Showing posts with label amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label amazon. Show all posts
May 04, 2014

Rare Harpy Eagle Nest With Baby = Striking Avian Gold In The Peruvian Amazon


Photographing the Harpy Eagle from a platform in a huge tree
A few weeks ago, wildlife photographers Jeff Cremer of Rainforest Expeditions and Lucas Bustamante and Jaime Culebras of TropicalHerping, had the chance to film and photograph one of the rarest birds of the rainforest, the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja). Not only did they see a Harpy Eagle, they were able to climb into the canopy and observe two Harpy Eagles with its chick for two days. At one point they were so close they had to switch lenses just to get the entire bird in the frame.

Getting ready to climb into the rainforest canopy
"Its so rare it’s like seeing a Unicorn” says Jeff Cremer of Rainforest Expeditions. “When Jaime and Lucas sent me a message on Facebook saying that they found a Harpy Eagle nest I booked the next flight to the jungle.”

Harpy Eagles are the top predators of the Amazon sky. These massive birds of prey have a wingspan of six to seven feet and, when sitting, have the height of a five-year-old child. Coming equipped with talons the size of Grizzly Bear claws and a huge beak that dismembers monkeys and sloths with ease these creatures clock in as the worlds most powerful bird of prey.

A mother taking care of her baby
The tree with the Harpy Eagle nest
Despite its large dimensions (a big female can be more than a meter in length and have a wingspan of more than two meters), actually seeing a Harpy Eagle in the wild is a major birding accomplishment. Unlike other birds of prey, the Harpy Eagle doesn’t soar but prefers to lurk in the canopy of the forest like some monstrous winged feline. It catches prey by surprise and goes after everything from monkeys to kinkajous and even Brocket Deer.

Their large territory also adds difficulty to the equation since a pair uses anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 hectares of forest for hunting. When one is seen, it’s usually a brief glimpse of a massive bird flying away through the top branches of the forest.

"Birders spend their whole lives just to catch a glimpse of the Harpy Eagle. We were incredibly lucky to be able to sit in a tree for two days right next to a family of them. What makes that especially rare is the fact that a pair of Harpy Eagles nest just once every two or even three years." Cremer said. "I've seen Jaguars, Tapirs and Puma and have even been the first person to film new species but seeing the Harpy Eagle feed and interact with its chick was really amazing."
Baby Harpy Eagle

At around 4:30am while it was still dark, the team gathered up their photography gear and hiked into the jungle. After a 30 minute hike the team arrived at the tree and started preparing for the climb up. Using climbing harnesses and ascenders the team climbed twelve stories into a huge rainforest tree. What they saw, perched twelve stories high while strapped to a tree, was a Harpy Eagle chick nestled in a four-foot thick, five-foot wide fortress of branches and soft leaves. The chick was patiently waiting for its mother to return and eventually, she did.

Harpy Eagle
"We were really surprised when she showed up. She swooped in without a sound while carrying a full grown Brazilian Porcupine in her claws," Cremer said. “She just sat there and watched while the baby ate it up.”

After they ate the Porcupine, the mother bird began calling until her mate, a huge male Harpy Eagle, came flying in to deliver half the body a 

sloth to the nest.

Fellow wildlife photographers and biologists Lucas Bustamante and Jaime Culebras of Tropical Herping have spent the better part of the last decade photographing wildlife in the Ecuadorian rainforest and were with Cremer to photograph and film the eagle.

"In my country, Ecuador, there is an Amazonian tribe called the Huaorani," Bustamante explained. "They believe that they are descendants of the Jaguar and the Harpy Eagle. They worship these two animals as their gods and view them as being very important to the jungle. After being face to face with an Harpy Eagle it is easy to see why they believe that. Finding myself in the jungle with that mythological creature, was like being in front of a legendary Griffin."

Baby Harpy Eagle
"This rest of the trip was like paradise," said Jaime Culebras, "We were able to photograph two Jaguars, a Puma with her baby, a family of Otters playing a few meters from our boat, hundreds of macaws eating right in front of our cameras, four species of monkeys on trails and dozens of peccaries visiting the lodge just about every day. Adding the pair of Harpy Eagles feeding their young in the nest made this trip a dream come true!”

