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Biosphere Expeditions: blogs from the wildlife conservation frontline

Advancing wildlife conservation – for nature, not profit | Artenschutz fördern – damit Natur profitiert | Promouvoir la conservation de la vie sauvage – pour la nature, pas le profit

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

For the last couple of days, the sun has bearly made it through the smoke caused by all the slash and burn forest fires. Our expeditioners have been out in the haze collecting the cameras that slots 4 and 5 put in place.

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We’ve caught sun bears, binturong, pig-tailed macaque and leopard cat to name but a few, but no tigers. We’ve also caught teenage boys catching birds in cages, a man kicking one of our cameras out of place (although we then got a troop of macaque we would have missed otherwise). Sadly, when we got to one trap area we found our camera had been stolen, along with the post it was chained to!

We’re off to a local high school now. So far we’ve had good success with the visits to the elementary schools, so are keen to speak to the older students.


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/amazonia)

Welcome everyone, this is the first issue of this year’s Amazonia expedition diary. My name is Malika, I’m a senior member of the Biosphere Expeditions’ staff and I will be leading our Amazonia jaguar & primates project in the Peruvian Amazon again this year. My bags are packed, I’m ready to go… (almost ;)). If my flights are on time, I’ll be arriving in Iquitos on 1 Sep around noon after picking up some more equipment in Lima.

I have been in touch with Alfredo Dosantos, our Peruvian expedition scientist, who told me about massive spring flooding and renovation work at our base: the Amazon Research Centre. But before meeting him there, I will spend a few preparation days in Iquitos. Checking equipment, preparing paperwork and shopping for missing items will be on my agenda before diving into jungle life.

I won’t have a local phone number, but will be available on my German mobile (for emergency purposes only!) until I leave Iquitos on 4 Sep. After that you can e-mail the office (on this e-mail) and they will relay a message to me.

That’s it for now. I’ll be in touch again with some more detailed information once I have arrived on the ground.

So as we prepare at this end, please can you do some more preparation too. In addition to studying the dossier, have a look at the “Methods & equipment” playlist. The bits that are relevant to the expedition are our cell methodology (explained for another expedition, but the principle is exactly the same), GPS, compass & map, Garmin etrex 20, camera trapping, binoculars and machete use.

Enjoy and I’ll see you at base in due course!

Malika Fettak
Expedition leader

 

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/amazonia)”

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Our last team for this year have set out on an overnight trip in the centre of Rimbang Baling Nature Reserve. They are camping in a village called Aur Kuning, several hours away by boat. We’re looking forward to hearing how it was tomorrow.

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With the water still high, the rest of us have been out surveying stream beds. Yesterday we were walking with the water tapping on our chins as we held our bags above out heads making our way up a particularly wild part of the forest following the sand banks. We saw quite a few tracks and, delicately resting upon a boulder in middle of the stream, was a fresh scat that has been collected for analysis.

Today we came across a 700 m long wooden track for sliding timber from the hillside to the river to help with the illegal logging trade. Whilst it must have taken hundreds of trees to build, it was quite a remarkable feat of engineering.

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From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Finally it rained. And it rained hard. At around 01:00 Derek came in from his hammock to the base as his cover was dripping heavily, then Verona came into the base having not done up the zip on her tent. But other than a few slightly tired faces this morning, the good news is the river is up again. So we have sent a scout party much deeper into the nature reserve to see how far south we can get for a planned overnighter on Friday. The team came back with good news that we can stay in a village called Aur Kuning, several hours away. The village leader was interviewed and he’s says there has been tiger movement in the last two months nearby. He was also keen for us to use his village in the future for setting up a sub-base so we can survey the inner areas of the nature reserve for longer periods of time. The rest of us have taken advantage of the blank canvas in the stream beds to find some new tracks.

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From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Team 6 has arrived at the base safe and sound after their drive in from the city. The air is filled with smoke from forest fires in the plantations that lead right up to Rimbang Baling nature reserve.

This is the last slot for this year and there is a lot of ground to cover. We’ve spent the last day and a half going through data sheets, maps, compass and GPS work and also a presentation by Febri on the work he is doing and what he is hoping to achieve here.

We’ve just returned from a taster session in the forest, taken stridingly and are about to start the final two weeks of survey work…


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

The team from group five have all made it back to Pekanbaru safe and sound. Over the last few days the temperature seemed to be hotter than ever, so I’m sure the AC in the bus on the way back was a welcome break.

Yesterday we went to Tanjung Belit elementary school to give a presentation on the Sumatran tiger and their habitat. The students were all keen to tell us what they knew about all the different animals. And the headmaster spoke to us about how happy he is that our project is happening in this area, and he hopes we can all meet again soon and continue to work with the local community. The team of expeditioners (completely off their own backs) had brought a wide array of stationary, writing pads, frisbees, crayons, tennis balls and much more as gifts for the school, which was received gladly from the staff.

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It has been a busy two weeks, setting out and checking on the camera traps and surveying new areas. Hopefully the enthusiasm of the last two slots will carry on into the sixth as there is a busy two final weeks ahead of us.


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

With the team collecting more SD cards over the last couple of days, we have seeing lots of wildlife on the cameras. Yellow throated martens, sun bears, common porcupine, pig tailed macaque, wild pigs and some bird catchers with birds in cages on their backs posing for the camera. That was before a sun bear knocked the camera to one side to climb up the tree for a snack.

