Large animals in the Amazon Rainforest have been notoriously hard to document and study, especially for records of abundance. Instead of observation, many researchers and naturalists have resorted to questioning local inhabitants about animal sightings. One of the hardest animals of the Amazon Rainforest to monitor are the much loved but near threatened Jaguars. However, camera traps have been used more and more frequently and now present researchers and naturalists alike with a way to see exactly what animals are wandering around the Amazon Basin. Here we will show some of the fantastic camera trap images from lodges in the Peruvian & Bolivian Amazon areas from 2012 through to 2014.
Southern Peru / Bolivian Amazon Rainforest
A recent project has been taking shape on the border of Peru and Bolivia between the Tambopata National Reserve and Madidi National Park in the Pampas grasslands. Camera traps have been set up to record different wildlife led by biologists from Frankfurt Zoological Society. Four different camera traps have recorded tapir, elusive swamp deer, troops of peccaries, solitary ant eaters and a handsome closeup of an eagle. But the real prize for the biologists was the first images of a Maned Wolf spotted in the Pampas of Heath (Bolivia) near Heath River Wildlife Center (accessed from Puerto Maldonado, Peru).
Maned Wolves stand about a metre tall with a slim and elegant appearance. They have a similar coat color to the Red Fox and distinguishing large ears, coat and white throat. The are omnivorous and adapt their diet to suit availability with around 50% of their diet consisting of fruit and the other of invertebrates, birds, reptiles and mammals (e.g. rodents and small deer). Research suggests there are around 23,600 adults left in the wild with threats mainly from habitat destruction, but also from hunting and traffic accidents.
Tapir have been another animal that have no official records of abundance in the Pampas of Heath (Bolivia) and have been frequently captured on images by the camera traps. These photos have sparked a great deal of interest among the conservation and scientific community and Heath River Wildlife Center was very happy to have hosted the research.
Lowland tapir are strange looking animals for those unfamiliar with South American wildlife. They look like a mix between a cow, a horse and an anteater. Although having a bulky appearance, tapir can quickly navigate seemingly impassable terrain and practically vertical clay banks, especially when threatened. Tapir are at risk from habitat destruction and hunting as they are regularly hunted by native groups. They are the largest native terrestrial mammal in South America. Especially because of the increasing threats of hunting and habitat destruction, getting reliable estimates for tapir number is growing in importance.
Here’s another tapir caught by camera trap at the Tambopata Research Center, which is located near one of the Amazon’s largest macaw clay licks where you can often see hundreds of brilliantly colored large Macaw Parrots.
Northern Peru Amazon Rainforest
Camera traps have been established in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve of northern Peru since June 2012. Since this time, an amazing diversity of Amazon Rainforest animals have been recorded including some unexpected visitors that have excited lodge staff, researchers and tourists alike.
The Tahuayo Lodge established a 1000 acre research grid at their associated Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center and have set up camera traps on the grid to glimpse some of the rarer Amazon animals. Animals known on the grid include 95 squirrel monkeys, 170 tamarins (2 species), 90 titi monkeys (2 species), 25 brown capuchins, 15 white-fronted capuchins, 25 pygmy marmosets, 25 night monkeys (2 species), 35 saki monkeys (2 species).
Other mammals living on the grid include: coati, tamandua, giant anteater, tapir, peccary (2 species), deer (2 species), ocelot, jaguar, paca, agouti, agouchi, armadillo, pygmy tree squirrel, Amazon tree squirrel, opossum (many species), rat (many species), sloth (2 species), kinkajou, tayra, and bat (approx 70 species).
Animals that have been recorded by camera trap include a great many collared peccaries, tapir, brocket deer, paca, and agouti. It is no surprise that with this abundance of herbivores the camera traps have recorded a wonderful amount of large predators (usually the symbols of a healthy forest). The predators recorded include Margays, Tayra (a large weasel), as well as several Mountain Lions (not known to live in the area before camera traps) and some jaguars that look very well fed.
Jaguar are the famed animal of Amazonia. With their retractable claws, sharp eyesight and quick reflexes, the cats are perhaps the most specialised of predators and were pre-adapted for jungle living. Studies have found their home ranges can be 140 square kilometres or more, which makes them very susceptible to habitat loss, and a reason why getting reliable ideas about abundance and specific localities are very important.
Jaguars may have a large home range, but it’s the Mountain Lions, or Puma, that win the range game. They are found from Canada down to the tip of the Andes in South America, which means they occupy the largest range of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They can occupy such a large range because of their adaptability, especially in diet. Although a strict meat eater, Mountain Lions will eat insects, rodents, domestic livestock, deer, and most manageable animals. Their actual home ranges can be very large of about 1000 km2 although this is probably somewhat reduced in dense forests.
The camera traps have also recorded some fun images of Tamanduas (Amazon tree-living anteaters), which wander through the forest carrying their young on their backs. But the real surprise was the image of a short-eared dog. These animals are related to a canine that entered the Amazon Basin around 3 million years ago and started down an evolutionary line separate from other dogs. The only species in the genus (Atelocynus), short eared dogs are considered the most elusive of all Amazon Rainforest animals. They do not survive long in captivity and hardly anything is known about their behaviour and ecology.