Our 32m Canopy Observation Tower is finished! Check updates with photos and videos below to see what we're working on now.
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1 Jun 2016
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.
15 Mar 2016
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.
2 Feb 2016
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.
4 Jan 2016
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.
18 Dec 2015
From near the top of the tower, we've spotted what appears to be the nest of a large bird of prey about 60-80m away. We haven't been able to confirm the species of bird, but we've been watching the nest grow in size overnight as the bird continues to build. Nesting season is approaching for many bird species, and the tower is already proving to be a fantastic vantage point!
12 Dec 2015
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!
27 Nov 2015
After 8 days of work on the canopy observation tower, the foundations have been set and the basic structure has reached about half of its projected 30m final height.
16 Nov 2015
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.
8 Nov 2015
Visitors to the Tapiche Reserve make the climb and experience what it's like to climb a 30m aguaje palm!
6 Nov 2015
5,000 açaí seedlings have been planted, completing the planting phase almost a month ahead of the original schedule!
30 Oct 2015
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!
25 Oct 2015
3,000 açaí saplings planted, also reforesting with cedar and aguaje over 600 acres
14 Oct 2015
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.
12 Oct 2015
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!
19 Sept 2015
Project launch! 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.
About The Açaí Project
Murilo Reis, director of the Tapiche Reserve, has a vision of peace and hope for the Tapiche River in northern Peru. Murilo has made a new agreement with local communities to provide employment in exchange for locals not trespassing to log and poach on the reserve. The Açaí Project marks the launching of this agreement. The initial plan was to employ 4 locals from the village of Esperanza and 4 locals from the settlement of El Torno each month planting and caring for açaí palm trees, though we often try to support more people if our resources allow. This project restores some of the natural landscape of the rain forest in previously cleared areas and installs the foundation for a commercial jungle product that can be ecologically harvested, guaranteeing local jobs for future generations.
The villages of Esperanza (26 families) and El Torno (9 families) are located 70km and 45km from the borders of the Tapiche Reserve, respectively. They are the reserve’s closest neighbors, and Esperanza in particular is a hotbed of loggers and poachers. Having already decimated surrounding areas, they are eager to trespass on the reserve in search of resources. The government provides them with little option for survival, so the men turn to logging and poaching and the women often go to prostitution. Local law even encourages people to cut trees from the forest without any thought for sustainability, naming it as their Peruvian right. Read more about it at Conservation.
The Açaí Project strives to show locals that there is a way to live in harmony with the jungle by involving them in eco-conscious projects, providing them a jungle-friendly income and keeping them so busy that they do not have time to log or poach. Besides planting, maintaining and harvesting açaí in The Açaí Project, we also place locals in ongoing rotating apprenticeships with our cook at the lodge, helping them to learn technical skills and gain experience working with international guests.
Please help Murilo and the Tapiche Reserve move forward in cultivating this new era of peace and hope on the Tapiche River. Despite being one of the biologically richest and oldest forests of the world, the northern Peruvian Amazon is one of the poorest regions of Peru and has been neglected and mistreated by the Peruvian government. If you cannot join us as a guest or volunteer at the Tapiche Reserve or the Green Track Hostel, please consider donating to our project (you do not need a Paypal account in order to contribute). We believe the work is worth doing and will benefit all living beings for generations to come. Thank you.
(If you have a Paypal account and would like to gift an amount that is not specified in the drop-down menu, you can send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)