Mother Harpy Eagle

A Close Up Of The Harpy Eagle Holding Half The Body Of A Sloth By Its Head

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October 12, 2012

The Froggy Medicine Factory


The monkey frogs of the Tambopata rainforest are literally covered in medical secrets yet to be discovered.

I think we caught this monkey frog on a bad day.
Maybe she'd cheer up if she knew she could save lives.

What makes monkey frogs remarkeable is their incredible array of chemicals that exist on the slim that covers their skin- as of 2009, there were over 200 unique peptides discovered in that goo. These chemicals likely evolved to provide them with protection from predators, illnesses, and drying out, however a multitude of them have proven to have a lot of potentially useful purposes for humans, too.

The monkey frogs, tree frogs of the genus Phyllomedusa, are made up of about a dozen species here in southern Peru. They are called monkey frogs because they tend to crawl along a branch like a monkey, rather than hop like a frog.

New peptides are being found all the time on these frogs, and with a variety of functions. Take, for instance, the frog Phyllomedusa bicolor, the giant monkey frog. One study looked at its use by the indigenous in the Amazon. They found that placing the frog on burnt skin causes an "increase in physical strength, heightening of senses, resistance to hunger and thirst, exalted capacity to face stress situations." The drug component that causes that even remarkably makes up 7% of the frog's weight! 

Forget spiderman, I think frogman is more likely to fight crime.

Not just to become a superfrog-like.

Amplectant Phyllomedusa camba.
There are a multitude of other studies on their antimicrobial properties, here and here are good examples, and in 2012 alone I found 56 studies with the terms "Phyllomedusa skin" and "drug" included, so it is an very active area of biomedical research.

As far as I know, the compounds are all still in testing phase and not yet used by humans for medical purposes. However, they doesn't mean humans haven't found a use for them, legal or not- one monkey frog caused a scandal because it was being used to dope up race horses, making them both excited and numb.

So, while we can look forward to seeing what interesting and useful compounds come out next, please don't take this as an excuse to try using a monkey frog drug recreationally- the compounds are poisons, afterall, and we don't yet know the long term effects or short term risks. It really is extremely dangerous.

I do know one person who 'doped up' on an unknown monkey frog and claims he felt he was dying then thought he turned into a frog. For all we know that frog condition could be a permanent one, so don't do it!

September 30, 2012

Why are some leaves not green?


While walking around the rainforests of Tambopata you will see some leaves that don’t seem to belong amongst their green brethren- some of these leaves can be blue, purple, red, pink, or even white. 

Leaves are green because they absorb most other colors in their chlorophyll and harvest that light for energy; the unabsorbed green bounces away and is detected by our eyes. So, for a leaf to be of another color, it usually is sacrificing energy absorption for something else. 

Why the color sacrifice? Found out in this video:

This video represents two of the leading theories on why some leaves are of different colors in the rainforest. While these reasons can apply to many leaves, they don’t apply to all, and we’re continually finding out more about interesting plant adaptations in this realm.

Check out for more posts from biologist Phil Torres
July 12, 2012

Three famous visitors to the Amazon I bet you did not know about

This is not about celebrities. It’s about historical figures. You know, Abraham Lincoln or Vladimir Lenin. And, to be fair, I got these from the excellent book on the history of the Amazon: Tree of Rivers by John Hemming. You have to enjoy the Amazon to cover its 400 pages, but it is a superbly researched and well written book (so is Hemming’s other book, the Conquest of the Incas). Anyway, without further ado, here they go:

Theodore Roosevelt (pg 236-244)
It is appropriate that the North American president who founded the National Park system had an epic Amazon journey. In 1914, Teddy Roosevelt, already 55, visited Brazil on a hunting trip to  Amazonia. The government of Brazil assigned the great woodsman Colonel Candido Rondon as his guide. Rondon, who may have been the first indigenous rights activist in Amazonia has whole state  named after him: Rondonia.

