The End of an Era

After over 6 years of intensive research and community development work in and around the Yachana Reserve, GVI Amazon is coming to a close. We have finished our final research project (look forward to our Road Effects paper, coming soon!) and are handing over the project to our partner, The Yachana Foundation. They will continue to maintain and monitor the reserve, using it as an hands-on science education center for students -- we're very excited to see what fabulous things this next generation of scientists find! For more detail on GVI Amazon's closure, and our accomplishments over the years, please read on...
GVI Amazon Closure Statement

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hector's Island

It’s hard to believe another week has gone by. Early in the week was a day long butterfly survey with Germania during which butterflies were caught in sweep nets and baited traps (Ah the smell of rotten fish!) and then photographed and released. A number of new species were added to the reserve’s list.

Other EMs went to the high school to work with the students and staff there in marking new trails and teaching basic mapping skills. Many of the students are eager learners and there were simultaneous English and Spanish lessons going on that benefitted all concerned beyond the mapping project itself. This is one of the strengths of the community development activities that are a part of the EM experience.

There were stream walks and benthic insect surveys (described in last weeks blog) and, of course, working with the elementary students. The highlight of the week, however, was a trip to Hector’s Island. Hector is a highly energetic and extremely knowledgeable Ecuadorian who has created a safe haven for monkeys on his 150 hectare island which he calls The Island of No Pain.” While there we helped Hector to gather and prepare wood for making a pen for raising capybara. This was quite hard work but a significant contribution to helping Hector finance the conservation work he is doing on the island as well the little school he runs there for local children. The capybara project will eventually be a money generator as well as a sustainable meat alternative to cattle.

We took a number of walks in the island’s forest during which Hector pointed out various native plants, animals and birds including an impressive yellow tortoise that was 12-15 inches in length and who kindly sat still for pictures and touching! But Hector really became animated when, on our second trip into the forest we found three species of monkeys, the largest, most impressive and most endangered being the woolly monkeys that at first peered down curiously at us from the canopy and then got a little agitated and dropped a few dead branches toward us. Hector explained to us that his island is not a zoo. The monkeys are not fed and are on their own as soon as they are physically able. He hopes in several years as the monkey troops grow larger to be able to reintroduce some into protected reserves within Ecuador.

On Sunday, Hector wanted to show us all the local market in Coca where indigenous peoples bring forest products for sale. There were lots of bananas, fish and even armadillo. Hector wanted us all to try a local favourite, beetle grubs! There were bowls full of live wriggling fat white grubs which were put on skewers and roasted over a fire to be served with a small piece of manioc root. Most everyone gave it a try…not bad at all and a truly unique rain forest experience no one here will forget.

Several hours in Coca on the way back gave everyone a chance for cold drinks and good food and a little rest in preparation for the week to come.

John Taylor