With the images collected in the field researchers will make an analysis of the occupation of these animals. Their purpose is to evaluate the conservation status of the hunting fauna that the ethnic groups consume for their wellbeing, to improve the environmental management measures in the protected area.
Last May, while checking the photographs captured by a group of camera traps installed in El Tuparro National Natural Park, researchers found an unusual image. A tapir, a very common species in the region, walking through the forest with an arrow embedded in its back. Someone attempted to hunt it, for its meat.
The image does not enable a conclusion. It is uncertain if this tapir survived or the wound led to its death during its stroll of which, fortunately, we have this unprecedented photographic register. This photograph, however, is already providing preliminary or partial information, as part of the implementation of the Monitoring Program being developed in the protected area. The aim of the project is to obtain as much detailed information as possible about the species that occur there, especially reptiles, fish and mammals and, among the latter, ungulates - such as deer and other hoofed animals – that are one of the many supports of the food security of the indigenous communities living in the zone.
Information on the status of the populations of these species will enable the orientation of management measures to guarantee their survival in time and, at the same time, will make it possible for the Sikuani-Guahibo, Sáliva-Piaroa, Makú-Puinave and Mapayerri ethnic groups, living in El Tuparro and its buffer zones, to make the most of them for their long-term subsistence, in a sustainable manner.
Pressures are identified
El Tuparro National Natural Park is part of a vast savanna located in the Department of Vichada (Colombia). It is partly floodable and includes gallery forests, interrupted by rivers, torrents, beaches and rocky outcrops (tepui-like hills) that make it one of the planet’s most beautiful landscapes. It is located to the east of the municipality of Cumaribo, in a transition zone between huge stretches of tropical forests and the tepuis of the Guiana Highlands. It was declared biosphere reserve by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) due to its huge fauna and flora resources.
“Amid all this immense biodiversity, ungulates are part of the conservation target values; therefore, the information on their conservation status locally will enable us to assess the situation they face or make a diagnosis of their populations”, states Jorge Parra, coordinator of Protected Areas of WCS Colombia, an organization working on the technical part of the Monitoring Program jointly with Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia and World Wildlife Fund-Colombia (WWF).
44 camera traps were installed
A similar exercise was made in 2015 and it revealed a very favorable status in the area occupied by tapirs, white-lipped peccaries and deer.
“These studies should be made continuously over time, ideally every two years, to ascertain if the environmental management actions being applied have positive results or if they should be modified, due to changes in pressures”, explains Jorge Parra.
And this last part is what researchers want to understand: what are the main threats that species face. They also wish to know if the increase in the number of inhabitants in the conservation zone, originated by the exodus of Venezuelan citizens escaping from the economic crisis in that country that has led many indigenous people to choose El Tuparro National Natural Park as a refuge, has become another inconvenience.
“A greater demand for resources could have consequences on the species and reduce their numbers; these are the effects that we wish to identify. And this information can lead to the development of hunting agreements or the adoption of concerted action with the communities, for the adequate use of natural resources”, concludes Parra.
In total, 44 camera traps were installed in the vicinity of the Tuparro and Tomo Rivers. These rivers, together with the Tuparrito river arm, form a great ‘hydrographic star’ that flows into the great Orinoco River, near the Torrents of Maipures, a sight that astonished the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in the XIX century.
Researchers of Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia explained that camera traps were installed, depending on previous identification of tracks and trails, in 44 one square kilometer quadrants, with three 650 meter transects. The intention was for the cameras, in their majority located in the center of the defined spaces, to register the movements of animals, including big rodents, during 80 consecutive days.
The camera traps were removed between May 4th and 17th to avoid damages caused by the rains that flood a big part of the territories starting mid-year. And today, Leonor Valenzuela, coordinator of Analysis and Synthesis of WCS Colombia, Ana Paola Yusti, Ivonne Rodríguez and Manuel Rodríguez analyze the 20 gigabytes of information obtained.
Final and official results could be published before the end of 2020, as well as a possible new route sheet for the protection of part of the fauna in one of the most spectacular and wonderful places on Earth.