June 2013

The base for the new Conservation Centre is 15 kilometres from the small town of Mera, which itself is 15 kilometres from the larger town/city of Puyo here in the Oriente of Ecuador where the organisation is currently based.

In order to reach the land, a wee adventure is usually required – catching the local bus from Puyo to Shell (another town half-way between Puyo and Mera – can you figure out why it has the name Shell?). Then a camioneta (open-backed taxi) is taken from Shell to Mera. Thereafter, if you are able, a lift is picked up if someone is driving in, else you may have to pay for another camioneta, or it is possible to walk the 15 kilometres to the project site.

Recently, I walked in to the land from Mera and was very fortunate in that it didn’t rain once! The walk itself is amazing in that although, sadly, at times, you have to pass de-forested areas, most of the journey is through heavily wooded/forested land. The road itself is deteriorating due to the heavy rains and small amount of traffic using it, although it is perfectly suitable for walking. Along this road have been seen monkeys, coati, roadside hawks and other interesting bird-life, as well as snakes, many beautiful butterflies and other forms of wildlife and plants.

On arrival at the Fundación’s land, I was met by sunshine and a group of eight Swallow-Tailed Kites ‘floating’ overhead catching insects with the two White Hawks soaring amongst them. Against the blue sky and the forest background the sight was amazing!

The path to the jungle is now complete and should forever be low maintenance. We have also completed the construction of the base for the water tanks which will form the main part of our new water system. One 1300 litre tank has been purchased and is on-site and ready to be placed on the platform. Later this year, during the dry season, it is planned to construct a very small dyke on the smaller river which will feed the water tanks, in order to be able to maintain a year-round water flow, if possible.

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And while mentioning water, we are very pleased to announce the creation of our shower in the jungle (well on the edge actually!). Whilst preparing the path, and planning the location of accommodation, we decided to erect a temporary shower which now means that washing is a simple process and we no longer pollute the river system in any way! And the view is amazing, too!

During the recent construction activities, one of us was moving some stones around in the river to support the bank from erosion. Just as he was about to put his hand on another rock for support, he noticed the small snake coiled upon it in a very camouflaged way – particularly so in the shade of the trees! This was an Equis or Fer-de-Lance, the most venomous snake in the Americas. It was a timely reminder to always keep your eyes open here as there are many ’interesting’ animals around. Anyways, we placed the Equis in a carry cage and released it again on the other side of the larger river later.

Another interesting sight a couple of days ago was the view of a new (to us anyway) hummingbird species close by. We have yet to identify which it was- at times this is very difficult due the speed with which the hummingbirds fly and also because there are many species which appear similar.

Our African grass-munching horse friend, on loan from Merazonia ( www.merazonia.org ), has recently returned home as he was swiftly running out of grass to eat. His presence has cleared the way for more of the indigenous plants to grow through, and clearing the way for the path has also opened up some areas so that it is now possible to plant/replant with appropriate trees and other low-growing species. This process has begun, too.