Our primary study subject will be the green anaconda (Eunectes murinus). For an apex predator that can easily outweigh a grown man, we still know very little about the anaconda. How many of them are there? How are they adapting to the rapid changes in Amazonia today? How big are they getting? But before the snakes can be measured, sampled, or fitted with tracking devices, they must first be found, and once they are found they must be restrained. One does not simply walk into the Amazon and ask an anaconda to climb onto a scale. Also, because they live in inaccessible swamps, it can be very hard to track and monitor an anaconda without using radio telemetry equipment. We have a lot to learn about this species.
In 2014 we collected data from a large anaconda (5.63 m) that is known to be living at the Pozo Don Pedro at Los Amigos since 1998. We collected tissue samples from her to test for mercury contamination, and deployed a type of radio transmitter in her that takes about 45 days to pass through the digestive system. During this time, we were able to find her on daily basis, proving that VHF telemetry works well to track anacondas. The Pozo Don Pedro is only a mile from the station, and there is a cliff around it, which makes monitoring easy.
On our trip we will be attempting to recapture this anaconda and surgically implant a transmitter in her. This will allow us to track her for three years, and document her movements year-round. Dr. Jesus Rivas, the world expert on anacondas, will join us in this (pending final confirmation).
Our second objective is the short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis): After recording the mating call of a male, we played it back it in a female’s home range and found that it attracted her. Now we plan to capture that female using this playback and to deploy a GPS transmitter that will help to understand the species’ use of space and habitat. We have done this previously with five other short-eared dogs using VHF telemetry, back at a time when GPS didn’t work well for animals this size in dense forest. We were able to deploy a GPS transmitter on the most recently captured animal, and we got fantastic data. Now that we have the technology, we just need the dogs.
Dr. Pitman is a Wildlife Veterinary Physician, with a Master’s Degree in Forest Science. She is a Research Associate with the Center for Tropical Conservation since 2000. An expert in predator ecology in South America, she works in several projects to create protected areas for the animals she studies in the Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest. In the Amazon this includes leading a campaign to create the Alto Purus National Park, to help protect the adjacent Las Piedras region, and to study the impacts of the Interoceanic Highway to the wildlife, a project for which she received an Innovation Award from Rufford Small Grants Foundation. At the Brazilian Atlantic Forest she did her Masters studying the relation of jaguar, pumas, local people and protected areas, and a survey of jaguar population on the entire ecosystem, advising the Wildlife Conservation Society on strategies to protect the species. She helped to create and/or implement several Protected Areas as the Ilha do Mel Ecological Station and State Park, Guaratuba Environmental Protected Area, and Serra da Baitaca State Park. She is directing the Atlantic Forest Conservation Center at her private reserve where she runs a 22-years old forest restoration project. Renata is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission since 2000 and was awarded by this institution as a Natural Born Hero. She is a National Geographic Grantee and her last research updates are covered at Mongabay at the Field Museum’s magazine In the Field and BBC Earth. She is also Research Associate with the Field Museum of Natural History, where she helps on the production of Biodiversity Field Guides. As volunteer, she is an active member of the Environmental Commission of the Veterinary Medicine Council’s Regional Office (CRMV-PR), Chair of the ATBC (Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation) Communications Committee and Girl’s Scout leader.
The world’s leading authority on Anacondas will be joining us for this expedition (pending his final confirmation of availability). Rivas is a Venezuelan herpetologist, tropical ecologist, and television correspondent. His research interests include natural history, ethology, and conservation of anacondas and other species. He has been working for several years studying the behavioral ecology and conservation of large tropical reptiles of the llanos of Venezuela. Most of his experience has been with green iguanas and green anacondas, but he has also worked with other reptiles such as the Orinoco crocodile, spectacled caiman, and green sea turtles. His current research is with anacondas. It was the topic of his dissertation at the University of Tennessee and it is the topic of a forthcoming technical book.
Paul Rosolie is a naturalist, explorer, author, and award winning wildlife filmmaker. For the past seven years he has studied the ecology of anacondas with special focus on contamination levels from mercury due to gold mining in the West Amazon. His original observations brought Dr. Pitman and Dr. Rivas to this project. Paul’s other work as an advocate for rainforest conservation includes the short film An Unseen World which won the UN Forum on Forests 2013 short films award, and has been described as ‘nature filmmaking at its most raw and innovative.” His book new book Mother of God has gained the praise of environmentalists and adventurers such as Jane Goodall, Bear Grylls, and Bill McKibben who have called the book a “gripping,” “awe inspiring,” “rousing tale,” “with a great and enduring point.”
The Los Amigos Biological Station is a research station in lowland Amazonian forest at the base of Peru’s southern Andes. The station’s official name in Spanish is Centro de Investigación y Capacitación Río Los Amigos (Los Amigos Research and Training Center). It is commonly known by its Spanish acronym, CICRA. The station sits on a high terrace at the confluence of the Madre de Dios and Los Amigos rivers. CICRA’s small private property is contiguous to the Los Amigos Conservation Concession (LACC), which protects a diversity of upland and lowland forest types and aquatic habitats in 1,450 km² of the lower Los Amigos watershed. Population density in a 5 km radius of the station is approximately two persons per square kilometer, mostly itinerant gold miners working concessions along the Madre de Dios River; the 30-person village of Boca Amigos is 2 km from the station. Within the LACC, population density is zero, with the exception of occasional visited by uncontacted indigenous groups.
Research and training facilities at CICRA include lodging for 50 visitors, 250 m2 of laboratory space, a lecture hall, a >50-km trail system, a 60-m radio tower, satellite internet access, access to online scientific literature and databases, high resolution digital aerial photos of >200,000 ha of surrounding forests, a digital flora of >2,500 plant species collected on-site, a 470-volume scientific library, a weather station dating to 2000, and field guides to fish, amphibians and reptiles, and plants. Off-site resources include two smaller satellite stations, each with their own laboratories and lodging, 3 and 25 km from the main station; a GIS laboratory in nearby Puerto Maldonado; and two additional 60-m radio towers inside the conservation concession.
June 19th – Arrive in Puerto Maldonado
June 20th – Travel to Los Amigos Biological Station
June 21st – Orientation and Intro to Field Projects
June 22nd – 29th Fieldwork on Projects
June 30th – Travel to Puerto Maldonado
July 1st– Fly Out
What you will learn
You will learn camera trapping in tropical rainforest and actual trapping methods for mammals and reptiles. You will learn to use audio playbacks to call in wildlife, and learn basics in wildlife handling (most notably with birds, large anacondas, and potentially short-eared dog), and an introduction to immobilization and anesthesia. Single rope tree climbing. Sampling: feather/scale/hair/blood collection, measuring, and basic physical exam. Methods of radio-transmitter placement. VHF and GPS telemetry. Home-range calculations. Giant Armadillo burrow exploration. Natural History and Wildlife Filmmaking.
$2,450 all-inclusive at location. (Does not include airfare to Puerto Maldonado, Peru or a hotel stay / meals in Puerto Maldonado)