Once upon a time, I was guiding in the Brazilian Pantanal and often I have heard and repeated myself to others: "The Amazon is great but if you want to see wildlife one has to go to the Pantanal.” Born and raised out there, I blindly believed on every word of it. Went to regular Jungle trips, around Manaus, Alta Floresta, and I did fall in love with it, the Amazing Cristalino Reserve with the Brazil Nuts trees made a change in my life, silent giants witness of the hundreds of years of natural history.
And it was a growing passion that for some reason would not catch my heart definitely, even I went to several places to the jungle, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, but no jungle could beat the words “It is too hard to see wildlife in the jungle, one should get happy with some insects and birds.”
Finally three years ago life brought me to Iquitos and to the Tapiche River area. While i was wandering around that area, visiting “ribereinhos” (people that live on river side) I saw in their kitchens the rare Giant Armadillo, Tapir, Wolly Spider monkey, Howler monkeys and other smaller species. But one day I saw something that was stunning (unfortunately also in a kitchen)--a Red Uakari Monkey, a monkey that in Brazil lives only in its own reserve, the National Reserve Mamirauá, created just for the protection of this species. And here in Peru, found “officially” only on the Tamishiyaco / Tahuayo Reserve. Yet in several visits to this reserve we only “saw” them disappearing among the trees once and that was it.
Well that was still amazing fact for me, for very first time I saw that monkey not in cage and then started my adventure to find the Red Uakari Monkey in the jungle. I decided that was the area that I was going to be and live. But it was a difficult and nearly impossible task. There were dozens of lumber jacks, hunters etc all conspiring against my wishes. Those people are not easily convinced otherwise and there is big money involved in timber.
Created the reserve involved first getting documentation (that theoretically should be easy), than getting the land protected, that is not easy because people need to eat and the timber industry in Peru takes lots of advantage of that (that is a subject for another blog).
Making it short, After one year we made trails, passing through all different habitats, and specially giving the local people an alternative way of income, they stop hunting and timbering, but there was no sight of the Red Uakari Monkey. After 2 years, and we start seeing incredible sights of the Red Howlers, Saki Monkey, Brown Capuchin Monkey and White Fronted Capuchin, Saddle Back Tamarin, White Lipped Tamarin but no Red Uakaris. Segundo one of the locals in charge of the reserve reported some brief sights, but I didn’t see it. I was getting frustrated after 2 years I had no sight of them.
Last December with 3 Kids from New york that were doing an independent documentary about the rain forest, I finally saw among the trees for a split second a red face that lighted my heart on fire and vanished away.
Than came the flood and Nick a fellow friend staff from the Loki hostel Miraflores in Lima came to visit the reserve and guess what he saw the Uakari for about 20 minutes and again in another day.
After that it became common to see them, and now almost every time I go out I see them. But we do not see only them we see 4 -6 species of monkeys every time we go out, and the sightings became so common that now the visitors do not believe that these monkeys are rare in Peru and the world due to their habitat disturb and destruction.
Now we see the results of at some point fanatic dedication for the protection of this land, the amount of wildlife is increasing with such rate that is overwhelming.
And yes, I have the answers for the Pantanal saying:
”The Amazon has as much wildlife and lots to show. The experience at the Tapiche Reserve shows that the nature can recover but needs attention and care, if we do not look after it, it will all disappear, and before it disappears we won't even have a chance to see it."
I’m not a good photographer, but along this year I have had sights of wildlife that I don’t care if I dont have pictures, I have it carved into my heart.
Now anyone that wants to see lots of wildlife, don’t need to go to the soft “zoo” or fake sanctuary around Iquitos. They can just come to the Tapiche Reserve for a lifetime experience in a pristine jungle with amazing scenery and abundant wildlife.