SURVEYS AND PROTECTION OF ENDANGERED WILDLIFE (MILITARY MACAWS, COCKS-OF-THE-ROCK, WOOLLY AND SPIDER MONKEYS, SPECTACLED BEARS, AND JAGUARS) IN THE MOST DRAMATIC AND BIOLOGICALLY-DIVERSE TROPICAL CANYON IN THE WORLD--THE PONGO DE MAINIQUE ON THE URUBAMBA RIVER PERU
A program of the WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY
1) Surveys of large, endangered, "flagship" vertebrates in the forests of the Pongo de Mainique canyon. These include Military Macaws, Andean Cocks-of-the-Rock, two monkey species, Spectacled Bears, and Jaguars.
A field team will set up a small field camp in the uninhabited Pongo de Mainique canyon and carry out monthly walking and/or "point transect" surveys of three globally-endanged species of charismatic flagship vertebrates (the Military Macaw, Spectacled Bear, and Jaguar). The 140 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species have banned all international trade in these species. Additionally, all three are especially attractive to international nature tourists. Using viewing methods already tested and proven by Munn and Blanco, these three flagship species could become major attractions for the lowland rainforest of the Urubamba River in and around the Pongo de Mainique Canyon.
The survey team simultaneously will count and map the occurrence of other, slightly less endangered but extraordinarily photogenic wildlife species such as the blazing red Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, the Black Spider Monkey, and the Common Woolly Monkey. Finally, the team will survey all other monkeys and birds of conservation interest THAT ALSO HAVE ECOTOURISM APPLICATION. These include the Red Howler, Brown Capuchin, and Squirrel Monkeys, the Amazonian Umbrellabird (confirmed and common in the Pongo), and others.
WCS wishes to protect the Pongo because the lowland rainforests and mid-montane cloud forests within a radius of five miles of the Pongo possibly comprise the single most biologically-diverse site on the face of the Earth. This unique species richness stems from three facts:
a) the Pongo is located in the middle of the Amazonian foothills of the Tropical Andes, which are considered by far the richest region in the world for biodiversity;
b) the Pongo features an enormous altitudinal range of forest types within a very small area;
c) the forests of the Pongo are uninhabited, uncut, and unhunted.
d) the forest-covered walls of the canyon rise 3,000 feet above the Urubamba River, which flows at 1,300 above sea level. The forest at the base of the canyon walls and adjacent to the northern (downstream) end of the canyon is 100%-intact lowland Amazonian rainforest. The slopes and ridges above the canyon, however, are covered with a variety of montane cloud forests.
In addition to the great diversity of forests and elevations of the Pongo, it is nothing short of a miracle that its biological riches are totally intact while forests on either side of it have been impacted to different degrees by meat hunting and forest clearing for subsistence and cash-cropping. From the glacial headwaters of the Urubamba River near Cusco to the mouth of the mighty Amazon in eastern Brazil, the Pongo is the ONLY location where unhunted, unlogged, uncut forest borders the river. The forests of the canyon are entirely intact because they are so steep that local people prefer to hunt and log the flat forests on either side of it. Additionally, some powerful white-water rapids in the center of the Pongo make the river too difficult to navigate safely with conventional paddle or motor canoes. For these reasons, the Pongo is the ONLY location from the headwaters of the Amazon (either on the Urubamba or on the adjacent, ultimate Amazon headwaters on the Apurimac River) where one can see large game meat species such as Black Spider Monkeys and Common Woolly Monkeys literally hanging on tree branches over the river.
Finally, the high rainfall in the cloud forests of the upper ridges above the Pongo feeds 30 small, but especially beautiful waterfalls along the two-mile length of the canyon. These falls help make the Pongo one of the top two or three locations in the entire Amazon basin for scenic photography. All the water in the 400-foot-wide Urubamba River must squeeze through the 130-foot-wide canyon, which thereby creates standing waves and class I or II white-water rapids in one spot. These brief but exciting rapids make a boat ride through the Pongo not only scenic but also exciting. Fortunately, though the rapids may seem risky, they are, in fact, not dangerous when one uses appropriate boats, motors, life vests, and rafting helmets. A well-planned boat ride through the Pongo can therefore represent an ideal "soft adventure" experience for the upmarket ecotourists who soon will be visiting the Pongo by the hundreds or low thousands.
