalito, and were quickly approached by the driver of a pick-up truck taxi who drove us up the steep and winding single track lane to Bellavista lodge. The lodge sits within a private reserve that protects 700 hectares of cloud forest. There is an extensive trail system, comfortable accommodation, excellent food, and it is renowned for its birding. Such luxury and biodiversity meant that the lodge itself was way beyond our tight backpacker budget, but Bellavista is a rarity, offering affordable accommodation, alongside its more luxurious options, for travelers on a budget who are happy with a more rustic experience. It is possible to stay and explore the reserve on a shoestring: a small research station doubles as basic hostel accommodation, and incredibly, very few people make use of this. This is a big shame because the forest around Bellavista is like nothing we had seen before – huge tree ferns, and trees dripping with multiple layers of vegetation, shrouded in ethereal mist and cloud which sometimes broke to reveal the precipitous view down to the valleys below. The trails were easy to follow, and took us up and down steep ravines to hidden streams.
The research station accommodation was basic, but we had a warm bed and a hot shower, and pots and pans to cook with over a gas stove. Fellow residents included scientists from the United States, their Ecuadorian research assistants, a couple of temporarily captive birds that were the focus of their studies, a sink-full of beetles collected for a small project, and a noisy mouse who helped itself to a chunk of banana in the kitchen. The captive birds were, of course, early risers and woke us from their room next to ours with an ear-splitting duet at dawn. Electricity is from a generator that is only run for a few hours a day, and as it is virtually on the equator it got dark about 6pm. Evenings were spent quietly by the light of candles and headtorches, listening to the myriad noises coming from the forest.
July 22nd, 2013
By Benedicte de Waziers
Deep inside Guyana’s territory hides an enigmatic ecosystem that few people have heard of. The Rupununi region–Raponani in Carib–is located in the Takutu basin in Southern Guyana. The Rupununi is home to many Amerindian tribes, including the Makushi.
Despite its fast-growing population and urbanization, the Rupununi provides invaluable services for its inhabitants. The majority of the Makushi people settle along the region’s rivers and rely heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods. For instance, hunting and fishing are regular and important activities for the Makushi whose protein intake comes mainly from wild animals (60% from fish).
The northern Rupununi wetlands play a critical role in maintaining the overall health and functioning of the rivers providing important services to Makushi such as flood control, food, and economic vitality. The Makushi benefit from many other “free” ecosystem services provided by the forests, savannas, and wetlands of the Rupununi. For example, the Makushi depend on plants for medicinal purposes and trees to build their homes.
In addition to the services that ecosystems contribute to local well-being, Guyana also has a significant impact on global systems through its role as a carbon sink. Guyana’s largely undisturbed forests are carbon rich, sequestering nearly 300 tons of CO2 equivalent in one hectare. These forests, covering more than 18 million hectares, hold an estimated 5 gigatons in CO2 equivalent. The greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the destruction of Guyana’s forests are equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 1 billion cars.
The Rupununi is also home to many rare and endemic species. It is particularly rich in bat diversity, with 90 species of bats. In all, the Rupununi has over 1,400 vertebrate species, including the giant river otter, jaguar, black caiman, harpy eagle, and Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (rupicola rupicola).
Ranching, mining, and agriculture are increasingly putting pressure on this ecosystem of global importance. It is in our hands to ensure this unique source of capital–natural capital–keeps providing life-supporting benefits to the Makushi and generates sustained regional growth.
To learn about what the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is doing to help the LAC Region sustainably manage ecosystems, visit www.iadb.org/biodiversity or follow us at @BIDEcosistemas. Benedicte de Waziers is the Communication Specialist for the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Program launched in March 2013 by the Inter-American Development Bank.
July 12th, 2013
By Erika Skogg
“You conserve what you know, you don’t conserve what you don’t know.”
Photo by Federico Pardo / TropicoMedia.org.