Anyway, they had no mission beyond hunting and exploring. Hunting is not as good in the Amazon as it is in Africa: game is smaller and much harder to find. So I imagine that after a disappointing tapir or red brocket deer kill, Roosevelt turned to exploring. Rondon gave him a choice of four rivers to descend from Rondonia northwards to the Amazon. One was an unknown tributary called the Duvida, or “River of Doubt” because now when knew where it emerged. Roosevelt of course,  picked that one. During the eight week 1000 kilometer descent, he almost lost his son Kermit in the rapids and was “wasted to a mere shadow of his former self”. The Duvida was christened the Roosevelt River by Rondon.

I love his quotes from his Amazon travels, which could be found in any field biologists journal:

“Now, while bursting thru a tangle, I disturbed a nest of wasps, whose resentment was very active; now I heedlessly stepped among the outliers of a small party of the carnivorous foraging (Eciton, army) ants; now grasping a branch as I stumbled, I shook down a shower of fire-ants (Dinoponera) which stung like hornet, so that I felt it for three hours… ”

“Because of the rain and heat our clothes were usually wet when we took them off at night, and just as wet when we put them on in the morning.”

Henry Ford (pg 264-268)
Who would have thought that Ford founded one of the Amazon’s first businesses to go bust? It turns out that around 1922 Ford wanted to break the Dutch- British cartel on plantation rubber, which was steadily raising prices. Some shady Brazilians sold 10000 square miles of land in the state of Para where he could replicate the Asian and African rubber tree plantations in the Amazon. Any Peruvian forestry undergraduate will tell you that is an extremely risky proposition: high densities of any native tree species will attract pests (in Asia and Africa, rubber is a non-native species, so it has no pests). So, Fordlandia was built, complete with a cinema, a hospital, churches schools, tennis courts, swimming pools, social clubs, avenues lined with eucalyptus, and a golf course. By 1935, 1.5 million rubber trees were planted, but as they grew enough for their canopies to touch, they lost their leaves to the endemic South American Leaf Blight. They moved the plantation and built a large Fordlandia at a palce called Belterra. After 2 million trees were planted, the blight struck again. In 1945, Henry Ford II abandoned the enterprise having sunk 10 million dollars without tapping a single rubber tree.

Otto von Bismarck (pg 122)
The founder and first chancellor of the German Empire (ca. 1870) was an aide-de-camp in an expedition to the Amazon led by Prince Adalbert of Prussia. The expedition visited the Amazon in 1842 with the goal of exploring the Xingu. Ive tried googling more on this expedition because Hemming doesn’t mention much about it (von Bismarck, was after all, a lowly aide de camp), but I keep finding Bismarck biographies on Amazon DOT COM! is one of the few bummers of real Amazon work!

Please let me know of any other historical figures in the Amazon who are known for their Amazon adventures. And if you,re planning to become a historical figure, don’t forget to visit us at our Amazon jungle lodges.
February 25, 2012

Rainforest Expeditions - About Us


Click To Play Video
Click To Play Video Tambopata, the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. In the shadow of the Andes, this stretch of tropical rainforest is home to a stunning myriad of plants and animals. It is widely recognised as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth.

Tambopata is also the centre of operations of Rainforest Expeditions, Peru’s largest ecotourism company. 

In partnership with local indigenous communities, we run three award-winning lodges deep inside Tambopata’s forests, giving visitors a unique chance to sustainably experience the natural wonders of the Amazon.

Since our first lodge was founded in 1989, thousands of travellers from around the world have stayed with us. By choosing Rainforest Expeditions, each of those travellers has allowed us to reinvest in the conservation and protection of this unique wilderness. 

Our guests choose from a menu of activities, tailoring their trips to their specific tastes and needs. We offer everything from family excursions to adventurous overnight hikes and kayak trips, and cultural tourism including traditional ayahuasca ceremonies and home-stays with local families. But more than anything else, our guests have the opportunity to get up close to the amazing plants and animals that surround our lodges, observing everything from caymans to seven different species of monkeys and hundreds of kinds of exotic birds. 

