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Monday, April 12, 2010

Trip to the oriente - 5 - Animals

Dear Family and Friends

This blog will focus on a few of the animals that Brad and I encountered in amazon rain forest. We had an excellent naturalist and a skilled guide, and were able to see many exotic animals close-up. These encounters were the highlight of our visit.

The lake at the Sacha Lodge is a quiet place to swim in the heat of the day. Brad and I were in the lake every day, like this:

The second day we were at the Lodge, after lunch, and after our free time swim, we attended a class on fishing for Piranha !!! After our teacher caught one, he said, "Come to the other side of the dock, and I will show you how a Caiman eats a Piranha !!! !!!" Wow, and we were just swimming in the lake - Yikes!

Just to show the scale, here is the Caiman as I saw it from the swimming pavilion. It still looks big to me, but we were told that it was small.

The biggest birds we saw up close were "stinky turkeys". The real name is Hoatzin They stink because they are unique - they eat leaves and digest them with the aid of bacteria. Their digestive system is closer to a cow's than to that of other birds because part of their crop acts as a rumen. The chicks have "claws" on their wings and use them to climb trees, but we saw only adults like this one:

We saw ther smallest and largest primates in the rain forest. The Pigmy Marmoset, the smallest, was hard to photograph. We saw a family of them scrambling up and down a tree trunk.

The next larger primate was the Owl or night monkey. These are nocturnal, but our naturalist knew where one was nesting in a hollow tree. We menuvered our canoe under the tree. Then the guide rapped his paddle on the side of the canoe - the noise woke the monkey, and it looked at us.

We saw and heard troups of Squirrel monkeys jumping from tree to tree. Supprisingly, the noise associated with them is produced by the trees rather than vocalization. We quickly became adept at associating the crashing sound of palm trees flexing with the presence of Squirrel monkeys.

The Howler monkeys which we saw were too far away for photography. We observed a troup of them quietly sleeping in a distant tree. We heard another troup who were over a kilometer away, but did not spot them.

We were very fortunate to see Capuchin monkeys close up. A troup of them came right down to the water's edge while we were on a canoe trip. Our naturalist said that he haad never seen them that close in all his years in the rain forest. We were treated to a dominance display by the alpha male, but my camera batteries were too low to make a movie. He stood over us and glared. Then he picked up a large stick, snaped it in two and threw ther broken parts down with a dramatic jesture as if to say "see how strong I am - you better leave my family alone". I do have a photo of part of his family.

On one of our walks in the forest, the guide spotted a movement on the leafy ground. Both the guide and naturalist started hunting for whatever was moving. Finally, the guide caught a tiny Poison dart frog and held it for us to see. (We were not allowed to hold it because of danger of contamination of the frog from DEET on our hands) The poison is on the skin of the frog, so the guide washed his hands after releasing the frog.

Next time, I will summarize our experience at the Sachia Lodge.

Your friend and mine,


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