Welcome to the jungle 💚

I was finally able to visit the Peruvian Amazon during the summer of 2021! I have been following the work being done at Fauna Forever and Amazon Shelter for some time and was super excited to have the opportunity to volunteer. The Amazon Jungle is by far the most intense environment I have ever worked in, but I love a good challenge and look forward to returning.

Fauna Forever is a non-profit in Peru. They conduct various research projects with the goal of preserving the rainforest and wildlife. There are many programs available to interns and volunteers, all of which benefit the region and local communities greatly. I primarily assisted with bat surveys, but also had the opportunity to learn about many other animals during my stay. I worked mainly with biologist Chris Ketola who is absolutely brilliant. Our misfit team was quite spirited and we had a blast exploring the jungle together. Fauna Forever is expanding their survey areas and I can’t wait to work with them again!

Amazon Shelter is dedicated to rescuing and rehabbing wildlife in the Peruvian Amazon. I was amazed at the level of care each animal received and learned so much from the people there. I helped veterinarian Sara Ramirez Escobar with various tasks and even got to assist with a surgery on one of the sloths. Although there are a few animals who will not be able to be released, the vast majority will eventually return to the jungle where they belong. Magali, the founder of Amazon Shelter, is absolutely incredible. You can learn more about her and the valuable work she does here.

 

Found objects.

Adorable little Mesophylla macconnelli.

Beautiful Isabel.

One of many millipedes who joined us one night in the field.

Mischievious Tuki.

Ellie is very young, so she still has her stripes. She is currently the size of a large dog, however, adult tapirs can grow to be 700 pounds! She is a curious little baby and has been doing well since arriving at Amazon Shelter last summer. Ellie loves bathing in her pond, sleeping on banana leaves, and eating tons of greens. Although vital to a healthy ecosystem, tapir populations are declining due to habitat destruction and hunting.

Baby opossums!

While volunteering at Amazon Shelter, one of my regular chores was to feed the birds. My family raised birds while I was growing up, so this task felt very comfortable and familiar. A particular juvenile parrot stood out to me and I looked forward to our time together each day. This adorable creature has had a rough life, yet is still a complete sweetheart with absolute trust in humans. His recovery will take time, but he is in good hands. Like many before him, he will eventually regain his ability to fly and someday be free.

 

Feeling Batty!

Special thanks to photographer extraordinaire Daniel Whitby for adjusting my camera settings and creating an incredible set! I still can’t believe that I was able to catch an image of this exquisite bat in flight!

In honor of International Bat Appreciation Day, I’m finally posting about my incredible trip to Panama! I have been fascinated by bats ever since I was a child and have dreamed of being able to study them in a real world setting. Last year I became aware of a bat survey being held in Panama and jumped at the chance to attend.

The expedition was being led by none other than Merlin Tuttle, a world famous ecologist who quite literally wrote the book on bats. The trip was co-led by Daniel Hargreaves, an extremely knowledgable conservationist from the U.K. Our team conducted a survey in the Mamoni Valley of Central Panama, a biodiversity hot spot teeming with life. We stayed at the gorgeous Cocobolo Nature Reserve which covers 1,100 acres of lush rainforest.  Over the course of a week, we studied 367 bats, which translated to 46 species.

I cannot begin to express what an amazing experience this was and I look forward to participating in more field work in the future. I also spent a day exploring Panama City before heading out to Cocobolo Nature Reserve and have included images from that location as well. There are a few photos of me taken by others where I was not sure who to credit; my apologies. To learn more about the amazing world of bats, please swing by www.merlintuttle.com!

While visiting Panama, I fell in love with Casco Viejo’s historic buildings.

I spent some quality time with this little Pygmy Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus phaeotis).

Cocobolo field station.

Nighttime in the cloud forest felt like magic.

This identification guide was an invaluable tool for studying bats in Panama. The species list is very expansive and the devil really is in the details!

Scenic photo from the first night we set up mist nets in the river. This is shortly before I stepped into deeper water, which resulted in my boots becoming completely flooded. This process would repeat for another night or two, and each time, I was amazed that the water could outsmart me so easily. I eventually just accepted my fate and embraced the experience. The jungle is no place for divas!

Look closely and you will spot an adorable White-throated Round-eared Bat (Lophostoma silvicolum). These bats are especially fascinating because they roost inside of termite nests!

The data collected while studying bats is recorded on a processing sheet. This information helps conservationists better understand bats, which aids in protecting them.

This little guy was swimming with us while we were netting in the river one night. Cheers to Alex Shepack for bringing him to the field station so that we could admire him!

Panama City skyline.

Check out this sleeping bat silhouette! Some bat species construct “tents” from leaves by nibbling on them until they fold. Once modified, the leaf can serve as a shelter, which offers protection from harsh elements and predators.

I absolutely loved working outdoors and becoming familiar with the sights, sounds, and hidden mysteries of the rainforest. It’s awesome how alive the jungle becomes at night! I learned so much from the people in my group and will always be grateful to them for their camaraderie, patience, and impeccable instruction.

Look at the ears on this charming Lophostoma silvicolum!