Spider monkeys rescued from Peruvian circus, restaurant

This video says about itself:

11 February 2015

Watch the moment when Pepe met Valerie.

Pepe, an intelligent, playful monkey had been kept alone and chained by the neck for eight years. The circus had snapped off Pepe’s canine teeth so that he could not defend himself. Now, in the most moving chapter of his story so far, Pepe has finally been reunited with his own kind as part of Operation Spirit of Freedom.

From Wildlife Extra:

Two spider monkeys come out of solitary confinement for the first time

A spider monkey that was rescued from a Peruvian circus in the Andean town of Cusco by Animal Defenders International (ADI) has been introduced to another spider monkey for the first time.

Pepe had been kept alone and chained by the neck for eight years, and his canine teeth had been snapped off so that there was no danger of him biting anyone.

ADI has been assisting the Peruvian authorities to enforce their ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, as well as with the relocation of animals seized from the illegal pet trade – a mission called Operation Spirit of Freedom.

Pepe was brought up to full health and his teeth were repaired by a veterinary dentist. The next step was to socialise him with others of his kind.

In January, the ADI rescue centre outside Lima received Valerie, a young female spider monkey who had been illegally trafficked and was being kept for entertainment in a restaurant.

At first the two monkeys were encouraged to get to know each other through the bars of their cages but then, to both animals’ great excitement, they were put together and immediately began playing and chattering to each together.

Jan Creamer, President of London-based ADI says: “Pepe is a gentle soul with a big heart and we are absolutely thrilled to see him and Valerie together, knowing they both spent so many years alone – it was a very emotional moment.”

ADI has a temporary rescue centre just outside Lima, with a full-time veterinary team acting as a hub for Operation Spirit of Freedom in Peru. It is caring for 21 lions and over 20 other native wild animals there – mainly monkeys.

As part of the rehabilitation programme, ADI experts assess the individual animals and form family groups so they can be relocated to suitable habitat and rehomed together.

You can see Pepe and Valerie’s first moments together in the video above.

For more information and to support the work of ADI and Operation Spirit of Freedom click here.

New frog species discovery in Peru

This video says about itself:

An Array of Frogs Calling in the Peruvian Amazon

4 February 2012

Nine species of frog are seen here. From left to right, and top to bottom: Hypsiboas geographicus, Dendropsophus sarayacuensis, Hypsiboas lanciformis, Hypsiboas punctatus, Scinax chiquitanus, Phyllomedusa palliata, Leptodactylus rhodonotus, Leptodactylus sp., Leptodactylus sp.

All frogs were recorded in the Madre de Dios region of Peru.

From Wildlife Extra:

New yellow frog discovered in Peru

A new water frog species has been discovered on Pacific slopes of the Andes in central Peru, an area scientists had thought was poor in biodiversity.

The name of the new species Telmatobius ventriflavum comes from the Latin for yellow belly (venter and flavus) and refers to the golden yellow and orange coloration on the body.

Water frogs are a subfamily of frogs endemic to the Andes of South America. The populations of several species of Telmatobius have declined dramatically over the past 30 years, and the genus is now thought to be extinct in Ecuador. These declines have been associated with the spread of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis.

“The discovery of a new species in such arid and easily accessible environments shows that much remains to be done to document amphibian diversity in the Andes,” said the lead author Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The study detected the presence of the chytrid fungus, but the impact of chytridiomycosis on the new species is unknown. The authors recommend disease surveillance to prevent outbreaks that might endanger the survival of this endemic species.

The scientific description of the new species is here.

Baby bird imitates toxic caterpillar

This video says about itself:

Baby bird mimics a toxic caterpillar

11 December 2014

To avoid being eaten by snakes and monkeys, the chicks of a rather drab grey bird mimic the look and movements of a poisonous caterpillar.

From New Scientist about this:

The bird that mimics a toxic caterpillar

13:29 11 December 2014 by Sandhya Sekar

Species: Laniocera hypopyrra
Habitat: Lowland Amazonian rainforests in South America

In the warm, humid tropical forests of the Peruvian Amazon, a rather drab grey bird makes its way to a cup-shaped nest made of dry leaves, its beak stuffed with a juicy insect.

Inside the nest, however, there are no gaping mouths and crying chicks begging for food. Instead, a creature starts sliding around inside the nest. On closer inspection it seems that a huge, bright orange caterpillar has ravaged the nest.

But something magical happens next. The bird gives out a call and the caterpillar transforms into a hungry chick eager to get its meal.

The chick is as different from its parents as can be. It mimics the look and movements of a poisonous species of the caterpillar family Magalopygidae, to avoid being eaten by snakes and monkeys. This trick is known as Batesian mimicry, and is more common in invertebrates. Think of the harmless butterflies mimicking poisonous species from the same area. Among birds, the only other recorded example is of burrowing owls producing hissing sounds like an agitated rattlesnake when disturbed.

