September 2015

Hello, again, from the Colonia 24 de Mayo, Pastaza, Ecuador located in a ‘not-very-straight line’ 16 kilometres from the township of Mera following a very bumpy, rocky and sometimes blocked-by-landslides-road past the beautiful Río Anzu.

Our land (finca) consists of 37.5 hectares of primary/secondary forest (a hectare is about the size of a football field) and we are fortunate to be protected on two sides by our friends/colleagues/neighbours Glen and Laurence who between them have bought/are buying a further 72 hectares for conservation, reforestation and permacultural farming purposes. Above us is the Llanganates National Park from which we are separated by two privately-owned fincas (relatively ‘unfarmed’) and on the fourth side, where the perimeter is a little, as yet, undetermined, there is a finca where, we believe, all the older, more valuable trees have been removed and the land is used for pasto (cattle fodder).

September has been very hot and mainly dry – however, when the sun hasn’t been too severe a lot of activities have been going on.

Frog World

The New Frog World!

We now have a small pond close by the quarantine/clinic aka The New Frog World. This area was previously a very marshy patch of ground into which occasionally the unwary sank knee-deep – depending on how rainy it had been in the previous hours! Now it’s a bit more obviously wet and is attracting a wide variety of our amphibious neighbours – especially notable at dusk and early night-time. The Slender-Legged Tree Frog, recently spotted in a young Morete Palm at the water’s edge, is one of the larger varieties – being about ten centimetres from toes to nose. It is also attracting many of the multi-coloured dragonflies and damselflies that abound in the area who are swiftly laying their eggs there. Unfortunately, it has also attracted some of the neighbour’s ducks which were rapidly consuming the new inhabitants – frogspawn, tadpoles, other small pond-life, and pecking away at the newly created banks. However, they now appear to duly corralled away from the water! The pond is an excellent addition to the site and will blend in well over time – great!

Earlier in the month, we had a visit from Bartek Gołdyn who is a land mollusc (snail) expert visiting from Poland. He spent some time on the land investigating/searching the terrain for the prevalence of any invasive African Land Snails which are gaining ground (literally) in Ecuador and throughout South America. Small snails have been spotted on the land in recent months; however we were unable to identify the species. Bartek was only able to pass a couple of days with us, and didn’t find any evidence of the African snail – however we hope that he will be able to return to check further as it is possible the snail has reached where we are. If it is there, we would hope to be able to find a way to eradicate it as they cause the disappearance of other endemic species wherever they are found.

Work has continued on clearing the little remaining cattle pasture from the land and replanting with some low-growing trees and bushes, and also readying for some more food for ourselves – fruits and vegetables. We have been offered a couple of lorry loads of compost (well-rotted tree bark mainly) to help rejuvenate the depleted soil, and we hope that this will arrive over the next week or so. Then, of course, there is the small matter of moving it onto the land…………………

Jungle viewed from the Clinic roof

Jungle viewed from the Clinic roof

Other visitors this month have included the fabulously coloured Paradise Tanagers, Umbrella Birds, a pair of Pavas (species undetermined), and seen nearby was a Guatusa aka Agouti. The Tamarin monkeys have also been heard around of late, and occasionally spotted.

We are also a little concerned about the apparent appearance of a domestic cat around the land. It is likely to either belong to one of the neighbours along the road or be an escapee/feral. As such, it can cause a great deal of damage to the endemic birdlife and other wildlife in the area, and if we find it continues to appear on the land, we will attempt to catch it and remove it.

Finally, just a wee word about the potential dangers here……….. As some of you know, I am also involved in volunteering at a school for disadvantaged youngsters in Puyo. One of the young girls from the school was swimming in a local river a couple of weeks ago and was bitten by an Equis – one of the most venomous snakes in the Americas and which is found on the Fundacíon’s land. She was hospitalised and we don’t yet know if she survived! It is a warning to us to be extra-especially vigilant ourselves and for other visitors to the land! They do not tend to attack without warning – only if they are disturbed, however they are very well camouflaged.

And finally, finally………… is a link to a recent, very interesting article about a study investigating the decline in bird numbers in lowland forests of Eastern Ecuador (relatively close to where we are) which suggests that this may be a consequence of climate change.

There would be potential, as a future piece of research work, to investigate this further around where we are based; there would also be potential for a research project to investigate any wildlife population changes that take place on and around the Fundacíon’s land with respect to the activities and differences that we are making.