Sylvia and Chris Knight visited REGUA recently with their two children, and one of the tasks they undertook was to see how many different seeds they could find in the forest.
However, that was not the only thing they did in their visit – here’s more from Sylvia.
“As a family, some of the real highlights were our night-time walk where we were spotting caiman, opossums and nightjars as well as other sightings of sloths, a gorgeous orange spined hairy dwarf porcupine, two male blue manakins displaying to a female, watching 1743 cattle egrets come in to roost, and so much more.
We’d like to reiterate our thanks to all the people at REGUA who made us feel so welcome, and made our stay so enjoyable by ferrying us around, feeding us, finding us incredible wildlife and answering a lot of questions!
Crab-eating Fox (Cerdocyon thous), is quite a common South American mammal confined mainly to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and labelled “of least concern” on the IUCN red list.
It is seen mostly on open areas and on REGUA’s lowlands this is no exception. They are most often seen at REGUA on our night excursions when caught in the torchlight as they roam the fields around the Reserve. It is, however, a timid animal and if one is fortunate to see one streaking across the road and into the bushes to hide, the observer is left content.
Adilei (REGUA resident Bird Guide) was walking the Yellow Trail by the wetlands recently and came across this resting female lying on the path. As Adilei crept up to steal a closer image, she jumped up and took off. Sadly you cannot see its fine bushy tail.
Inspired by my Grandfather’s (Helmut) stories of adventure in identifying orchids and my Father’s (Klaus) passion for snakes, I visited REGUA as a volunteer in 2015. I want to pursue a career in biology and my focus then was on which mammals venture to and from the wetlands and which routes they choose to take, using camera traps positioned on visibly active animal trails.
I showed that trail building in an around the wetlands is almost exclusively done by the CapybaraHydrochoerus hydrochaeris, that permanently live in the wetlands though other animals would also use their trails. These animals like to use the main tourist trails, but between the wetland lakes and the major routes also exist a network of minor “social” trails.
The Capybaras’ stronghold at REGUA is the wetlands but they leave the wetlands for feeding. This was done on three major routes leading to neighbouring farmland, adjacent wetlands and into reforested rainforest with remnant pastures.
I returned to REGUA in March 2017 and observed that all the major routes still existed. There was no change in the trail network although there was an obvious change to where the Capybaras stay during daytime. The object of my stay was to determine how the Capybaras live in the wetlands.
Based on different counts I estimated that there were 50–70 Capybara living in the wetlands in March/April 2017. These numbers were less than we expected. I did not count them in 2015, but I have the feeling their numbers have declined. In 2015 there were seemingly two major groups of Capybara and they were apparently present everywhere in the wetlands. But this was not the case this year, when there was only one group left and other individual Capybara were scattered.
In 2015 I also noticed that many Capybara had wounds and cuts especially on their rear body parts. Some were seriously wounded and were noticeably limping. They seemed to be quite aggressive between each other and I could witness several moments when Capybaras bit each other. The wounds were not as obvious this year. Fighting still took place but the wounds were not as numerous and not as severe. I have the feeling there may have been over-population in 2015 and the lower numbers could have diminished social pressure in 2017.
I also observed that only the group near the volunteer houses remained and concluded that the animals also formed “Capybara nurseries”. A group of 20-30 Capybaras would gather on an island and look after the new born and young less than six months of age, guarded by three to six adults. The young were clearly protected with the adult guards looking in every direction supervising the group. This nursery island was abandoned about one hour after sunrise each day, the young guided to their day area and to other Capybara groups. The majority of Capybaras live loosely dispersed on the shores and islands all over the wetlands.
Aside from the nursery, I could not find evidence of a constant group of Capybara larger than five animals during my three week study. I could not mark any Capybara and there are no individual markings on any Capybara body to distinguish them apart. From the pictures of the camera trap I could see that there were no uniform constant groups. Capybara would go alone or form differently composed groups daily.
Over the past three years there was a noticeable relocation of the Capybara population towards human housing especially during night time. This behaviour could be the result of a clear increase of larger predators in the wetlands. We have seen at least three large Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris longer than two metres and there was a clear evidence of an increase of big cat activity in the wetlands. I had read tales from African safari camps of alternating behaviour of animals with young moving towards humans to avoid their predators.
It is possible that the whole population of the REGUA wetland Capybara are in fact a loosely connected society but their behaviour may vary seasonally. This has to be verified.
