It is well known that animals of the Amazon Basin can be difficult to find and monitor, especially the larger and more elusive mammals.
For some time, there have been a few Amazonian animals that researchers and conservationists really wanted to study for accurate ideas about localities and populations, but up until 2000 this was a very difficult objective. Instead, researchers resorted to talking with local inhabitants of any sightings, but now with the increased use of automatic cameras we are starting to see a picture of exactly what animals and how many are wandering across the grasslands and through the forests.
With help from biologists at Frankfurt Zoological Society, a project has been taking shape in the Pampas grasslands between the Tambopata National Reserve and the Madidi National Park from Heath River Wildlife Center (accessed from Puerto Maldonado, Peru). The project involved setting up automatic monitoring cameras with the objective of catching a glimpse of Maned Wolves, which were suspected to be in the area. Four camera traps were established and caught images of tapir, elusive swamp deer, troops of peccaries, solitary ant eaters and a handsome closeup of an eagle. And then, to the joy of all involved in the project, Heath River Lodge staff and tourists alike, the cameras captured the first image of a Maned Wolf on the Pampas grasslands.
If you’re unfamiliar with Maned Wolves, these are elegantly tall, red-tanned canines with distinguishing large ears and a white throat. The have a varied diet with fruit taking up about half their food and the other half consisting of invertebrates, birds, reptiles and mammals (e.g. rodents and small deer). Evidence indicates that there are about 23,600 adults left in the wild with their main threats from habitat destruction, but also from hunting and traffic accidents.
Also captured in photographic form was South America’s largest native land mammal, the bizarre looking lowland Tapir. Tapir look like a mix between a horse, a cow and an anteater. They have a bulky look, but despite this they can run up almost vertically steep banks when required. These are the first images of a tapir on the Pampas of Heath, which has excited conservationists, researchers and Heath River Wildlife Center tourists alike. Because these are South America’s largest land mammal, they are under threat from hunters and also from habitat destruction. Given their increasing threats, getting reliable estimates of locations and abundance is growing in importance so we are very happy they are a frequent star of our cameras.
A protected areas that established camera traps in 2012 is the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve in northe-orient Peru. Here, researchers have been delighted with frequent tapir sightings and images of many large predators. Cameras have also recorded many Collared Peccaries, Tapir, Brocket Deer, Paca, and Agouti, as well as Margays, Tayra (a large weasel), several Mountain Lions (not known to live in the area before camera traps) and well-fed jaguars.
We can only wait for the fantastic images of Pampas wildlife that are sure to be photographed over the next few years. Given the incredible shots so far, stay tuned for more updates and hopefully some pleasant surprises. If you would like to visit the area, consider one of our Tambopata lodges such as Sandoval Lake Lodge or Heath River Wildlife Center