Looking forward to turtle nesting season

Visitors have been enjoying the canopy views from our tower, and the açaí saplings seem to be surviving in respectable numbers. The drought in January really threw off the regular rhythm of the jungle, but we're hoping things will regain relative normalcy soon.

Our attention now turns to turtle nesting season, which usually occurs from June-Aug each year when beaches are exposed. The water is currently still a little high, so we predict the turtles won't be laying until the end of June, possibly pushing the season back into Sept. We'll be posting a call for volunteers to help us gather turtle eggs and re-bury them in front of the lodge, where we can keep them safe from poachers. We care for the hatchlings until their shells have hardened enough for release. The turtles are vital to the balance of life in the flooded forest! Stay tuned to find out more. 

Our 32m Canopy Observation Tower is Complete

Our 32m/105ft high Canopy Observation Tower is finished! We buckled down and put in some intensive tower-building time over the past couple months, and the results are in: we now have an unparalleled view into the treetops, over the canopy and lagoon. We chose to build the tower around an emergent tree, which means it pokes up higher than the canopy, so you really can see treetops from the highest platform of the tower. It's impossible to capture the tower properly in photos, so you'll have to come visit us in person to really experience the heights of the rain forest! Thank you to all of our friends and supporters and their generous donations for making this project possible.

We're now focusing on making sure all the açaí saplings we previously planted have survived the strange drought, which lasted the whole month of January.

Red uakari monkeys sighted from canopy tower!

Our first Red Uakari sighting from the tower! We've completed the third floor of the tower and have the supporting structures for the fourth floor in place. During a quiet moment in the late afternoon, we heard a large group of Red Uakari moving just north of the tower, feeding on fruit in the surrounding trees. We were able to glimpse the group as they traveled south around the tower, and a few curious individuals came in for a closer look. We hope that they will continue to accept the tower as part of the environment, allowing us fantastic viewing opportunities of this rare and endangered species. 

Happy New Year from Tapiche Reserve

Happy new year! The rainy season has started and soon the Tapiche basin will truly transform into a waterworld. The rivers and creeks will swell, swallowing all beaches and creeping steadily up tree trunks, transforming the forest into a canoeing paradise. We've been busy tending to visitors at the reserve over the holidays and new years, but tower construction will pick up again starting tomorrow. We're happy to note large groups of squirrel monkeys regularly passing right next to the tower, which means the jungle is accepting this new structure.

Large nest spotted from tower

During a recent inspection of our new açaí plantations, Murilo discovered that about 400 saplings had perished from a combination of intense heat and lack of rain. Dry spells do occur even in the rain forest, especially with global climate change! Since the adult workers at the reserve were busy building our jungle canopy observation tower, Murilo asked the children of Esperanza to help him collect new açaí saplings. The children collected in 2 days what six adult workers at the reserve collected in one week. With the proper guidance and education, these kids could grow up to be glowing models of eco-friendly business efficiency for the communities of the river basin! 

1,000 new saplings were planted to replace the 400 that didn't make it, which makes over 5,000 saplings planted at the reserve, total area about 5 hectares in places that were previously cleared before the reserve was established. We expect about 80% of the plants to survive to adulthood and fruit, so by planting a little extra, we're hoping to achieve as high a yield as possible.  

The tower also continues to grow, and we hope to finish construction by the end of the month!

Drought affects saplings, but we're bouncing back

During a recent inspection of our new açaí plantations, Murilo discovered that about 400 saplings had perished from a combination of intense heat and lack of rain. Dry spells do occur even in the rain forest, especially with global climate change! Since the adult workers at the reserve were busy building our jungle canopy observation tower, Murilo asked the children of Esperanza to help him collect new açaí saplings. The children collected in 2 days what six adult workers at the reserve collected in one week. With the proper guidance and education, these kids could grow up to be glowing models of eco-friendly business efficiency for the communities of the river basin! 

1,000 new saplings were planted to replace the 400 that didn't make it, which makes over 5,000 saplings planted at the reserve, total area about 5 hectares in places that were previously cleared before the reserve was established. We expect about 80% of the plants to survive to adulthood and fruit, so by planting a little extra, we're hoping to achieve as high a yield as possible.  

