Local Conservation and Conservationists in Peru, Aug.-Nov. 2011
During recent trips to Peru, I met local people who are working to conserve birds and start birdwatching ecotourism operations in many unexpected places.
At Bosque Pomac, a national sanctuary supporting a dry scrub forest in the Tumbezian region of Peru, I met Edwin Remberto. From December 2006 through June 2008, Edwin coordinated and participated in training workshops conducted by ABC’s partner ECOAN with funding from ABC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Several of the people mentioned below (e.g. Santos Montenegro, Jose Oriel Altamirano, Roberto Bazán Culquí), among other participants, also received training during these workshops.
At these workshops, Edwin learned about bird monitoring, guiding tourists, and use of digital cameras and microphones for recording bird calls. With these new skills, Edwin was employed by Bosque Pomac as a park guard, and now participates in monitoring and habitat restoration activities for the endangered Peruvian Plantcutter at the sanctuary. Plantcutters are unusual for having serrated bills they use to forage on leaves, buds, and fruits. Edwin showed us where the Plantcutters were, spotted a Rufous Flycatcher, and was also able to locate the nest holes of the rare Tumbes Swallow within the reserve.
Further inland, I met Luciano Troyes and his family at their Gotas de Agua reserve which they established on their land above the dusty town of Jaen in Peru’s Marañon Valley. Luciano has spent over twenty years working to protect these dry forests and develop ecotourism in the area. He has created firebreaks, a rustic tourist lodge, and a restaurant overlooking bird-feeding areas in the reserve. Luciano led our group along the reserve’s trail system to spectacular overlooks, where we saw Little Inca-Finch and Marañon Crescentchest, and watched as hundreds of birds passed by in the evening, commuting from the river below for one last drink before settling in to roost for the night in the higher woodlands within the reserve. An observation tower overlooks a feeding station where Streaked Saltator, Red-crested Finch, and Tataupa Tinamou come for water and ground corn. Endemic Spot-throated Hummingbirds visit nectar feeders near the lodge. This reserve is not well-known, despite the many rare endemics found here, but birding groups are starting to visit. Visitors might also be impressed by the artwork on the trail signs – all done by Luciano’s twelve-year old son Pier.
To make this reserve a reality, Luciano has sold other properties to raise the funds necessary to invest in tourism start-up costs and to pay reserve guards. ABC’s partner Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) and its president Tino Aucca have also provided some support to Luciano to help him submit an application to the Peruvian government to recognize his land as a Private Conservation Area in the national system of protected areas.
Some of the best bird conservationists I have met in northern Peru are now employed by ECOAN. For example, Santos Montenegro now works as ECOAN’s manager of the Huembo reserve, and may be the world’s expert on the ecology of the Marvelous Spatuletail, which is protected at Huembo as well as on his own family’s property near the town of Pomacochas. At Huembo, he is happy to guide visitors to where the Spatuletails are feeding and identify other birds as well. I hope to help him write up and share what he has learned about the spatuletail, including its foraging plants and breeding behavior. ECOAN also employs two other locals, Dennis Poclín and Santos Chasquibol, who together started new tree nurseries in their local communities and coordinating reforestation efforts there. The project first began with one tree species, the Andean Alder, but over 40 species of trees and shrubs are now cultivated for planting. They are currently managing reforestation projects to plant over 250,000 trees in northern Peru’s Amazonas department. For Dennis, reforestation work is a family affair. The Pomacochas nursery is located on his family’s land across the street from his parents’ home. On one visit, his parents invited us all in and his father served drinks to celebrate.
Roberto Bazán Culquí is a local resident hired as a park ranger by ECOAN at Abra Patricia Reserve an hour’s drive east of Huembo. He is a remarkable birder in the field and taught himself how to habituate antpittas to worm-feeding. In November 2011, I and a group of eager birdwatchers followed along a trail a short distance from the Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia, and watched as he called in an Undulated Antpitta named “Dorita.” Dorita appeared for breakfast without fear. Roberto has since trained another local park ranger, Ever Garcia Perez, to feed Dorita her daily meal, freeing himself up in the morning to habituate additional antpittas, with a Chestnut Antpitta next in line. Roberto also guides tourists to see the Long-whiskered Owlet along a trail in the reserve, where he knows the locations of multiple territories. Guy Foulks of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently captured fantastic video footage of this owlet on one such guided hike this past November.
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Experiences like these attract visitors from all over the world, who provide a source of income to this reserve to help finance its operations. Artwork by Pier Troyes (of Gotas de Agua, mentioned above) is now on sale at Abra Patricia Reserve.
I first met Jose Oriel Altamirano, another employee of ECOAN and keen birder, at Abra Patricia. He now lives at a reserve owned and operated by his family called Waqanki along the Quebrada Mishquiyaquillo, also known as Mishquiyacu to many birders. This spot is situated at the base of wonderful foothill forest on an outlying ridge, about two hours downhill from Abra Patricia. It is an easy stop on the way between Abra Patricia and the airport in Tarapoto. Like Luciano Troyes, Jose’s family has sold other properties to finance their ecotourism venture on their own. They have built several cabins for overnight guests. Jose’s younger brother Carlos Luis Altamirano Guerrero is also a skilled bird guide who can accompany birders along the trails and knows where to find specialties. During a visit in August, Carlos guided us up to the extensive hummingbird garden below an observation tower where we easily saw a dozen hummingbird species in an hour. Curiously, the hummingbird feeders are homemade by a man named Billclinton. There is also an orchid garden, and trails leading up through a shade-coffee plantation into the hill forest, where Carlos leads birders to find Stripe-chested Antwren, wintering Cerulean Warblers, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Band-bellied Owl, and the endemic Ash-throated Antwren. During a visit in November, Jose accompanied our group to explore an open savanna below the cabins, where birders can find several species sparsely distributed in Peru, including Spot-tailed Nightjar after dark. During the day, we were lucky enough to see Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-backed Antwren, and the recently described Varzea Thrush.
I recommend that visitors to Waqanki also stop at the nearby Hospedaje Ecológica Rumipata resort and restaurant, only a few minutes away, operated by Seizo Siraishi and his wife. They are Japanese immigrants to Peru and serve up a bounty of fresh food, including vegetables from their garden, and tilapia from their fish ponds. While you eat lunch here you can watch a diversity of tyrant flycatchers around the fish ponds, hummingbirds at feeders, and a noisy colony of oropendolas and caciques. They too offer overnight accommodations, and are expanding the trails leading into good hill forest habitat. This lodge is also next door to the popular San Mateo thermal baths.
At Caseria Filoque, a village near Olmos, there are small wetlands surrounded by cattle pastures along the main highway. These wetlands are not well-known, but happen to be a great place to see Spotted Rail. Facilities here are rudimentary, but the seed of grass-roots birding tourism has been sown and locals like Jose Luis Lopez Torres are interested in conserving wetlands and learning more – especially as more birding groups stop here and share their sightings.
Frejolillo (also known as Quebrada Limon) is home to the endangered White-winged Guan as well as Linor Rico, who for decades has helped protect the dry forest habitat and the guan as a volunteer forest guard, as well as guiding visitors along the hilly trails and registering their names in a visitor logbook.
People like those profiled here are the future of conservation in northern Peru. Tino Aucca, president of ECOAN commented “I am so happy that these friends are engaged in conservation and hope more visitors come to northern Peru to enjoy seeing their successes.” I agree.
If you are interested in visiting some of the places mentioned in this blog, the following links and address may help you.
ECOAN can also help you arrange visits to the following sites below.
Caseria Filoque: email Jose Luis Lopez Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org