I thought of this biology quote as I photographed along side Fernando, one of the Humboldt Society’s Ornithologist, as he pulled a shimmering green hummingbird out of the mist net. Strung between skinny silver poles around eight feet tall, the black mesh nets hung through the forest trails. They stood parallel to the forest, winding 100 feet down the trail. For every foot up the pole there was a main line where the net was doubled over, which created inescapable traps for the low flying birds. Fernando freed the bird’s legs and wings and held it between his two forefingers.
One of the greatest benefits of being a wildlife photographer is the ever changing job description. Scientists and conservation groups are needing media more and more to document their research and help conserve what’s out there.
While the mammalogists, herpetologists and botanists were still asleep back in the hotel, my partner Federico and I got up early to photograph with the birds and their scientists. We hiked through the darkness, rambling over rocks and tiny streams as the sun began to light the landscape in front of us. Through a mixture of pine and misty cloud forest ecosystems, I took long breaths. The smell of pine reminded me of my cottage in the North woods of Wisconsin. Our footsteps were muted as we crossed over pine needles and we began to hear the first songs of dawn. Orlando, another Humboldt Ornithologist, pulled out his pen and paper to write down the calls he heard, and excitedly noted their scientific names out loud. The three of us continued to walk downhill as he called back to the early birds with blends of long and short whistles.
When we met up with Fernando, he was seated on a blue tarp to avoid the wet grass with his clip board on his lap. At 11,000 feet he wore a heavy green jacket to stay warm from the wind and constant light rain produced from the cloud forest. As I took a few photographs of him measuring the beak and weight of the recently caught hummingbird, I thought of how strange it was to be taking the last photographs of it still breathing. When I put my camera down to watch him more closely, Fernando told me that he was sorry it had been such a slow morning. By this time yesterday morning they had caught nearly 10 different species already. He carefully turned each bird onto their backside and blew their feathers up and down to look for brood patches, a sign that a female may be incubating eggs back in her nest. I realized that no matter how beautiful they were, they still had bare chicken like skin underneath their colorful feathers. He placed them each into their own cotton pull string bags and the blue checkered cotton bags began multiplying, hung on a barbed wire fence behind him. Their contents rustled, but made no sound.
Photo by Erika Skogg.
By 1:00 PM we had already put in an 8 hour day, but our two-man photography team had more studio work to do before the live animals got too weak or tired. The scientists also had a long day ahead of them. Fernando worked with his headlamp as he sat at a small desk in the temporary working space of his hotel room. The desk was covered with sheets of newspaper along with a set of tweezers, knives and a pile of cotton balls. He had the skin and feathers of a small Tanager completely off of the body, hanging inside out over the skull. In his other hand he held the innards, neatly kept together in their natural casing. He used force to crack through the neck bones against the hard desk to disconnect everything from the empty skull. Being new to the sciences, I had a lot of questions, and he explained to me how he would stuff the rest of the body with cotton, but would preserve the skull to keep its natural form. It was a clean and dry procedure as he continuously rubbed sawdust over the insides of the bird. Outside his room a group of scientists arrived from the afternoon expedition and gathered in the dark courtyard holding plastic Ziplock bags up to the incandescent lights. I began to see the silhouettes of lizards and frogs and snapped off a few candid photographs of their excitement. The mammalogists were also inspecting their three mice they had caught from yesterday’s traps. An older couple also staying at the hotel closed their room door behind them and looked forward to see the current hotel activities. The woman shrieked softly and moved quickly around the commotion. Before the night was over, we been handed several bags filled with tree frogs and lizards to photograph back in our hotel room. Not wanting to hear their struggle all night in their plastic prisons, I hung the bags of amphibians in the bathroom with a clothes hanger before going to bed.
All of the individuals from this recent collection will be researched and added to the Humboldt Institute collection in Villa de Leyva, Colombia. A few individuals were sacrificed for the survival of their species. Without going into the field to photograph and collect plants, mammals, birds and frogs; rich and biologically diverse places may never be conserved. It is the biologists job to research what is out there, and the photographer’s job to document and help them achieve that.
Photo by Federico Pardo / TropicoMedia.org.