But in Laniocera hypopyrra‘s (the cinereous mourner) mimicry is more complex, involving both looks and behaviour, something not spotted in birds before.

The medium-sized bird, found in lowland forests in the Amazon basin in South America, has one brood per year and mainly feeds on insects. It builds unlined, cup-shaped nests from dry leaves in areas with relatively open undergrowth.

Cinereous mourner parents spend a lot of time foraging away from the nest, and return to the nest only once each hour. This is a very low feeding rate for such a small bird, and the chicks grow slowly, taking around 20 days to start flying. This gives ample time for predators to eat up chicks.

The intense predation pressure, which could be as high as 80 per cent among birds in habitats where the mourner lives seems to have driven the evolution of complex anti-predatory strategies in the species.

Gustavo Londono, now at the University of California, came across a nest of the species in 2012, and later set up cameras to observe what happens in it.

The chick has bright orange feathers, some lined with black ridges and tipped with white barbs, so it looks and moves like a caterpillar.

The most risky period in their life is the first 18 days, after that the orange down feathers and barbs thin out, and body and wing feathers emerge fully. During those early days the chick is also similar in size to the 12–centimetre-long moth caterpillar.

By bobbing its head from side to side it gives the appearance of a sliding caterpillar. Movement and appearance combined would probably be enough to deter predators, Londono says.

Adding to the visual illusion is the unusual behaviour of the chick – it does not beg for food as soon as the parent appears, it assumes the new arrival is a potential predator and so it behaves accordingly until the parent gives a particular call.

As well as mimicry, the just-hatched chicks’ bright orange colour could double up as camouflage, as they blend in nicely with the dried leaves lining the nest.

“Mimicry plays a major role in deterring predators, but camouflage is also likely to occur when the nestling is on the nest,” says Londono. “To know more about the relative importance of these strategies in this species, we need studies with larger sample sizes.”

Journal reference: American Naturalist, DOI: 10.1086/679106

See also here.

Ancient settlements discovery in Peruvian Andes

Stone tools found at Cuncaicha and Pucuncho sites in Peru. Image credit: Kurt Rademaker et al.

From Sci-News:

Archaeologists Discover Two 12,000-Year-Old High-Altitude Settlements in Peru

Oct 24, 2014

Archaeologists from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Peru, have discovered two ancient settlements in the Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes – named Cuncaicha and Pucuncho – which they say are the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world.

One scientific theory about high altitude colonization suggests that people cannot live in high altitudes until genetic adaptation occurs, like the sort we find in Andean people today.

Andeans have genetically adapted to their high altitude environment.

Key differences in the Andean people include a higher metabolic rate, larger lung capacity and higher hemoglobin concentrations then the average person, all of which allow them to overcome a lack of oxygen.

“Was this adaptation present 12,000 years ago? We don’t know for certain,” said Dr Sonia Zarrillo of the University of Calgary, who is a co-author of the paper published in the journal Science.

The first site Dr Zarrillo and her colleagues discovered, Cuncaicha, is a rock shelter at 4.5 km above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it.

According to the archaeologists, it was occupied about 12,400-11,500 years ago.

The second site, Pucuncho, is an ancient workshop where stone tools were made at 4.4 km above sea level. It dates to around 12,800-11,500 years ago.

“We don’t know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days, then leaving. There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we’ve found evidence of a whole range of activities,” Dr Zarrillo said.

“Climatic conditions in both sites are harsh, with factors including low-oxygen, extreme cold and high levels of solar radiation making life in the region a challenge for any humans.”

She added: “our team hiked up to three or four hours to get to these sites. That was a climb, carrying all of our gear, camp equipment and food. And it freezes every night. Sometimes it snows. These are incredibly hard sites to access.”

Archaeological evidence found at the sites includes signs of habitation such as human skull fragments, animal remains and stone tools.

The Pucuncho site yielded 260 stone tools, such as projectile points, bifaces and unifacial scrapers. The Cuncaicha rock shelter contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence.”

“Most of the stone tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer,” the scientists said.

“At Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals. The types of stone tools we’ve found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets,” Dr Zarrillo said.

New chinchilla rat species discovery in Peru

This video is called South American Mammals TRAILER.

From the Earth Times:

Cuscomys comes back from the [dead]

By Dave Armstrong – 29 Sep 2014 15:16:55 GMT

The Asháninka arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys ashaninka) has a new living cousin that also lives in trees and hung out with the Incas. The preserved rodents have been found in tombs so perhaps they have been more treasured in the past than they are now. The new species will be called Cuscomys oblativa as the northern Cusco locality is common to both animals while the head is slightly flattened, compared to its nearest relative, C. ashaninka The body measures 30cm, which males it cat-sized, even for the rat-like tail. The Andean cat, Leopardus jacobita is here for feline followers as “Andean cat in Patagonia”, now available in Argentina, well away from the mountains!

400 years ago, the species was known in pottery buried with Incas, then a photograph in 2009 was thought to indicate 2 new species of arboreal chinchilla rats were extant. The Asháninka species was only discovered in 1999. Roberto Quispe found the live animal in 2009 while the curator of a Mexican museum, Horacio Zeballos has been instrumental in searching Wiñayhuayna, an Inca site on the Machu Picchu trail. Montane and cloud forest dominate the plant communities there, although habitat loss could well be the prime danger for the Cuscomys.

All the researchers are presuming the species is herbivorous, but that can’t be easily proved. The rest of the work involved the discovery of at least 6 other new species to science, all increasing the hope that this big tourist resource of 2 National Parks will be worth greater conservation effort by the Peruvian authorities! More at Mongabay here as “In the shadows of Machu Picchu”.

Giant fossil penguin discovery in Antarctic

This video says about itself:

5 October 2010

Scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of a five-foot-tall (150-centimeter-tall) penguin in present-day Peru. The 36-million-year-old fossil sheds light on bird evolution, according to National Geographic grantee Julia Clarke. Video produced by the University of Texas at Austin.

From New Scientist:

Extinct mega penguin was tallest and heaviest ever

01 August 2014 by Jeff Hecht

Forget emperor penguins, say hello to the colossus penguin. Newly unearthed fossils have revealed that Antarctica was once home to the biggest species of penguin ever discovered. It was 2 metres long and weighed a hefty 115 kilograms.

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii lived 37 to 40 million years ago. This was “a wonderful time for penguins, when 10 to 14 species lived together along the Antarctic coast”, says Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche of the La Plata Museum in Argentina.

She has been excavating fossil deposits on Seymour Island, off the Antarctic peninsula. This was a warmer region 40 million years ago, with a climate like that of present-day Tierra del Fuego, the islands at the southern tip of South America.

The site has yielded thousands of penguin bones. Earlier this year, Acosta Hospitaleche reported the most complete P. klekowskii skeleton yet, although it contained only about a dozen bones, mostly from the wings and feet (Geobios, DOI: 10.1016/j.geobios.2014.03.003).

Now she has uncovered two bigger bones. One is part of a wing, and the other is a tarsometatarsus, formed by the fusion of ankle and foot bones. The tarsometatarsus measures a record 9.1 centimetres. Based on the relative sizes of bones in penguin skeletons, Acosta Hospitaleche estimates P. klekowskii was 2.01 meters long from beak tip to toes.

Its height will have been somewhat less than its length owing to the way penguins stand. But it was nevertheless larger than any known penguin.

Fossil and present penguins

Emperor penguins can weigh 46 kilograms and reach lengths of 1.36 metres, 0.2 metres above their standing height. Another extinct penguin used to hold the height record, at around 1.5 metres tall.

P. klekowskii‘s tarsometatarsus “is the longest foot bone I’ve ever seen. This is definitely a big penguin,” says Dan Ksepka at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. However, he cautions that the estimate of its length is uncertain because giant penguins had skeletons “very differently proportioned than living penguins”.

Larger penguins can dive deeper and stay underwater longer than smaller ones. A giant like P. klekowski could have stayed down for 40 minutes, giving it more time to hunt fish, says Acosta Hospitaleche.

Journal reference: Comptes Rendus Palevol, DOI: 10.1016/j.crpv.2014.03.008

Save macaws in Peru

This video says about itself:

18 June 2014

THE MACAW PROJECT – Help saving the enigmatic macaws of Peru with the power of media


A scientific research project is being implemented in the Tambopata-Candamo region of the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. Thanks to the voluntary work of researchers, we already have a repository of suitable full-HD footage that would require professional editing to produce the desired documentary. Such editing, or post-production, of the footage would include all activities carried out after filming such as editing, sound mixing, recording voiceovers and creating subtitles.

To make this project we have 2 main collaborators:

– Rainforest Expeditions (www.perunature.com) is a Peruvian eco-tourism company that operates 3 award-winning lodges in our research area.
– Filmjungle.eu Society (www.filmjungle.eu) is an NGO funded in 1996 by independent filmmakers. By now the Budapest-based Filmjungle.eu had become the most productive production unit for wildlife films and conservation documentaries in Hungary. Its award winning list of films include titles as Wolfwatching, Invisible Wildlife Photographer, Sharks in my Viewfinder and Budapest Wild.

Nowadays most scientific research [is] only available for a very narrow academic audience by publishing in scientific journals. Often the reality of the field-based research, which underpins these journal articles, is most interesting part and is worth to be communicated to a much broader audience by this kind of documentary. Public awareness is an important goal of any conservation research, and documentary films are great tools to accomplish this — not only by conveying our conservation message to many people around the world, but more crucially revealing truths based on scientific evidence.

You can find more detailed information about the research project at this site.

Read more here.