Welcome to the gallery for Tapiche Reserve, located 400km upriver from Iquitos, Peru. Sit back, relax and enjoy our Jungle TV, or scroll down to see photos of our amazing residents.
The incredible athleticism and expressive faces of the red uakari monkey (Cacajao calvus) at the Tapiche Reserve always make for a thrilling viewing. We enjoy multiple family groups of this rare species in healthy numbers (40 to 100+) roaming the reserve on both sides of the Tapiche River. Very little is formally documented about these monkeys in the wild, and we have witnessed behaviors that we have not found in any existing literature. Human destruction of the region's forest has forced them onto our reserve, which is currently the only protected conservation property along the Tapiche River.
For about 6 months each year, a 20-hectare area tucked at the end of a lagoon becomes the noisy breeding ground for hordes of water birds like Agami Heron, Boat-Billed Heron, Cocoi Heron, Neotropical Cormorant, Anhinga, Hoatzin, Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Wattled Jacana. Before the reserve was established, locals would collect all the eggs to eat or sell. It took 2 years of patrolling the area before the birds consistently built up their numbers, and we're proud to welcome their return every year. We've even noticed that the size of the entire rookery seems to be expanding each year.
We had the good fortune in 2015 to witness the courtship phase of the Agami Heron, a fleeting event that has rarely been observed and is poorly documented. Notice the Agami faces in different stages of flushing red. We’ve also included photos of the results of courtship. In 2015, we counted an average of 20-30 Agami nests per tree within the 1 hectare or so that was visible from the boat. We estimate that the Agami nests may occupy a few hectares in areas of difficult access not visible from the boat and which we do not wish to disturb. The Agami are the first to arrive to the rookery, usually in late January, so they court in relative privacy before being joined by other species. In January 2016, however, we had a shocking drought for the entire month of January, which left the water level at record lows and delayed the Agami's arrival to the rookery by almost two months.
(This area is susceptible to being acquired for non-conservation purposes. If you or an organization you know is interested in helping us protect this lagoon and its residents, please Contact Us!)
Because woolly monkeys are a favorite hunting target and their birthrate is naturally low (one baby every 2 years), we only started observing large groups at the Tapiche Reserve at the end of 2014, about 4 years after the reserve was first established. We took this as encouragement that our conservation efforts were slowly paying off.
Unfortunately, we had a record number of hunters and loggers on the property in 2015. The locals don’t see much choice for income besides poaching and logging, and the government encourages them to take resources from the jungle. As a result, trespassers tell us, “Soy Peruano!” ("I am Peruvian!") as their justification for going anywhere and doing whatever they want to the forest. We hope our efforts with The Açaí Project help to soften this battle cry (some have literally beat their chests as they said it) by helping them see that the forest is theirs to care for and preserve rather than abuse and destroy.
At the beginning of 2015, we'd begun making informal notes on a beautiful group of 50+ woolly monkeys, including tiny babies clinging to their mothers’ backs and stomachs, juveniles just learning to climb and jump, and large mature adults sporting thick fur and weathered faces, all traveling and foraging together. This is the group showcased here. The subsequent high water season made it easy for poachers to enter the flooded forest by boat, and we found new canoe trails cut into trees where this group of monkeys liked to pass. The last time we saw this group, only 4 juvenile individuals remained. The loss was heartbreaking, and these photos are now a memorial rather than a record of living inhabitants of the reserve.
If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering with us at the lodge, please Contact Us! We need trustworthy people on the ground all year round. When the water recedes and the river turtles start laying their eggs on the beaches, the locals troll every beach, collecting the eggs and often killing the mothers after they’ve finished laying. Every year we try to get to the eggs first, incubating them on the beach in front of the lodge and caring for the hatchlings until their shells have hardened enough for release. We can’t do it alone, so come join us!
In this section we celebrate signs of hope for the future of the Tapiche Reserve. Surviving to adulthood is a challenge for any living being in the jungle; conditions are brutal, competition is fierce and there is no shortage of natural predators, who are, in turn, targets for other predators. Destructive human activities in the forest make the task of breeding and growing up even harder. The presence of these young animals on the reserve is truly a sign that it’s not too late to save this area.
Here we introduce you to some of the people who have passed through the reserve, including former employees as well as trespassers. The former workers are no longer with us for various reasons. Many of them dislike committing to work terms longer than 1-3 months; as soon as they’ve made some money, many become restless and quit. We're not sure if this is cultural or perhaps something cultivated by the logging industry, which is seasonal and demands spurts of intense work. Logging operators hold great sway over the attitude and beliefs of villages on the Tapiche River, and they seem to encourage the locals to hold negative and hostile attitudes towards us. Sometimes people who have quit in the past come back to us after a month asking to work again, not having found anything “better.” Betraying our no hunting/no logging policy are also common problems, but we hope that, over time and as the influence of the reserve grows, we can cultivate a more eco-friendly local attitude.
Most of our former employees gained enough from the lodge to substantially improve quality of life for themselves and their families or even to start their own independent businesses after leaving the lodge. We started The Açaí Project as an effort to support more families and provide even more local people with eco-friendly income. We hope to partner with larger organizations that can help us support more staff, not just for our property but for the surrounding villages on the river as well. The more alternatives we can offer to poaching and logging, the better our chances of preserving this forest for the future.
We hope we’ve been able to show you both the astounding beauty and value of this area as well as its fragility and the many threats to its healthy survival in the future. If you can’t show your support by coming to visit or volunteer at the lodge, you can still help by remembering that the rain forest plays a part in your everyday life, even if it seems far away from you and your reality. For instance, please think twice before purchasing or supporting the trade of exotic fish and pets. Macaws are highly social, perch in trees 40m+ high and may fly 25km a day, so keeping one in a house for human pleasure is unnatural, to say the least. Consider also that large international manufacturers of compressed wood furniture, including one famous for its meatballs as much as its sleek European design, buy much of their raw material from our illegally logged region. To learn more about how they get away with it, check out our Conservation page. The cost to consumers may be low, but the price of those products is paid for tenfold via destruction of natural resources and unpaid workers. Consider alternative options like buying secondhand, which extends product life and lessens consumer waste, or supporting your own local producers, craftspeople and artisans.
To meet other residents that call the reserve home, go to our Biodiversity page. If you do make it to the reserve, where the wildlife is truly wild, we guarantee you’ll never look at a zoo the same way again!