South America | Peru | Peruvian Amazon | Puerto Maldonado – Herds of wild beasts (not just at the lodge)
Got a belly full of pizza and a couple of bottles of cusque?a and The Bangles are playing on the hi-fi in the internet cafe so it´s time for another session on the internet.
Been away from town for a couple of weeks so I´ve got quite a few stories to tell – my hair doesn´t seem to have grown at all though!
Lodge politics have kept themselves interesting recently – this time with the guides adding to the tension. It seems that the guides (or at least the head guide, Nury) feel that us resident naturalists are treading on there toes a bit by talking to the tourists about, of all things, the forest, which happens to be where we live and the reason why we´re here in the first place. According to them, it is the guides´ responsibility alone to inform the visitors about the forest. We should stick to talking about our specialist subject and our home lives! We were even criticised about telling the visitors about the rare Giant Otters that are found on one of the lakes since this will make the tourists feel disappointed if they don´t see them. The guides´ policy is to only tell the tourists about the otters if they see them at the lake! This is ludicrous since only about half of the visitors to the lodge will get a chance to find out about these fascinating creatures. The vast majority of visitors are aware that this is not a zoo and that the wild animals are not on display and therefore you´re not guaranteed to see them but the guides treat them as though they are stupid.
It is the guides opinion that we are hear to help them improve their English and to pass any specialist knowledge we may have about the rainforest to them so that they can then tell their tourists. We argued that this is not the main reason for why we have come out here but we were outnumbered by about 3 to 1 so nobody appeared to be listening. Since then, several guides have come up to us and said that they disagreed with most of what Nury was saying and we have just gone on as before talking about forests, otters and anything else we feel like.
Meanwhile, in the forest, things have been slightly less stressful. I´ve had quite a few more encounters with the Brown Capuchin Monkeys which are so entertaining to watch as they feed, climb, scratch and make typical monkey noises to each other. I also saw my first ´Tayra´ the other day. Not the rarest of animals (bit like a big weasel) but everybody else seems to see them all the time so I was feeling let out!
The most emotional encounter I had recently was with a herd of White-lipped Peccaries. I decided to go for walk through the forest early one morning before I started work. After an interesting start with lots of different birds flying around (but nothing unusual), I heard what sounded like large dogs fighting in the distance. I carried along the trail out of curiosity when an agouti (medium-sized rodent) walked across my path. I stood still and the little guy didn´t seem to notice me. Then I heard a cracking noise coming from the forest to my right. This could only mean one thing, white-lipped peccaries (a large king of wild pig – see archive photo on this page). The cracking noise is made from the clacking together of their jawbones which they do to keep in contact with the rest of the herd (usually 50-100 individuals). I heard several more ´clacks´ coming from various locations in the forest to my right and it sounded like they were getting closer. These are quite big animals and you wouldn´t want to get in the way of a herd of them if they decided to run your way. I stood. However, curiousity got the better of me and I decided not to retreat but to remain motionless to see if I could see any of them. After about 5 mins of clacking, grunting, barking and shuffling, 2 peccaries came out of the forest and crossed the trail about 5 m in front of me. I even managed to get a very poor movie of one of them on my digital camera. They must have sensed my voyeurism since one wandered off through the undergrowth and the other shot off like a rocket, giving a ´clack´ as it went. This was obviously the edge of the herd and part of me was desperate to see more of them but the other part was a little worried about having an encounter with the rest. I remained on the spot for about 30 mins and the desperate side of me was disheartened by the sound of the herd moving further away. Still it was an unforgettable experience.
Some of you have been requesting more photos so here are the latest, they are:
White-lipped Peccary (taken from internet), The old hairstyle(and double helpings of dessert), The new haistyle (and tree frog caught by researchers at the lodge), Who was very photogenic, Willy (the lodge´s flightless Blue and Yellow Macaw), a tarantula that lives on the tree by one of the rooms I was staying in (about 7 inches in size), a Red and Green Macaw (taken with the digital camera through the binoculars!), one of the beautiful ´Passion Flowers´ of the rainforest and one of the psychedelic butterflies (known locally as No. 88).
I´ve just added a couple more names to the distribution list, so if you´re new, don´t forget to have a look at the previous pages.
Also, if you´re one of the people who have come across this diary on the web and have asked for updates. Send us a message or an email, and let me know who you are. Cheers.