Most international tourists who have seen the Pongo consider it 20-40% as spectacular as Machu Picchu, which is saying quite a lot as there are only a handful of locations in South America that would be considered even "10% of a Machu Picchu". Tourists with an active interest in wildlife tourism and wilderness scenery consider the Pongo to be as impressive or even more impressive than Machu Picchu, which has much less "nature content" and much more "culture content" than the Pongo. Furthermore, in the mystical realm, the Pongo is the most sacred site of the 10,000-strong Machiguenga Indian Nation of the Peruvian Amazon, which makes the Pongo as mystical and mysterious as Machu Picchu. (Most tourists who visit the Pongo while staying at a recently-inaugurated 100%-Machiguenga-owned lodge find the canyon to be as emotionally and spiritually appealing as a visit to Machu Picchu.). The Machiguengas were made famous by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa's 1985 work "The Storyteller" and in Discovery Channel's Emmy-winning 1993 film "Spirits of the Rainforest".
The wildlife surveys in this project will serve three purposes:
a) establish baseline data for the populations of the target species;
b) locate the best viewing locations for each species; and
c) locate the best locations for possible ecolodges or other facilities; and
d) produce permanent protection of the wildlife and forest by having a team on-site the entire time to patrol and deter poachers from even trying to hunt there.
2) Patrolling and protection carried out by this project.
A second, less complicated, but perhaps ultimately more important activity of this project will be the simple presence and patrolling of the field team year round in the Pongo itself. By having a team present carrying out surveys it will be impossible for poachers or loggers to approach the canyon. But in addition to the survey work, the team will have additional personnel and capacity so that systematic, thorough patrolling can take place to prevent poaching. The basic aspects of this patrol function will be radios to keep the patrols in touch with the headquarters so that police can be called in if needed to arrest or chase away poachers. Poaching pressure is relatively light in this part of the world as none of the wildlife species is worth even 5% of the black market value of rhino horns or tiger bones, for instance. Nevertheless, without active protection, the precious wildlife resources of the Pongo could be wiped out in only a few visits by hunters or loggers. Patrolling and protection will ensure that the wildlife treasures of the Pongo no only stay intact, but become more visible, which will facilitate adding value to the forest and the wildlife through tourism.
For upmarket travelers the best current access to the Pongo region is by economically-viable, 50-minute charter flights from Cusco to a community-owned landing strip that lies only 45 minutes by boat from the Pongo. The strip is licenced to operate planes as large as Twin Otters, which are twin-engine turboprops with a capacity for 18 tourists (and two pilots). The Machiguenga community that owns the landing strip has recently opened a 100%-community-owned, 20-bed lodge catering to mid- and up-market nature tourists (see the Munn-generated web page www.tropicalnaturetravel.com/tntravel/ for details). The lodge, which is named "the Machiguenga Center for Tropical Studies" ("the Machiguenga Center" for short) is the only actual 100%-Indian-owned jungle lodge in the Tropical Andes and will serve as a model for future community-based ecotourism projects around the world. (Note that at least one other supposedly community-owned lodge in another Amazonian country has not done the legal paperwork to determine who really owns the lodge, which leaves that lodge in legal limbo). The Machiguenga Center and MunnÍs work as the principal funder of this lodge will be featured in late 2001 a one-hour documentary on Channel 4 UK. This show, which is entirely and exclusively about MunnÍs work in Peru and Brazil, also will air in the U.S., the rest of Europe, and in most other TV markets around the world. The show's producers conservatively estimate that by the end of 2002, 10 million viewers in 80 countries will have seen the program.
Currently Manu and Puerto Maldonado (Tambopata) are the only functioning Cusco-based "axes" for rainforest tourism. The Pongo area, however (and, in general, the entire Lower Urubamba north of the Pongo), is the third and potentially most promising jungle axis out of Cusco. Munn and Blanco believe that with appropriate research, protection, and ecotourism investment, in a few years the Pongo/Urubamba River rainforest axis will become known worldwide as the most spectacular rainforest destination available on trip that includes Cusco and Machu Picchu. As MunnÍs field work and white papers from 1979-1992 generated ALL the current ecotourism routes and destinations in Manu (and that from 1990 to the present Munn generated the bulk of the international press about Manu), it is quite likely that MunnÍs WCS team can repeat these accomplishments in the Pongo area.