Photo by Erika Skogg.
Federico Pardo capturing a shot. Photo by Erika Skogg.
Fernando, a Humboldt Society Ornithologist, removing a hummingbird out of the mist net. Photo by Erika Skogg.
April 8th, 2013
Written by Jordanna Dulaney
The woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha) is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List. In fact, studies predict that the species will decline at least 30% in the coming 45 years. The IUCN cites hunting, habitat loss due to the expansion of farming land, and pet trafficking. These pictures were taken at a rehabilitation center for animals in the pet trafficking trade in Amacayacu National Park, Colombia.
Woolly monkeys are named for their thick, woolly fur. Coloring ranges from dark grey to a light red hue, and serve to camouflage the monkey in the forest canopy. Woolly monkeys grow large: both males and females grow to around 20 inches long. The monkeys sport a tail as long as their body, equipped with a pad near the end to grip trees and branches. Studies show that wooly monkeys in the wild often eat fruits, young leaves, and flowers.
Amacayacu Park (Amacayacu means “River of Hamocs” in the indigenous language) runs along the Amazon River, in the south of Colombia. The park is a common stop for eco-tourists and boasts lush rain forests, scenic river views, and over 5,000 different plant species.
April 3rd, 2013
Close-up of hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.
Written by Alexander Holmgren
The word hippopotamus comes from ancient Greek meaning “river horse” and this sturdy animal is the third largest land dwelling mammal in the world. It spends half of its time submerged in large groups in bodies of water such as rivers or lakes taking mud baths to keep itself cool in the hot African day. At dusk, as the sun begins to fall, the hippopotamus will depart from the water to graze on grass and other vegetation before returning to the water. What’s interesting however, is that the hippopotamus is more closely related to whales or dolphins than any other mammal.
Hippo’s have a highly adapted head. The primary sensory structure including the eyes, nose, and ears are all located on the top of the head allowing the Hippo to peer out of the water while still completely submerged. In the picture provided a hippopatmus shows its massive mouth, with teeth that grow almost continuously throughout it’s life, sharpen through grinding, and jaws that can open to almost 180 degrees the hippopotamus is well equipped to defending itself from predators.
Gaping maw of a hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Chobe National Park in Botswana. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.
Herd of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) with African buffalo (Syncerus caffeer) in the background at Chobe National Park. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.
May 3rd, 2011
A pair of saiga calves. Photo by: Igor Shpilenok.
Few species have seen a worse decline in the past 15 years than the Asian antelope, the saiga. Once known for making up one of the world’s largest migrations, the saiga population has dropped from 1.25 million in the 1990s to 50,000 animals today, plunging over 90% and landing itself on the Critically Endangered species list.
The Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA), which is working hard to save this species from extinction, has turned to a new model to help: eco-tourism. The group, along with travel company Saga Voyages, is organizing a tour of a unique, rarely visited region in Russia to see and support the saiga. But that’s not all: birding, other wildlife viewing, and cultural visits are also apart of this unique trip. SCA hopes the tour will help convince locals in the region that saiga and other wildlife can bring economic investment and interest from abroad.
Saiga calves. Photo by: Nils Bunnefeld.
An adult male saiga. Photo by: Nils Bunnefeld.
About the tour: First International Saiga Ecotour to Southern Russia
For more information (and photos from the region):
New eco-tour to help save bizarre antelope in ‘forgotten’ region
(05/01/2011) Imagine visiting a region that is largely void of tourists, yet has world-class bird watching, a unique Buddhist population, and one of the world’s most bizarre-looking and imperilled mammals: the saiga. A new tour to Southern Russia hopes to aid a Critically Endangered species while giving tourists an inside look at a region “largely forgotten by the rest of the world,” says Anthony Dancer. Few species have fallen so far and so fast in the past 15 years as Central Asia’s antelope, the saiga. Its precipitous decline is reminiscent of the bison or the passenger pigeon in 19th Century America, but conservationists hopes it avoids the fate of the latter.