The tower also continues to grow, and we hope to finish construction by the end of the month!

Next: a 30m-high Canopy Tower

Since the bulk of the açaí planting is done, we are keeping the locals busy with the construction of a 30m-high canopy observation tower in the Garza Lagoon, a long-time dream we've had for the reserve. The tower will enable us to learn invaluable new information about the forest and also help us visually identify when poachers or loggers have entered the property. The lagoon is home to many commonly poached species, including paiche (arapaima) and black caiman.  It also serves as the rookery for at least 7 species of water birds, including the Agami Heron, whose eggs were previously poached by locals.

First Aguaje Harvest

A total of 10 workers at the reserve in addition to regular Tapiche staff. First aguaje harvest totaling 40 sacks. As our first effort at harvesting from the reserve and transporting 400km to sell at the market in Iquitos, we were not able to time the logistics and line up buyers properly to make any profit, but there is potential once we get the kinks figured out! 

Climb it, don't cut it

In order to harvest fruits from jungle trees, locals often cut the entire tree down. To prepare our workers for eco-harvest, we've contracted a tree-climbing expert named Einstein from the Parinari area to come teach our team his skills. In the same amount of time it takes to cut the tree down, Einstein's method harvests the fruit and ensures that the cycle of fruit production continues for an estimated 40 years. While we wait for our açaí saplings to mature, we're practicing by harvesting aguaje palms, also known as the moriche palm (Mauritia flexuosa). The fruit is widely harvested and consumed in the region and offers an opportunity for workers to earn a bit of extra income.  

Project Donations Tallied

Donations towards the project total almost US$9000, making it possible for us to move forward. We've been able to offer positions for 4 more locals to earn eco-friendly salaries, doubling our original intended impact and now supporting 8 families in addition to regular Tapiche staff.  This means 8 fewer families logging and poaching the rain forest! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all. Special thanks to Catherine Palmer for her generous angel investment, Catherine please let us know when you would like to visit your açaí grove!    

Acai Project Launch

We have liftoff!  4 locals from the village of Esperanza are hired and housed at the lodge in addition to our regular Tapiche Reserve staff.  Preliminary plan:

Collect and cultivate 500 açaí saplings - 1 week
Prepare previously cleared land, plant 500 saplings - 1 week
Repeat 2 week work rotations, returning to tend completed plantings and ensure new plants are healthy and strong
Goal: plant 5000 açaí saplings by December 2015

Açaí palms begin fruiting in January, so the next round of work for locals would be eco-harvesting the fruit (common practice is to cut whole trees just to get the fruit, but we definitely won't allow that!).  Profits from the harvested fruit would hopefully be enough to pay workers for the next 6-8 months after that.   

How come nobody notice this before?

Where is this conversation going now? Some of you will say “Oh boy, here comes that guy again.” I find it annoying, too, to keep repeating myself, as though this were the only topic out there, or I didn’t know how to talk about anything else.

The truth is, it’s that old question again: who came first, the chicken or the egg? It applies here in who’s responsible for the degradation of the Amazon, the tourist or the guide? I want to go out on a limb and say, “neither of them”.

The tourist does what he believes is right; at the end of the day what’s the harm in petting and cuddling a little monkey or a cute sloth? Apparently nothing.

And the guide who traps the animal for the tourist to hold? He just wants to please his clients and guarantee his pay.

So…what’s to be done? It’s a vicious circle and there’s nothing to be done until the people who are responsible for protecting the nature take a serious stance. As long as ruthless ambition fed by corruption continues to exist, there’s nothing to be done.

We have to call attention to this; the Peruvian Amazon is being attacked to an almost irreversible extent.

It’s unbelievable!

In order to create a source of income for the Amazon river-dwellers, ASSENTAMIENTOS, the government authorizes each Peruvian citizen to cut down a certain number (80) trees each year from the Tapiche river area. For this purpose they’ve created a “Primary Production Zone” (ZPP) that is meant to be a resource base (!?!?!?) for the river dwellers.