Given the rapid conversion of this dry forest and the elimination of the Hyacinth Macaws that depend on this habitat, the Brazilian nonprofit group "BioBrasil Foundation" has identified key locations for land purchase in this dry forest habitat as an essential and effective conservation strategy. Once under the care of the foundation, whose rigorous statutes impose strict adherence to environmental protection policy for land use, the area will be prepared for a well-publicized and innovative ecotourism program. This program will enable the areas belonging to the foundation to become self-sustaining and provide economic opportunities for a local population, which currently mired in grinding poverty.
Over the past three years, BioBrasil has been administering a project based in the southeastern corner of Piaui State, on the property of Lourival Machado Lima, a former macaw trapper who now is the foundation's director for field operations in that region. With generous help from the Kaytee Avian Foundation, BioBrasil has constructed nine rustic visitors' huts and has hosted two ecotourism groups from Kaytee as well a prize-winning Swiss nature photographer and a German videographer. In 1999 the project will host another group from Kaytee and a German group from "DUMA Ecotours" of Heidelberg, Germany. The growing success of the ecotourism aspect of the project is due to Mr. Machado's ability to attract over 60 macaws to one spot for observation from a blind only forty feet from the birds. In 1999, it appears likely that the tour group has an excellent chance to see the Maned Wolf at close range, as Mr. Machado is reporting that a wolf is coming to bait just outside the project house. This tall, majestic wolf species is not only endangered, but also considered by many canid biologists to be the most beautiful wolf or wild dog species in the world.
The region also is home to a wide range of other spectacular fauna including two other macaw species (Green-winged and Blue-and-Gold), Red-legged Seriema, the Toco Toucan (the largest and most amazing of the world's 35 species of toucans), the Sun Conure, manakins (small, colorful fruit-eating birds that dance in predictable display grounds), the Greater Rhea and other photogenic species. Given the past history of subsistence hunting in this region many mammals still remain wary of humans, but with the new protection afforded by the Hyacinth Project, these animals should become tame and easier to observe in the near future. In addition to the Maned Wolf mentioned earlier, the mammal species of the BioBrasil project site include the Giant Anteaters, Jaguars, Pumas, Black Howler Monkeys, Brown Capuchin Monkeys, and marmosets (small monkeys).
The region's repertoire of animals rivals that of the Pantanal, the principal ecotourism destination in Brazil today, but the dry forest has the advantage of much lower humidity, absence of biting insects, and year-round access. In contrast, the Pantanal has significant numbers of mosquitoes and is heavily flooded and thus inaccessible for much of the year. A trip to the Pantanal will always offer the visitor greater assemblages of large water birds than a trip to the cerrado, but the dry forest can guarantee a combination of good weather, good access and much more scenic vistas than the Pantanal. The dry forest also can guarantee a list of very attractive wildlife, albeit in lower density than in the Pantanal. The dry forest region is little studied and very sparsely populated , so large tracts of land can be purchased at amazingly good prices without creating conflict with local human populations.
of BioBrasil Foundation's Area of Action
Properties for Possible Acquisition and Additional Funding Needs
In terms of other important locations where BioBrasil wishes to operate conservation projects for Hyacinths, between the Bahian city of Barrieras and the impressive 120-foot Acaba Vida waterfall some 50 miles south east of Barreiras, there is key Hyacinth habitat that is extremely vulnerable to the expanding soy cultivation that is creeping north from the Brasilia area.
BioBrasil therefore seeks additional funding for the purchase of targeted areas of Hyacinth habitat to be used for conservation, ecotourism, and scientific research. The effective protection of land is obviously fundamental for the attainment of environmental protection and the goal of self-financing protection into the future. The present project area is patrolled by two employees of the foundation, though up until now the efficiency of patrolling has been a bit limited due to patrols on foot and bicycle. We propose the> purchase of used dirt motorbikes to permit effective, economical patrolling of BioBrasil's lands. The purchase of further land would require the hiring of other guards, at least during the four months that the sites would be most active for ecotourism. The foundation has identified various potential candidates who are reliable and have extensive knowledge on methods to protect and bait animals for photo-tourism.
