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, February 1, 2009

Chocolate Frenzy!

The third week into the expedition and our ever enthusiastic EMs were in for a tastey treat! Amongst the busy schedule of conservation and community development work, a trip to a local farmer's house was squeezed in. Piter is a graduate from the Yachana Technical College and his grandfather was one of the founders of the small community where he and his family now life. It is located a 40 minute canoe ride on the Napo, downstream from the GVI base. Some of the skills that Piter developed at the college have been put to good use as he now applies them to help his family and neighbours make a sustainable living. Piter showed the transformation of Ecuador's cacao plant from bean to a rich and delicious hot chocolate. He demonstrated the whole process to EMs, using simple tools and a neat little fire on which everyone helped in toasting the beans and peeling the crispy outer layer off before grinding them down to the powder.

With all on a giddy, rich, natural hot chocolate high, they headed out for a tour of the farm and surrounding community, which was fantastic for a spot of birding! They meandered across rice fields and small sugar cane plantations and were treated to an amazing array of bird species who make their home amongst the marshy floodplain area. One of the first spotted, perched on a lonely stump in the middle of a field was the rare, but locally common, Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis). A bizarre looking group of Hoatzins (Opisthocomus hoazin) were also encountered, along with Palm Tanagers (Thraupis palmarum) and Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula). Colourful march waders included the Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio) and the Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana), sharing their habitat with the seemingly sleepy looking Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), who no douth lay still in wait of an unsuspecting meal!

Returning to the farm, the EMs sampled the typical diet of the locals, starting with some cocount milk, fresh out of the nut! Followed by delicious apple bananas and natural sugar straight from the cane. If this wasn't enough of a treat their taste buds were tantalized further when Piter's mum cooked up a storm in the form of a roast chicken lunch and mouth watering coconut dessert. It's a wonder the canoe was able to support the full stomachs of everyone on the journey back to base! But all made it back without incident and content.