he "Research Center Taricaya" with its "Rescue Center" is magical, hidden in the amazonian rainforest of southeastern Peru. It's located in the Tambopata Province, 28 kilometers away from the Peruvian city Puerto Maldonado and situated between the river Madre de Dios and the Tambopata Reserve, one of the most biodiverse spots in the world.
I'm glad I went there in 2013 during my free year. It was my first time and I stayed for three months which was an indescribable experience! Enthused by the adventures I experienced and the new things I learned, I still raved about Taricaya years ago. I did not only liked the work or the animals at the station, but also I loved to cooperate with experts in ornithology, biology, entomology,... and I met plenty of new friends which I still see every year. Somehow, the Research Center Taricaya gave me the possibility to develop myself and find out what I want to do later.
Still fascinated by the reserve and the diversity, I decided to go back for two more months, in order to do a practical for my university. In 2016 I was cooperate with Rachel K. and worked more on the ornithology part for the Research Center. I ringed birds in the jungle and observed them on the canopy. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to do the first thinning on a Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) plantation.
Another part of my work in 2016 was to work with the volunteers, teach them more about birds, take them with me bird ringing, identified bird song and observated with them.
Afterwards I was travelling through Latin America with my girlfriend for a whole year. In order to show her this magical place, we came back for one week.
In 1980, a passionated man who loved to protect the jungle against loggers, farmers and hunters, bought an area of 50ha in the jungle. Years later, Fernando R. bought 476ha around this area with the same conception. He established the "Taricaya Research Center" in 2001 and took the opportunity to work together with the organisation "Project Abroad" which made it possible to grow and receive volunteers from all over the world.
The "Research Center Taricaya" is an non-profit organisation, located in Peruvian Amazonian rainforest, south-east of Peru. The station is 28 km away from the city Puerto Maldonado, Province of Tambopata and the river Madre de Dios. The reserve is a well-respected leader organisation in terms of wildlife conservation, works together with local communities and has a border with the National Reserve Tambopata, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
The staff of "Taricaya" includes people from Peru and other countries who work with volunteers from all over the world together. The volunteers come from different countries, with different skills, age and experience. They all work together as a team on different projects and want to have an positive impact in the region and for the rainforest conservation.
In 2013 (my free year), I was looking to find an interesting project to participate in for three months. I found the "Research Center Taricaya" which was an amazing experience! I was fascinated to work with all the experts and interested people and helped conserving of the jungle. The highlights were the releasing of the Spider Monkeys (see more below).
In order to do a practical for the Albert-Ludwigs-Univeristy in Freiburg im Breisgau, I decided to go back to Taricaya in 2016 for two months. I visited Taricaya during the months September-October and successfully focused on bird ringing and bird observation. We found 5 new species for Taricaya, caught over one hundred different species and ringed about four hundred birds (birding report of Taricaya 2016). I was also occupied with the instruction of the volunteers in 2016. I showed them how to identify the birds on the canopy with binoculars and by the songs, explained them the rules of birds in the jungle and how they live, learned them how to remove birds out of the mist nets and everything about bird ringing. Beside the birds, I had the opportunity to release a Kinkajou and to observe the released Spider Monkeys in the rainforest and the hatching of the turtles (see more below).
While travelling through Latin America with my girlfriend for a year (2017), we again had to stop in Taricaya. She has never seen the jungle or Taricaya, only heard plenty of stories from me. Therefore, showing here the jungle was a great experience!
In order to prevent that threatened or abused animals are sent to a zoo as their final destination, the "Taricaya Research Center" founded a rescue center with the purpose to release those animals back into the wild. The "Rescue Center of Taricaya" was officially recognized by the government in 2008 with this concept. The station was a pioneer in Peru and until today they have released about 60 species back into the wild.
The task of the "Rescue Center" is to rescue animals which were kept in captivity, rehabilitate each individual to give it back its physical health and to release it into the nature. After releasing them, they try to monitor for while with senders or other material.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to release every animal again (like the Andean Bears, cats) because they have lost their ability to survive in the wild or because dangerous animals are too habituated to humans. Therefore, the "Rescue Center" also started captivity breeding, so as to repopulate the jungle again. Therefore, one of the tasks as a volunteer in the "Rescue Center Taricaya" is to feed and clean the animals. Furthermore, most of the animals are in the cage for a long time and need a lot of variety, like games, special food or other activities. Baby animals need a surrogate mother which feeds them every hour and gives them adjacency.
The best part is releasing. Animals which had a bad background get a new chance, a new life. After staying in the cage for some months they get released, alone or in groups, into the jungle where they can start again.
The protection of the Yellow-spotted River Turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) is one of the most important tasks for the "Research Center Taricaya".
The turtle is disappearing very fast from the area. The main danger is poaching and destroying their habitat. Furthermore, locals look for the eggs of the turtles, to sell them as delicacy on the black market.
The Peruvian government awarded an island to Taricaya in 2005 which is a well known nesting place for those turtles . Volunteers and the staff of Taricaya monitor the beach every year during the months July and August where they search for the turtles and their nets. When they find a nest, they locate the exact position with GPS and remove the eggs carefully. Additionally they collect data about the depth, quantity of eggs, sand temperature and weather conditions. All that information are very important and has an influence of the development of the sex.
