Chances for Nature in the Amazon
We support a highly motivated indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon who is dedicated to protect their natural resources. The people want to protect the intact ecosystem of their 300 sq km territory. The rainforests along the Rio Tapiche are home to an array of endangered animal species (i.e. giant otter, red uakari, jaguar, river dolphin, manatee). Together we aim to establish a nature conservation area.
The project area is located at the Rio Tapiche, about 120 km southeast of the Peruvian Amazon city of Iquitos. The area covers about 300 sq. km east and west of the Rio Tapiche. Unlike many other areas in the Amazon region, the human impact is still very low and the forest remains largely undisturbed. To reach the project area you have to travel overnight by a public ship from Iquitos to the small jungle town Requena at the mouth of the Rio Tapiche. From there you have to follow the course of the Tapiche one more day by small boat.
The area is within the buffer zone of the Matsés National Reserve and contains a variety of different habitats: Terra firme rainforest, Seasonally flooded rainforest, “Varillal” forest (forest on white-sand soil), palm swamps , Flood plains, forest, various aquatic habitats. All these habitats are mostly undisturbed, despite the presence of a human settlement.
The area covers different types of habitats. One of them is the so called white-sand forest, a very special type of vegetation. Due to special geological formations they can be found only in two areas in Peru. White-sand forests are rich in endemic species. Therefore the whole area was identified as an area with “high priority for conservation”.
A conservation area for the Rio Tapiche
Together with the local communities we want to obtain a concession for conservation for the area. This is a tool to protect certain ecosystems as private conservation areas. The concession would be cost-free and valid for at least 40 years. Enough time to establish a permanent and sustainable project for the conservation of the area.
A unique opportunity
To obtain the concession, we are required to submit a detailed management and financing plan for the first five years to the Peruvian state. We are looking for partners and sponsors who want to participate and support this unique opportunity, together with us and the communities.In the application process for the conservation concession we will be in direct competition with commercial competitors, like timber companies, who would like to commercially use the area as a forest concession for logging. This would be the end for many animal and plant species and the indigenous population would loose the wealth of their homeland.
Reserva Nacional Matses
In the „backyard“ of the proposed concession lies a true forest giant:
the 420 000 ha National Reserve Matses. Protected by law, but not on site. Only 15 rangers are struggling to protect the huge area from illegal hunting and logging. The key for its protection lies within the surrounding areas. The proposed conservation concession would create a managed buffer zone for the Reserve and decrease the human pressure on this vast and unique wilderness.
Sustainable forest management (2014)
Small projects for a sustainable use of the forest will be developed together with the local communities to create alternative sources of income. We already started with a tree nursery and the development of a management plan for the threatened palm species Irapay.
Following the proposition of Manolo Martin, the village Buen Jesus started with the construction of a tree nursery. A forestry engineer from Iquitos donated 1,250 seeds of precious trees. The trees will be brought up by the villagers and planted in the surrounding areas of the village.
Sustainable management of palm tree species “Irapay”
A management plan for a sustainable use of the palm “Irapay”, which leaves are used to construct the traditional roofs of the local villages. In many areas the demand for these leaves dramatically exceeds the supply and meanwhile the palm is considered as threatened in most regions.
The sustainable use of the still extant palm population of our project area could relatively easy open this market for the local people of the Rio Tapiche and raise a new source of income. The plan was be implemented in 2014 and include different courses and workshops for the local people.
The project was supported with 10 000 Euro by the Manfred Hermsen Foundation!
Manatee study (since 2014)
Due to their hidden life in the turbid waters of the Amazon, the Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis) remain mysterious creatures. Therefore, before concrete measures of protection and research can be planned, data on population sizes, preferred habitats, feeding grounds as well as migration routes need to be gathered.
Using vocalizations to track manatees
Since occasionally emerging nostrils remain the only proof of their presence, research on manatees requires a certain amount of creativity. A new method to localize the animals under water through their vocalization needs to be established. For this, a pilot study is conducted at Nuremberg Zoo.
With the help of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) we evaluate whether playbacks of manatee vocalizations can trigger a response from the animals and if so whether vocalizations have individual characteristics that can be used to differentiate among individuals. If this method could be established we would apply it to the Amazonian manatee in the wild. For this project, the Nuremberg Zoo supports us with experience and equipment and we thank them for the opportunity as well as for their enthusiasm involved in this project.
Look and listen to manatee vocalizations
Mammal survey (2014)
In 2014 a big camera trap study took place in the project area at the Rio Tapiche. The goal was to evaluate the diversity, distribution and density of terrestrial mammals in the project area to establish a long-term monitoring of the terrestrial fauna.
Using camera traps to study mammal diversity
The camera trap study was conducted in cooperation with the “Reserva Nacional Matses”, and the German Primate Center Göttingen.
Although it is known that the area has a rich wildlife, including giant otters, jaguars, river dolphins, manatees, red uakaris as well as several other primate species, we still lack detailed knowledge about small to large sized terrestrial mammal fauna in the area. Collected data should help to make conservation-related decisions and will be directly incorporated into the management plan for the conservation project.
Study on Giant otters (2013)
The endagered and shy giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis), which are indicators for intact ecosystems, are still very common in the project area. Their large dens can be found not only along the Quebrada Torno, but also nearby various lakes and lagoons. A project should garantee a safe future for the otters.
Following giant otters
In June 2013, biologist Ilka Tramm from Kiel, Germany, conducted a study to monitor the endangered giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis). As a first step, Ilka identified individuals of the different groups as well as their preferred habitats. For identification of individuals, used the spots on their throats as they show a recognizable individual pattern, just like a finger print. A data base of these finger prints was established to monitor the population and local villagers are able to continue the data collection.
Chances for Nature supported the project with camera traps, a waterproof digital camera and a boat equipped with an electric engine to avoid disturbance of the otters.
Other activities at the Rio Tapiche
The indigenous people of the Rio Tapiche are struggeling for the conservation of an intact ecosystem. Their vision is to develop alternative and sustainable income sources as a basis for their future and livelihood. The aim of our activities is to support their ideas and save a unique habitat from destruction.
An initial infrastructure for researchers and visitors was implemented in 2013. The new biological research station and accommodation for researchers and visitors and job opportunities for the local people.
Breeding of Arapaima und Arowanas
A breeding programme for the heavily fished Arapaimas and Arowanas will be implemented. The hatched fish will be sold for reintroduction in over-fished rivers. This provides a sustainable income for the local people. We fund the construction of natural breeding ponds nearby the village.
For all of the activities a functioning infrastructure and transportation system is needed. Therefore, we are planning to provide boats with silent and climate-friendly solar motors for the project area.
To raise awareness and educate local communities to alternative ways to live we are planning to establish a evironmental education program. We want to call the people`s attention to problems such as deforestation and explain why they have bad and irreducible consequences, e.g. erosion of the soil. Direct consequences for their daily life, nature and their future have to be explained.
We will show them ecological and sustainable alternatives, which are already applied in some local conservation projects, such as crop rotation, ecological products (honey, fruits, spices, and many, many more) and eco-tourism. The material (films, posters, presentations, manuals, legal information, educational games and school material for children) will be developed and provided “from Peruvians to Peruvians”.
All of the megafauna of the Amazon (river dolphins, giant otters, jaguars, caimans, river turtles) are present. The presence of this rich animal community is an unambiguous indicator of an intact ecosystem.
The endagered and shy giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis), which are indicators for intact ecosystems, are still very common in the project area. Their large dens can be found not only along the Quebrada Torno, but also nearby various lakes and lagoons.
A reproducing population of the elusive Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) is reported for the area by local inhabitants.
The primate diversity is outstanding. At least 18 different primate taxa are present in the area. It is also one of the few places in Amazonia where red uakaris (Cacajao calvus) can be encountered regularly.
Both species of Amazonian freshwater dolphins (Inia geoffroyensis and Sotalia fluviatilis) can be seen frequently in all parts of the project area.
The area is the last refuge for Arapaima (Arapaima gigas) and Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) along the lower Rio Tapiche, In the project area these species occur in relative abundance and in breeding populations. These species are heavily fished in most parts of the Amazon, and breeding periods are mostly not respected. As a result, populations are dramatically declining in whole Amazonia.