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  • Writer's pictureRomy Jansen

It's a Wild Life – Exploring and Rediscovering

We are now three weeks in Peru and we like the differences with Bolivia. The roads are in better condition, the people look happier and they offer more facilities like a normal toilet again. What a luxury ;) But we also enjoyed our time in Bolivia. It’s a beautiful country and less touristic, what makes it really nice to explore. Having time to search for rare species and camp at places where probably nobody camped before. We love it! Let’s catch up about our last month in Bolivia.

Back home we have the “Mammals of the World” books (It didn’t fit in one book ;)). Rob took lots of preparation time to find out where we could search for certain mammal species. Especially finding exact location information about monkey species took lots of effort and time. In Bolivia there are three monkey species that are really hard to find and endemic to Bolivia: The Olallas’ Titi Monkey, Rio Beni Titi Monkey and Madidi Titi Monkey. Rob found a research paper with information about these monkeys and a small map with some locations where the researchers saw these species. With GoogleMaps Satellite he sorted out where the right locations should be. The first one of the primates we tried to find was the Olallas’ Titi Monkey. The most endangered and localized of the three. We drove a horrible bumpy road with huge potholes and lots of loose sand. In a really slow pace we were getting closer to the right habitat for the monkeys, but in the middle of nowhere we had to pass another car. The car stopped and three police men stepped out of the car in full uniform and with huge guns. We didn’t expect that on such a horrible and deserted road. After a paper and car check we continued. After we arrived we walked into the forest and searched for hours, but no monkey. We thought of trying another tactic by slowly driving the road. We passed a beautiful huge tree with big pink flowers, and then Rob thought he saw something moving in the tree. He stopped the car and we took a better look and there he was a fluffy Olallas’ Titi Monkey eating from the pink flowers. We parked the car and quickly moved into the dense forest to get closer for some pictures. After this great encounter, we wanted to buy a drink to celebrate. We drove to the next town (only a few houses and a small church) and asked around if there was a small shop. They pointed to a little house with a small restaurant. We asked if we could eat something and the friendly owners were happy to cook for us. We were the first tourists that ever to visit their place and we were welcomed to sleep next to the restaurant in our roof top tent. We talked about our search for this special monkey and they knew them and thought it was amazing that people came all this way for a monkey that was ‘normal to them’. This understanding helps conserve these monkeys, as they come to realize that they are actually special and not common or widespread at all. The next morning we tried to find them together with them. Unfortunately we only heard them calling, but it was nice to spend some time together and we hope they will protect this awesome monkey species.

After seeing the Olallas’ Titi Monkey, Rob found another scientific research paper which made us doubt about our observation. The Olallas’ and Rio Beni Titi Monkey live really close to each other and look a lot like each other too. In this new paper it looked like where we found our Olallas that it could be a Rio Beni Titi. We wanted to be sure that we found the right primate and that our ID was right. Therefore, Rob contacted the researcher and sent him the photos and our location. Luckily, the researcher could confirm that it was indeed an Olallas’ Titi Monkey. After this confirmation, the next primate to search for was the Rio Beni Titi Monkey. If all primates were as easy as this one… Rob again knew where to search for this monkey. We arrived in the afternoon in the right habitat. We just started searching and Romy already saw Rio Beni Titi’s moving in a tree behind an old house. The next morning we got awake in our rooftop tent and just when we were ready to start searchin again, multiple groups started calling in the forest. One group was next to our tent. How easy was that!

Now the only one left was the Madidi Titi Monkey. Therefore, we needed to go to the Madidi National Park. In this national park, lots of nice bird species occur. Our new Dutch Bolivian friends recommended hiring Raul as a birding guide, because he works for a birding lodge in this area and knows the species really well. We agreed to meet Raul near the Park Office. Just to be sure that we would be at the same location, we sent a Google pointer. Raul confirmed to meet us there. When we arrived at 06.00 in the morning, we didn’t find a Park Office at the meeting point and also no Raul. We decided to drive further up the road to search for Raul and maybe find the birding lodge to see if he was there. We couldn’t find either one of them. After a few hours we saw someone walking down the road near the meeting point. We asked if he was Raul. Yes, his name was Raul. Great, finally! So Rob asked why he didn’t respond to the messages he sent him. Raul looked confused, checked his phone again and said that he didn’t receive messages. Rob asked again: But you are Raul from the birding lodge, right? It turned out he wasn’t and we just met another Raul. What a coincidence! After this encounter we drove the road again and found Raul at the birding lodge (which was also hidden in the forest). Luckily, his bird knowledge was better than his punctuality and communication. We saw amazing bird species together. Raul also knew a place to find the Madidi Titi Monkey. The first time we started searching, we walked for kilometres along the river bedding, because they occur next to the river according to our guide. After a long morning search, we took some time to relax for a lunch break next to the river. We were already making new plans, because Raul said it would be easy to find them, but it turned out he only saw them a few times. We were getting nervous about missing our main target, especially after a very long morning searching for them and not even hearing them calling in the distance. We started considering other places to search for this monkey. Luckily, Raul spoke to a local and he said he heard the monkeys calling every morning next to his ‘house’ (a small platform with a tent on it). In the afternoon we explored that area and tried to call them with playback. Something moved in the tree and then the sound of the Madidi Titi Monkey was unmistakeable. A male and female were looking at us and soon after continued grooming each other and feeding on insects. A great sighting! And that was endemic monkey species number 3 :)

After finding all these monkeys species, we also rediscovered a bird species for Bolivia: the White-winged Nightjar. This Nightjar occurs in Brazil and Paraguay and was found in Bolivia only twice, many years ago (1987 and 2003). We like to search for mammals and birds during the night. A whole different world gets awake and we love to see all these nocturnal animals. In the El Beni region of Bolivia live lots of cool mammals because they like a dry grassland habitat. During the end of the day we encountered a Giant Anteater with a young on its back. So adorable! Before dusk we decided to drive a road to search for mammals and birds. We drove slowly and both shone around with our flashlights to see if we could detect eyeshine or movement in the fields. Then Rob saw the eyeshine of a nightjar on a termite mound. It reminded us of Brazil where the White-winged Nightjar also perched on a termite mound. He already saw that it was not a male, but we pulled over and crossed the field towards the nightjar. It didn’t move and we could take a closer look. It was a female White-winged Nightjar (WWN)! The first sighting of a female WWN in Bolivia. We were so happy that we rediscovered this species. This was great news for bird conservation. The next night we searched again. We had a great start with the eyeshine of a Puma. We were able to take a closer look with our flashlight before it disappeared quickly into the forest. What a big pussy! Further down the road Romy picked up eyeshine far away in the field (50-60m) and then the bird flew straight towards us and sat down on the road. It turned out to be the exact same female White-winged Nightjar and we were only 50m from the spot of the night before. We decided to try again the next night, but then at a different spot. We started spotlighting from 19.00 and had another nightjar flying low over the grass within 3km of the start. We were able to follow it and find it back after it landed in the grass. This turned out to be another female White-winged Nightjar!! A great sighting, more than 50km west from the other individual. Despite being good habitat, we didn’t find more. But still, great news for a very rare species with only 4 known populations! (All at least 1400km away in Brazil and Paraguay). Hopefully more can be found and this species can be protected in Bolivia too!

We are in Peru for three weeks already. We entered Peru at Lake Titicaca, visited Machu Picchu, saw many endemic birds and are now already in the capital of Peru: Lima. Next time we will catch you up about that part of our travel :)


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