Protecting Biodiversity and Sustainable Livelihoods In The Wetlands of the Peruvian Amazon – Mammals Component

Principle question: Does the cutting of the female aguaje palms affect the diversity and abundance of medium- and large-sized mammals in the aguajales?

The Tigrillo – captured on camera!

Brief summary of the project:

The wildlife component is geared towards identifying and registering medium- and large-sized mammals present in 12 independent transects in the aguaje forests. Each study area or transect has a classification according to the percentage of female palm trees present in the area (sex ratio).

The registration of mammals present was carried out through the use of transect census techniques and the use of camera traps. The census technique consists of registering mammals directly (observation) and indirectly (footprints, vocalisations, smell, surveys or others). The camera traps principally register mammals with nocturnal behaviours or those sensitive to the presence of people.

The objectives of the wildlife component of the project are to compare the diversity and abundance of the mammals that inhabit each study area (12 independent transects).

The goals of the study are to know and compare which mammals are present or absent, in each independent transect, following the classification of the percentage of female aguaje trees, to know their population status with respect to levels of degradation in the aguajales.

Goals and objectives:

  • To evaluate the impact of cutting the female aguaje palms (the indicator of degradation) on the composition of mammals in the aguajales located between the rivers of the Marañón and Ucayali in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • To know the taxanomic composition of the community of all mammal species, by transect and by level of degradation (judged through proportion of female aguaje palms cut).
  • To estimate the group size, relative abundance and population density of mammals, by transect and by level of degradation (judged through proportion of female aguaje palms cut).
  • Estimate the alpha and beta diversity indices, by transect and by level of degradation (judged through proportion of female aguaje palms cut).
  • Determine the conservation and endemism status of the mammalian species.
  • Determine the representative species of mammals.

Details on the methodologies used:

For the more complete study of mammals with different habitat preferences, etc., three methodologies were used to collect information:

  1. Census by linear transect
Looking for mammals in the canopy

To obtain the diversity of mammalian species that exist in the study area, the fixed-width transect census method was applied (Burnham et al. 1980: Peres, 1999; Aquino et al. 2001), which is used in assessments of wildlife with little coverage.

The transect was 1km long and marked every 100m with coloured plastic tape (flagging) to facilitate the estimation of the location of the mammals, in addition to the distance travelled by the evaluator.

Likewise, the return journey along the same transect (round trip) was considered as a new census, with the investigator resting for an hour after the one-way route, giving more time for new species to be observed and to minimise a certain degree of disturbance. The team consisted of a specialist and a field assistant (Guide).

Establishing a linear transect

These censuses were conducted between 7am and 11am, at an average speed of 0.5 to 0.7 km/hr, with occasional stops to perceive the movements or sounds of mammals. The speed is lower than the standard (1 – 1.5 km/hr), because of the characteristics of the palm swamps that have flooded soils and therefore cause you to sink, slip and fall and in addition there are many thorny palm trees in the lower stratum and among others; all of these factors impact on good data collection.

This same rate of displacement is applied in studies carried out in montane forests in which the physiographic characteristics of the terrain are also implicated (Aquino et al. 2014, Aquino et al. 2015 (a), Aquino et al. 2015(b), Aquino et al. 2016).

The search for mammals was throughout the forest stratum (from understory to canopy) and each time there was direct contact with a group, noted down in the field notebook was the time, species and number of individuals (in the case of primates and ungulates), perpendicular distance to the first spotted individual, height (in the vertical stratum of the forest), behaviour of the individual (only if it continued with its activities in a natural way), distance to the starting point of the transect, coordinates, dominant vegetation and distance travelled. Other information collected will be: date, place, location of transect and weather conditions.

Parallel to sightings, also recorded was indirect evidence such as footprints (see photos above), excrement, eating remains, hair and/or bristles, excavations, release of odorous substances, scrapings on the trunks of trees or any other indicator that might account for the presence of any species.

  1. Camera traps
Establishing a camera trap

In order to increase the number of species observed camera traps were used – 12 cameras were located every 80m along the 1km path of the transect. The following criteria were used to place the camera traps: (1) the camera is within 15m to 20m of the edge of the path; (2) the camera trap is fixed to a suitable tree and at 30m from the ground; (3) the placement of the camera trap must be close to a feeding spot, a track used by animals or another indicator of fauna, and (4) various attempts were made to take photographs, in order to obtain the correct angle for the camera.

The cameras were programmed to take three photos and a video of 25 seconds per event, with a period of one minute pause between each recorded event, and to record the date, time, temperature and phase of the moon in each photograph and video. Below are some photographs from the camera traps.

   

  1. Interviews

In order to supplement or expand the information for the base list of mammal species that live in the study area, interviews were carried out with some community members that live inside or near to the study sites. Photographic images were presented to interviewees, and they could easily identify the wildlife without help from the interviewer.

A Canon Powershot model SX60, field guides of Emmons & Feer (1997) and the publications of Eisenberg & Redford (1999) and Emmons et al. (2001) were also used in the field. And finally, the pocket identification guide of Primates of Peru (Aquino et al. 2015c), mainly as bibliographic material for the identification of the mammals present in the study area.

Things to consider in the future:

  1. It is necessary to study mammals during the dry season, when the river is low between July to November, in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
  2. To conduct mammal surveys for a minimum of 20 days.
  3. It is necessary to use another type of sampling design, which is adequate for the type of ecosystem.
  4. The camera traps must be left for longer in each sample site (approximately 30 days).

Environmental Education:

One part of the project was to run a workshop on environmental education with children in one of the communities that participated in the project. In order to do this, José Lisbinio Cruz Guimaraes, an expert in environmental education for schools, went to Jenaro Herrera to carry out a workshop. It was a great success! Below are some photos from the event.

Members of the group:

Name Affiliation
Gabriel García Mendoza Equipo Primatológico de Loreto
Elvis Jackson Charpentier Uraco Equipo Primatológico de Loreto
Sofia Eleonor Valdivia Alarcón Equipo Primatológico de Loreto
José Lisbinio Cruz Guimaraes Equipo Primatológico de Loreto
Frithman Salas Cruz Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana
Leslie Vanessa Vargas Bernuy Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal

Principle contacts:

Blgo. Gabriel García Mendoza

Asociación Equipo Primatológico de Loreto EPL                                                        (click on this link for more information)

Email: garcia.mendoza25@gmail.com (personal)

Email: ciencia@equiprimate.org.pe (institutional)