The turtles hatch after 70-90 days. The babies get measured, weighed and marked with a small cut on their shell. If all are hatched volunteers release them at the same beach where they found the nest. On several boat trips next to the river bank it's possible to observe the turtles with the marks.
Another important project of Taricaya is the reintroduction of Peruvian Spider Monkeys (Ateles chamek) in the rainforest. Fortunately, I had the possibility to help release a group in 2013.
Due to hunting those big mammals became extinct in this area. However, they are very important for the composition of the flora in a the rainforest. Only the Spider Monkeys are specialized to eat the big fruits of the biggest trees in the jungle. Without them, there is no seed distribution and in some years, the trees will be extinct too which will have a big influence on the flora and fauna in this region.
Abused young monkeys which illegally lived in captivity somewhere in a house of a Peruvian family or orphan baby monkeys where the mother was killed by hunters, come to the Rescue Center Taricaya. They check their genetic origin, test if they have illnesses and put them all together in a cage. Over the months, the monkeys have the possibility to get know to each other and create a group. After a while, when they are already some months at the station, old and strong enough and seem to be ready to survive on their own in the jungle, they release them into the jungle under the coordination of Raul B. (Since 2016, Raul created his own station, next to the Research Center Taricaya.)
Since the first day, ornithology has a part of Taricaya, coordinated by Rachel K. from England and Mauricio U. from Peru which have ringed birds for years. They work together with CORBIDI, an international bird organisation and use their code rings. They collect biometric data, GPS coordinates, habitat type and the age of every individual which gets captured. Until now (2017), they have ringed over 2 000 birds of 512 species and have spent more than 20 000 hours ringing.
I just started ornithology in 2011. When I came to the jungle for the first time I didn't know they are ringing birds as well. I was interested, tried to work with them, developed the catching methods and worked out some strategies to catch non-regular birds. The variety of bird species there fascinated me a lot. Therefore, I came back for two more months in order to catch more regular birds with Rachel. A success! We caught about four hundred birds and more than one hundred species. Bird Gallery
Beside catching birds, they also have platforms where they make observations every Tuesday and Thursday. The teams are starting early in the morning and note every bird which sings or flys around. The Research Center Taricaya has build about 3-4 different platforms which have a great view over a banana plantation, a swamp and a canopy platform which is over 50 m high on a tree.
In total, the Rescue Center Taricaya has recorded 481 species on the 500 hectares big reserve. I'm glad that in 2013 I found 7 new species for Taricaya and 5 new species in 2016. Ihe "international birding day" was very special. On that day over one hundred species of birds were recorded in 24 hours.
Beautiful butterflies with extraordinary colors on their wings are a bestseller in tropical countries. Sadly, most of those butterflies are captured in the wild and sold illegally.
In order to prevent the extinction of those beautiful butterflies, the Research Center Taricaya are trys to figure out how to have butterfly farms where they breed popular species.At the moment the have Owl butterflies (Caligo Oedipus)in their butterfly house but the project is still not profitable.
Beside the research on the bird species in the jungle, the Research Center Taricaya also studies other animals in the jungle with the help of numerous experts.
To work against the main threats of the rainforest - forest clearing -, Taricaya developed a project with various experiments on poly cultures and their productivity in 2004.
Today they have a Mahogany (Swetenia macrophylla) plantation with several Ironwood trees. This plant is an important rainforest tree which is now almost extinct outside of the protected areas. In 2004, Taricaya developed a new strategy for the commercial use and created an agroforestry system with Mahogany. They planted the trees by seeds and between the tree lines they cultivate tropical flowers. Five years after the plantation they did the first thinning to thin out and created a Moahogany workshop to use the wood and from the Ese-Eja tribe they learned how to make natural dye from the bark. Unfortunately, they had a moth, Hypsipyla grandella, which attacked the trees in the first years.
Their Mahogany plantation is one of the first of its kind. In 2016, I was allowed to do the first thinning at this plantation. Fortunately, I studied forestry for the past 5 years and knew what to do.
The Mahogany plantation is about 1 hectares big. We divided the plantation in two parts of the same size and measured all the diameters at breast length. The measurement was done to compare it in some years with the evaluation of the trees which was done in 2011; It is desired to see if the thinning was a success or not and if there is a difference between the worked area the normal part. Later, I selected the trees using the "Z-tree" method, where I take the best, strongest trees which should build the end stock and clear around them, so no crown of another tree is in competition with the "Z-Tree". With this method, we picked about 5-7 trees.
The Research Center Taricaya offers many possibilities to get in touch with science but volunteers who go there also have to work.
All the animals in the Rescue Center need to be cleaned and fed every day. New cages have to be constructed or old ones need to be repaired, buildings have to be replaced and trails have to be cleaned, fruits have to be collected and the borders of the reserve need to be checked, and so on. A lot of things need to be done in the jungle which certainly prevent boredom.