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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

King of the Snakes

Night-walks on the Yachana Reserve occasionally produce a rare gem that you know you will be talking about for the rest of your life. In the past I have seen Caiman, Kinkajous and the odd spectacular reptile. However, our discovery on a final night of this week’s satellite camp eclipsed them all.

We were an hour into our night-walk and the team was starting to traverse a particularly dangerous section of trail. We had all nearly negotiated the slippery slope when Laura, our eagle eyed intern bringing up the rear, shouted:

A snake... A big snake... A big F#@%ing snake!’

I turned round and ran back up the slope, in the process nearly sending four volunteers flying down into the murky depths of the lagoon. Laura had found the biggest snake I had ever seen in the wild - an adult Red-tailed Boa (Boa constrictor constrictor) as fat as a tree trunk and in excess of 10ft long!

The Red-tailed Boa is the characteristic snake of the Amazon Basin. Most tourist towns will have a large adult on show to impress tourists, however, in the wild they are secretive and very difficult to spot. They are mainly active at night, although they can be found in the daytime basking in light spots. Their diet is mainly comprised of small mammals or birds, which they catch using ambush techniques - the snake will sit and wait for a passing mammal, ensnare it with their powerful jaws, slowly constrict them to death and then consume them whole!

We approached the snake with caution, as we knew that some individuals can be very aggressive when cornered. Fortunately, this specimen was calm and docile, allowing us to get within a couple of feet without distress. After five minutes of photos, the snake slowly moved off. It rapidly slid down the slope into the lagoons black waters and disappeared. The experience was surreal in the extreme, if we hadn’t got photos as evidence, I could have convinced myself it was a simple day dream...

Chris Beirne - GVI Amazon Base Manager