Seeing some of the spectacular and exotic animals that live in the rainforest is one of the main goals of every eco travel trip to the Amazon. The amazing biodiversity in the Peruvian jungle is also its principal claim to fame and folks on family green travel vacations come to the rainforest with high hopes of experiencing troops of Squirrel Monkeys running and jumping through the trees, of seeing unbelievable looking toucans as they call from the treetops, or of glimpsing a jaguar in the depths of the rainforest.
While all of these animals and much, much more occur in the forests of Tambopata, some are far easier to see than others. Jaguars are there but they are shy and usually only seen by guests lucky enough to spot one on the shore of the river as they travel by boat between Refugio Amazonas and the Tambopata Research Center (TRC). This definitely increases one’s chances of seeing the biggest cat in the Americas but it’s by no means guaranteed. Much easier to see are the noisy parrots, parakeets, and macaws that live in the rainforest. 20 species of these gaudy birds occur in the rainforests of Tambopata and most of these are seen by our guests. However, for the best parrot and macaw experience, you need to visit the Chuncho clay lick between Refugio Amazonas and the Tambopata Research Center or the Colorado clay lick right beside the Tambopata Research Center.
Visited by hundreds of parrots, parakeets, and up to six species of macaws on most days of the year, the Chuncho and Colorado clay licks are truly one of the wildlife spectacles of the world and a top site for ecotourism family travel. You will witness the arrival of flock after flock of Dusky-headed and White-eyed Parakeets, Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and Blue-headed Parrots, and 5 or 6 species of macaws. The humid jungle air is filled with their screeches as they settle into trees above the clay lick and come down to feed on the mineral-rich soil. You couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling, unique experience when it comes to macaws, parrots, and parakeets and this activity will be a definite highlight of any family eco vacation.
The principal aim of the Tambopata Macaw Project is to study the various aspects of the ecology of large macaws and parrots to help us better understand the interactions among clay lick use, food supply, breeding season, breeding success, abundance, and movements. The individual data sets collected by the assistants are then integrated to help determine how they are related.
Of great interest to us here at the project is that clay lick use by large macaws at TRC was very low in 2009 due to the changes in vegetation and soil conditions. However, in early 2010 the Peruvian government, together with the members of our research project are planning to manage the clay lick to help restore the large macaw usage. As a result, we have the unique opportunity to study the same populations of macaws both with and without clay lick use. This will be a major focus of our research through at least 2011.
Another important aim of the project is to help train new generations of conservation scientists. As a result, we work closely with young Peruvian and foreign assistants and help them gain the skills they need for conducting research. Students interested in conducting their own independent studies as parts of independent study classes, or theses at the undergrad, MS or PhD levels are encouraged to apply to study one of the many aspects of macaw and parrot biology at the sites.
Specific project objectives
- Determine if food abundance or clay lick use is more closely tied to nest occupancy and nesting success.
- Determine if clay lick use is correlated with parrot abundance.
- Determine how large macaw nest success varies with relation to food supply and climate.
- Document the nutritional content of parrot foods in the forest to better understand the role of clay lick in the diet of macaws and parrots.
- Determine the health status of adult and young parrots to use this information to help manage parrots in captivity (this work being done in conjunction with Drs Heatley and Hoppes from Texas A&M University).
To get to Tambopata Research Center you must fly to Puerto Maldonado from Lima or Cuzco on daily commercial flights lasting 30 or 90 minutes respectively. From the airport you are transported by truck to the Infierno River Port where you board our boats for the two and half hour trip to Refugio Amazonas. From Refugio Amazonas, the Tambopata Research Center is four hours upriver, and a few minutes walking from the river.