Modest expansion of basic ecotourism infrastructure is also a necessity as the project grows and receives more and more ecotourists. Aside from new rustic huts with comfortable beds, BioBrasil proposes the construction of a 100-foot-tall scaffolding observation tower, which will furnish the visitor with eye-level views of nests of the Blue- and-Gold Macaws (and possibly Hyacinth Macaws in Mauritia palms in the Acaba Vida area).
Funding Needs and Amounts
Salaries of four full time staff charged with protection and wildlife
taming for 12 months (and one month bonus at Christmas time is customary
in Brazil--so 13 monthly salaries per year): Each guard at US$200 per
Supplies and Expendable Equipment
5. Services and Miscellaneous Telecommunications, assorted local services (copying, etc.) US$ 400 Total for Items 1-5 US$66,000
6. BioBrasil 10% administration fee: US$6,000.
Total Funding Requested: US$72,000.
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This has been a year of important accomplishment for the Friends of the Peruvian Rainforest. Your support has enabled us to continue helping CEDIA (Center for Development of the Amazon Indian) in its land titling, legal assistance, and educational activities. CEDIA is integrating community-based conservation with rural development, empowering local people to benefit financially from their indigenous knowledge while simultaneously protecting large tracts of rainforest and wildlife. Our financial support continues to generate very substantial leverage.
Thanks to CEDIA's work, today native communities hold legal title to 19.5 million acres. This represents 10% of the Peruvian Amazon. Compare this figure to the approximately 13.7 million acres designated as conservation units (such as Manu National Park and Reserve, Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone, etc.), and CEDIA's work underscores an exceptional level of achievement.
Another piece of good news comes from the October regional elections. For the first time in Peruvian history, a conservationist, Walter Mancilla, was elected mayor of an Amazonian municipality. Given the thinness of settlement in the region, his "municipality" includes the entire Manu National Park, and, east of the park, an area half that size, all pristine forest; the total jurisdiction is three quarters the size of Switzerland. Mancilla's election reflects the educational work CEDIA has done within the park and in neighboring communities to show people how forest conservation can benefit them. His administration can further strengthen protection for the region.
Here are some of the other important accomplishments of the past year:
As mentioned above, these activities have brought the total rainforest land held by indigenous communities to 10% of Peru's share of the Amazon basin, a figure substantially higher than that designated as parks or other protected areas.
In the coming year, we want to help maintain this momentum, and assist CEDIA and other groups to build on these accomplishments. Here are some of our goals:
These are just some of the activities we would like to assist, with your support. In gratitude for your contribution, we have several items to offer. Our newest T-shirt is of a Golden-headed Quetzal with Machu Picchu in the background. It was designed by John O'Neill, one of the leading ornithologists working in Peru. He also painted our Emerald Toucanet T-shirt; that design is taken directly from a field sketch O'Neill did when in the Rio Sesha region, not far from Manu. We continue to have T-shirts with the logo of the Friends of the Peruvian Rainforest. We will send any one of these to anyone contributing $50 or more who requests one.
Finally, thanks to the generosity of Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, we have posters of a painting by the distinguished artist Larry McQueen of an Agami Heron, a spectacular bird found in the Peruvian rainforest. We will send it to anyone contributing $50 or more who requests it.
All the directors of the Friends join me in thanking you for your generous support.
Roger F. Pasquier
Enclosed is my tax-deductible contribution of
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For my contribution of $50 or more, please send me one of the following:
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__ Agami Heron poster
Make check payable to Friends of the Peruvian Rainforest and mail to Friends of the Peruvian Rainforest, 668 Public Ledger Building, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3474
As a professional conservation biologist who has frequent chances to supervise directly the work carried out by each of the grantee organizations and projects, I can assure you that the grants are well spent and are making great progress in helping conserve wild macaws in Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil.