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

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Chonta time!

Over the last month or so there has been a lot of animal activity around base due to the presence of a Chonta palm (Bactris gasipaes) in the middle of our base camp. The palm tree produces grape like bunches of tennis-ball sized red fruit around this time every year. The ripening of these fruits has attracted the attention of mixed parrot flocks including Blue Headed Parrots (Pionus menstruus) and Dusky Headed Parakeets (Aratinga weddellii) in addition to the more commonly seen Oropendolas (Psarocolius sp.) and Caciques (Cacicus sp.). Volunteers and staff alike have been quick to grab their binoculars when there is bird activity around the tree, and parrot spotting has become somewhat of a competition!

Once these fruits find their way to the forest floor they are quickly devoured by Black Agoutis (Dasyprocta fuliginosa) commonly seen around camp and the less commonly seen Green Acouchis (Myoprocta pratti) and Nine Banded Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus). We placed one of our camera traps at the bottom of the tree and have recorded a high level of activity throughout the day and night.

Green Acouchi

Our extremely hard-working ranger, Don Abdon
Chonta fruit isn’t only good for animals, it is a commonly eaten food by people here in Ecuador’s rural communities. The fruits are boiled like potatoes with a pinch of salt and often mashed. We have eaten Chonta here on base too when we have the expert culinary skills of local students completing work experience with us from the Yachana Colegio. Chonta can also be drunk and is fermented to make Chicha in Huaorani and Kichwa cultures. It is chewed and fermented to make this mildly alcoholic drink, strength can be adjusted depending upon the occasion – something to keep you going on a walk in the forest – or a party drink for the wedding of a family member!

The wood of the Chonta is also used to make small pathways around peoples land and up to their houses. Another Chonta tree recently felled and processed was used by our super hard-working reserve ranger, Abdon to repair our stretches of Chonta walkway. So this tree not only attracts wildlife right to our door step, it can feed us, make us merry and ensure that we don’t get muddy feet! An amazing tree, I hope you agree!

Philip Brown – Assistant Base Manager, GVI Amazon 2010 to Present