As though this were enough to free them of any obligation and responsibility to fight for the natural environment and the native inhabitants of the Amazon, they transfer onto each family the responsibility to procure food and shelter, without any form of public transportation or any equivalent public services.

But this is merely the tip of the iceberg; what happens from that point forward is jaw-dropping.

In order to cut down his 80 annual trees, the river dweller doesn’t need any type of official documentation, or any kind of responsible environmental impact or reforestation plan etc, just his Peruvian ID.

So the river dweller cuts the trees and sells his “product” in Requena (oh, how it hurts me to refer to the Amazon as a product) and with only his ID card the wood becomes legalized.

But hold on a moment… the reality is that the river dweller was contracted by the same person who contracts various other river dwellers to do the same. This “facilitator” is the one who gives him gasoline to travel out, a chainsaw, and bait (this one hurts me even more), salt (to preserve the meat they hunt from the jungle and the fish they catch), a fishing net and bullets. Thus the whole family is hired to cut trees, and at the end of the job all the supplies are discounted from their fee at a much higher price than the market rate, leaving the family who cut and transported the trees non-stop during 3 or 4 months in debt to the facilitator. He lives in a state of almost slave labour.

So, the facilitator “facilitates” a number of families using the same system and coordinates the timber to arrive all together, at the same time, in Requena.

The facilitator, in turn, works for a Timber King (?!?!?!) who has multiple facilitators spread throughout the Tapiche Basin.

This timber is all “legalized” in Requena using the ZPP law. Soon it is sold as “legally traded” wood in Iquitos to millionaire plywood manufacturers (triply).

Internationally known furniture manufacturers, like IKEA, thus source the majority of their raw materials from the Peruvian Amazon.

Thus the major timber companies avoid the responsibility to manage any kind of sustainability plan, or any social or environmental responsibility at all for that matter, and they get cheap labour to boot. It’s impossible to avoid the thought that someone else besides the timber baron is making a lot of money in this scheme.

And that forces the question: Who created this Primary Production Zone? What is the true intention of such a scheme?

It’s painful to not be able to do anything in the face of such a catastrophic social and ecological disaster. Corruption and impunity generate millions of dollars for some very few Peruvians and international companies, while those who call the Amazon home are destroying it in order to simply survive.

When I find cut logs on Tapiche Reserve property, I cut them in half so they are worthless at market and the cutters feel they are wasting their time and energy cutting our trees.

When I find cut logs on Tapiche Reserve property, I cut them in half so they are worthless at market and the cutters feel they are wasting their time and energy cutting our trees.

Education is necessary!

Living in Iquitos, surrounded by rain forest, wildlife and multi-cultural indigenous ethnic groups makes me feel how great a blessing the opportunity to experience this is.

To be able to see animals still in their natural habitat, to learn from the natives how to make the handicrafts, their legends, culture and tradition is more than I ever wish from the rain forest.

Many of us come through without knowing that our presence could have a positive or negative impact on nature direct or indirectly. It has a lot to do with the way that the chance to hold animals, birds etc is sold to people.

A large part of the wildlife trade in Iquitos is supported by the attractions (jungle lodges, animal “sanctuary” and rescue centers and even healing retreat centers) that are buying animals on a regular basis to show to the tourists for cuddling, petting, photos, etc.

Responsible Tourism

We have to start practicing Responsible tourism as seller and try to educate/ inform the visitors regarding the reality of our city and region.

  • Responsible Tourism is about the legacy and the consequences of tourism – for the environment, local people and local economies.
  • Responsible Tourism does not only take place in protected natural environments – Any tourism business, whether located in a thriving metropolis, a desert, rural village, sub-tropical island, medieval town – can be a Responsible Tourism operation.

So on a daily basis our visit can be responsible, we don’t have to try a endangered species like paiche or caiman or a wild animal. Just imagine if every tourist wants to try, how many animals will die so we can TRY it.

Avoid taking picture holding animals, tell your guide you don’t want to capture anything, but yes you want to learn as much is a possible, you will be helping the wildlife, the guide will be forced to learn more and your tour will have better quality.