Our work to protect the rainforest is now more urgent than ever. New roads are opening up Tambopata to logging, poaching and unsustainable agriculture. And record commodity prices have triggered a wave of illegal gold mining. But there is another way – the Rainforest Expeditions way. 

By offering local indigenous communities the chance to use ecotourism to create value from healthy living forests, we are helping to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of the Amazon – and prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.

 At Rainforest Expeditions, we also support conservation research. Every year, we host dozens of scientists from around the world who come to study this spectacular ecosystem, often making discoveries that can help save threatened rainforests in other parts of the world. 

Without our guests, none of this would be possible. Rainforest Expeditions will be happy to make your stay in the Amazon a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime event. 

The world’s greatest rainforest is waiting for you.
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February 09, 2012



by Kurt Holle

When a forest is worth more as a farm than as a forest, it tends to be cut down. That is why deforestation is a problem in many places.  How does the Amazon rain forest lose its value? I recently heard a conversation between Miguel and Juan, two natives of the Peruvian Amazon, that helped me to better understand. 
Peccaries in the Amazon Rainforest
Miguel was explaining to Juan how to ambush peccary with bow and arrow in bamboo thickets: “You must go barefoot. Your feet just know where the thorns are. Boots are useless.  They’ll give you away”.  Juan looked at his boots: “I used to do that. I can’t anymore. When I was drafted by the army, I had to wear boots. I lost my hard foot soles. Now, I can walk barefoot for short periods only.” 
“You miss out on peccaries in bamboo?” Miguel asks.
“I just use a shotgun.” Juan answered. 
Juan is an Ese’eja native from the Tambopata River in Amazonian Peru. Miguel is a Machiguenga who lives along the Manu River. Juan lives 20 kilometers by road from the town of Puerto Maldonado (population 50,000). Miguel is two days of travel on the river by boat from the town of Boca Manu (population 500). 
They are on a journey on the same path, but Juan has advanced further on it. The path was laid out in the nineteenth century by the Industrial Revolution. The path is no longer useful. You can see this clearly in the Amazon. When a native boy trades in an arrow made of palm bark, wild cane stems and forest bee wax for a shotgun, the forest has lost a bit of value to him. Each time a native boy forgets how to walk barefoot losing his chance to hunt peccary in bamboo groves, the forest is worth less. Every liter of mercury, oil or sewage poured into the Amazon River basin takes more value away from it. Every time an Ese’eja or Machiguenga has to travel further upriver to fish because his neighborhood stream is polluted, it is another sign of the forest losing worth.  How can this be? How can we change it?
We need a path leading into the Green Economy.  I imagine that path is more like the Amazon river basin, with hundreds of tributaries carving their way into one large river - the Green Economy. I will describe one of these tributaries: the tributary that adds value to standing forests worldwide. Forests are the world´s largest carbon sink and hold most of our biological diversity. They play a critical role regulating the planet’s water cycle and soil erosion. So what does this added value tributary look like in the Amazon?   
The Amazon is not empty. It is full of residents who use it: indigenous people and second or third generation settlers.  Most of them have intense personal relationships to the forest. They want any excuse to keep it standing. Their reasoning is like this: “I will keep the forest standing on part of my property. I will do this because it is right, or because it is what my parents would have liked, or because it might prove to be a good investment. But, if I need money to send my kids to school, or to pay for my mom’s operation, then I need to cash in. I can do this by cutting forest and planting corn or renting my land to palm oil planters.”
Necklace: ORG by vio®.  Made from local materials by indigenous residents of the Amazon.
Your purchases can help Amazon residents make an income out of standing forest.  Next time you’re looking for an original gift or vacation idea, go to the internet and find handicrafts, wooden decorations, ecotours, carbon credits and other products. Make sure their produced by Amazon residents bent on keeping their forest standing.  Purchase them. You will help add value to the forest. You will help carve this tributary of the Green Economy. 

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