Today we set our last camera trap on a road that passes high over the mountains, where a local is said to have seen a tiger two months ago. It wasn’t the best ride ever bouncing around in the back of a pick-up truck in the heat of the day and we are looking forward to seeing what shows up on the pictures.

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From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Earlier in the week, on the bank of the Subayang river getting out of the boat, we saw a paw print of a wildcat, which got one of our days off a good start. Teams have been out to swap over the SD cards in some of our camera traps that were set in place from the last slot. We also secured a school visit for next week in Tanjung Belit, which is the community that has been assisting us through the entire expedition. While in the school Sharon (whose boots had far too many laces to undo) waited on the steps and drew in quite a crowd of students, who were showing off very loudly, how well they could count to ten.

wild cat print

Despite two heavy rain storms, the Subayang river is continuing to drop, making travel in either direction a team effort, having to push our boats over the shallow spots. The locals from Tanjung Belit decided that with the low water levels it was a good time to have a fish harvest that brings the whole community together for a frantic few hours of net throwing and spear fishing. For the team it was a great opportunity to talk to villagers who were all to eager to talk to them. Helen, Mike, Laura and Nicole managed to have a good talk with the head of the village, who was very interested in our project and how it could help the community in the future.

Our expeditioners have also been working hard doing surveys in the forest, setting out camera traps and collecting in SD cards. There has been a lot of animal movement on the cameras set by slot 4, such as wild pig, mouse deer, great argus bird, long tail macaque, leopard cat and sun bear. But the big thrill was seeing a clouded leopard caught by the camera set in cell AA130, set by Febri, Sugi, Sian, Nikki and Helga. While this is not our target species, Febri tells us that the clouded leopard is WWF’s secondary target for this area, as it is an important species that is able to manage ecosystems as a co-predator, after the tiger.

clouded leopard


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tienshan)

Greetings from Bishkek and apologies for the late entry. It took a while to get the photos organised.

The last seven hours drive from base camp back to Bishkek marks the end of the 4th and last slot of the 2015 Tien Shan expedition studying the elusive snow leopard.

After the final two weeks work surrounded by the amazing Kyrgyz mountain landscape and having made new friends, it is hard to say final goodbyes, but everybody is proud of the legacy they have left behind on this last group: 32 surveyed cells, 18 mammals datasheets filled, 3 direct observations of ibex (also recorded on camera traps) and two additional species of birds (adding to the total of 48 species recorded throughout the entire 2015 Tien Shan expedition period), make for some impressive results.

And what a last team that was! From the very first day everybody settled in quickly and enthusiastically, learning swiftly (helped by old hands Ellen and Vincent, thanks!) and then logging direct sightings of ibex on the very first survey.

We did not record any sign of snow leopard as on the slots before, but plenty of prey species and other environmental data. As our scientist Volodya says, even zero signs recorded in a given cell represent important data (especially in revisited cells) as lack of wildlife signs in cells where it was recorded before helps us understand the direct influence of human presence and the impact of disturbances such as herders and their livestock moving to higher grounds as the snows melted and fresh grass ran out lower down (making a good case for setting up conservation areas to reduce human interference on wildlife). In fact, the melting of the snow allowed to us to survey areas that were previously inaccessible to the preceding slots, driving the 4x4s over and across hair-raising mountain pass roads and onto new valleys. We definitely put those off-road driving skills learned to good practice.

One of the highlights of the slot was witnessing a whole herd of ibex (we counted 10+ on 31st July) moving across a mountain ridge visible from Donguruma valley. A relatively short walk took us to 3618 m, from where we watched the ibexes in awe through our binoculars. Volodya later explained to us that this is repeated behaviour observed in this area where ibex tend to move from one valley to the next when disturbed.

Our last survey walk of the season was a trip to Issyk-ata Pass and Chunchikan valley to retrieve the last four camera traps. Unfortunately the camera traps from Issyk-ata only yielded photos of fellow volunteers (camera set-up & retrieval selfie time!) and empty landscape. However, after two weeks out in snow leopard territory, the camera traps from Chunchikan valley provided us with some good photos of a young ibex and a couple of interesting videos of another (or maybe the same) ibex going past the device and shaking its fluffy tail at us.

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We also had the excitement of our toilet tent disappearing twice. Our detective work found that one of the neighbouring cows had unsuccessfully tried to use it! It was queues in the mornings after that with only one last toilet tent standing, but luckily we had no more cow incidents.

Special thanks to all our volunteers who put so much effort towards this expedition, our field scientist Volodya for sharing his knowledge and insights and for leading us through his work, to our local partners NABU and especially our two experienced and trusty Kyrgyz of the Gruppa Bars and last but not least our champion cook Emma.

Thank you. Safe travels, back keep in touch with Biosphere Expeditions and I hope to see you all again on another expedition some day. And remember Margaret Mead’s word: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Keep up your good efforts for the conservation of this beautiful planet.

Rossella

Continue reading “From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tienshan)”

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Our fifth and penultimate slot is underway, and today we set out for the first time in the rainforest. The team took to navigation on the terrain fantastically. The river is also higher again after some recent rains, so travelling in the boats has been far easier than the last slot. Sadly early Monday morning, I found our rescued leopard cat in a bad way. Three of the participants (who volunteer in big cat sanctuaries) Donna, Sharon, and Natalya tried their best to help. But in the end the cat had been to weak for too long and slipped away. I think this has been a stark reminder to us of how fragile the balance between humans and wildlife is in this area, and how much more work needs to be done.


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

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