The REGUA wetland Capybaras give me the impression of a healthy population that very well adapts and regulates itself by wandering off to the adjacent habitat and perhaps also through increasing predation. For future work on the Capybara and to study their social behaviour I will have to find a way to mark individual Capybara. Radio tagging would only make sense when and if we could get funding for a major work on Capybara.
There are excellent conditions to study the life in nature of Capybaras and other wildlife at REGUA because wildlife is diverse and abundant and almost free from human pressure. I look forward to returning and conducting further research work at REGUA.
Raquel went seed collecting recently with Barata and Mauricio as we are always on the lookout for seeds to plant in the REGUA nursery.
January is a good month to collect seeds and many species were laying on the forest floor. High on the Orange trail, Barata suddenly came across a small den and upon closer inspection found the extraordinary remains of a Collared Peccary, Tayassu tajuco.
These are mainly fruit eaters and have been regularly caught on camera traps in large groups foraging for food amongst the vegetation.
It is quite a common species found across the Americas but the sight of the huge skull with its large canines is still most impressive. Barata had never seen one before and Raquel has a good example to captivate our visitors’ attention.
The expected release of the first two South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) also known as Brazilian or Lowland Tapirs, has been delayed slightly but is still expected to occur before the end of the year.
The release compound where the animals will be held for a month to become acclimatised before release has been completed, and the reintroduction team are busy talking to all the local landowners and schools to ensure that everyone is aware of the project and is supportive.
In total it is planned to release about 50 animals over the next five years or so, and at least the first few will have collars fitted which will incorporate both satellite transmitters and radio tags so that their movements and behaviour can be monitored. Tapirs are usually solitary animals and will range widely in the forest, but in hot weather they need to find ponds or rivers in which they can cool down. The major concern is that they may start visiting local farmers’ crops and cause damage, which is why so much effort is being taken to inform locals of the releases and of the legal methods that can be used to prevent that damage.
In addition to the collars, the team will be setting up a series of camera traps to monitor the released animals, and trials have already produced some wonderful photos of other mammals that inhabit the forest. This wonderful photo of Puma was taken on the 4×4 trail.
Whilst on holiday in the southern Amazon area, I came across a muddy path with these Tapir tracks. The animals move through the forest looking for muddy pools and water holes, making tunnel-like paths. They feed on the lush growth promoted by these wet areas.
As they move around their territory, they defecate, depositing seeds they have consumed. This promotes future plant growth and increased diversity of plant species throughout the forest.
Its exciting to think that we will have these tracks around REGUA in the not too distant future with our re-introduction project.
For more information about the Tapir re-introduction project see our Mammal page.
An extremely exciting piece of news! After much planning, REGUA is moving forward with our Tapir Reintroduction Programme.
The South American TapirTapirus terrestrial, also known as Lowland Tapir or Brazilian Tapir, is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, but would have been widespread in the Atlantic Forest of the state of Rio de Janeiro in south-east Brazil, before hunting and habitat destruction brought it to extinction. REGUA, with it’s forests protected from hunting, restored wetlands, and Education Programme, is an ideal site for this ground breaking project.
The REGUA Tapir Reintroduction Programme is led by Rio de Janeiro University Professor Fernando Fernandez, who has previously successfully released Red-rumped AgoutiDasyprocta leporina and Brown Howler Monkey Alouatta guariba in Rio de Janerio’s Tijuca Forest National Park, and is being carried out in partnership with Instituto Federal do Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janiero (UFRJ), Universidade Federal Rural de Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ), Universidade estaudual do Rio de Janeiro (Uerj) and the Three Peaks State Park (Parque Estadual dos Três Picos).
Local builder Ruy and the team of REGUA rangers are planning to build the tapir pen next month. Although these animals are notoriously obstinate, the one hectare pen will be made out of reinforced and treated eucalyptus posts constructed in the forest on the far side of the wetlands.
A pair of tapirs will come from a breeder in the city of Araxá, about 1,000 km away from REGUA. After a period of quarantine they will be released with a GPS transmitter attached to register their tracks. We are ready to go into the field and mark the area.
South American Tapir is the largest land mammal in South America and known as the “overalls of the forest” for scattering seeds of various species of plants, contributing to the maintenance of biodiversity. Joanna, the project’s Education Officer, will be informing the local schools and communities of the importance of this species’ reintroduction to the environment.
This is the first time tapirs will be released and it is very exciting for us to be part of the project.