- Giant Otter
- Sound Effects
- Environmental Recording
- Undulated Tinamou
- Environmental Recording
- Environmental Recording
Time of Day: 1420
Time of Day: 1430
Rainforest ambi, Walking
Time of Day: 1440
Walter Mancilla Huamán
Amazon indigenous peoples
Time of Day: 1725
Time of Day: 1725; Manu National Park
Time of Day: 1755
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
23 Oct 1999
Madre de Dios
- Manu National Park; Blanco Oxbow Lake; near Manu Wildlife Center
- -12.33167 -70.74528
- 7:20 - 59:00
Madre de Dios
- Manu National Park; Manu Wildlife Center
- -12.33167 -70.74528
- 1:02:40 - 1:42:36
- SONY TCD-D7
- Sennheiser MKH 30
- Sennheiser MKH 50
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo; Sennheiser MKH50 Hypercardioid Mid Mic and MKH30 Bidirectional Side Mic through Sonosax Preamp into Sony TCD7
Log of DAT #: 7
ng = not good
ok = okay
g = good
vg = very good
Log of DAT 7
Walking through forest with Charlie Munn
1:02:30 - 1:03:37
JN: My god, what a tree! Somebody planted magic beans to grow that one.
CM: Yup, I don¿t know where the giant is, maybe up top.
JN ¿ what¿s that?
CM: that is the undulated tinimu.
JN: I knew that.
CM: Cuvier¿s Tucan, like a little yapping dog.
JN: where are we?
CM: We are standing under the huge cotton capoc tree, and we¿re about a 10 minute walk from the Manu wildlife center on the Madre de Dios river here in the Manu area, and here¿s a big spiral staircase that takes you up to a platform up in the top of this huge tree.
JN: Well, let¿s go.
CM: you first John?
JN: Yeah, and if you want to talk at various points to Leo about the parts of the canopy we¿e passing through, give us a little ecology lesson.
1:03:37 - 1:04:10
[They begin to climb staircase]
CM: I think it¿s safe to say we¿re coming out of the understory now, this is sort of the first layer of small trees, most of which don¿t get bigger than this, we¿re talking about 15, 20 feet up, that¿s about where they stop.
1:04:10 - 1:04:57
CM: Now we¿re starting to get to the sort of second layer of trees and in this case it¿s some medium sized palm trees and mostly the trunks of some bigger trees going up even higher, there¿s some medium sized palm trees that are at this second level of trees.
1:04:57 - 1:06:43
CM: Now we¿re kind of at a third level of trees where in this case you have trees that are about, lets see, we¿re about 70 feet up now, and almost in the lower canopy trees if you will. The canopy trees that aren¿t quite on top of the canopy. They are sporting a lot of vines that are growing on their canopies.
CM: now we¿re about 90 feet up now, and¿ this tower goes up about a hundred feet, and so at about a hundred feet is the general canopy of most trees around here. And so here we are. [reach the top] We¿re on a big wooden platform in the top of this huge cotton capoc tree, the biggest tree in the New World jungles. Not the tallest, but by far the most massive. So it¿s like a huge platform that¿s big enough to be the Swiss Family Robinson¿s treehouse.
1:06:43 - 1:07:59
CM: And because we¿re in this huge tree, it¿s an emergent, it sticks out of the canopy. The emergent tree, this cotton capoc goes up to about oh, 130 feet or so, and its branches stick way out, it probably covers about an acre underneath it, because it has such a spread of the branches. And from up here we can see over most everything. The only things higher than us are a ridge of higher ground back there, looks like it¿s about 50 or 80 feet higher with other trees on it, and one big strangler fig which is sticking out of the top of another tree that it¿s busy strangling. We actually walked by it a little earlier, we saw the base of the strangler fig, took a picture of John standing next to the strangler fig and now we can see the top of it sticking out over there. So this is a double decker tree platform, and Mayor Walter is up top, so maybe we should go up there. That¿s the very best view of all.
1:07:59 - 1:09:20
[going up another level]
CM: hm, there¿s a pygmy owl already starting to call. Going [whistles just like it!]. Those little [rrrr] train whistles are the broad billed mot mot which has an even better latin name - Electron platyorincum.
JN: I have no clue what that is.
CM: Well I don¿t know where electron comes from, it¿s just like the electron in physics.
JN: Is this like an alien species, or
CM: I don¿t know, maybe it sounded like an electron changing energy levels or something but but it sounds like a little train to me.
JN: Is it a bird?
CM: Yeah. Oh yeah I didn¿t tell you what a Mot Mot was, I¿m sorry - jargon.
1:09:20 - 1:10:04
Leo: What kind of studies do you do here?
CM: Well this is the best location for surveying the use of canopy trees by tucans and mckaws around here because here you can see them flying by and which canopy they land in. If they¿re eating in a lower tree you don¿t always see where they¿re going but at least you see where to go look because then you can ground-truth it as it were, in this case we¿re not in a satellite, we¿re just in a tall tree. You can take a compass reading and approximate distance and head out there. You know the species of the big tree and you go near it, and look for where the mckaws are. If they go there twice a day you know they¿re eating something.
1:10:04 - 1:11:26
JN: And this is the time of day one of the two times a day when the animals really start talking. Hello butterfly.
CM: this is also a great location for studying the composition of canopy flocks because there are bird flocks that live only up above half-way up, in other words and they have one pair of each of many species, in fact that¿s what I did my doctoral work on in these forests and they are the most complex multi-species societies of any organisms in the world, you have 70 species of birds traveling together, one pair of each only.
JN: So it¿s not just like a whole big crowd of migrating geese or something.
CM: No, because that¿s one species. This is 70 different kinds of birds - just one pair or in some cases, just one individual. And its mate¿s in the next flock. So bird watchers delight when you get 70 species in one outing, but it¿s a real neck killer because you¿re looking way up into the canopy from the groud but if you get up top here they¿re right next to you or in fact they¿re below you because they¿re in the sort of 90, or 80 foot high general canopy and we¿re up here at 100 feet looking down at them as they go by so there¿s a very good mixed species canopy flock that works this area.
1:11:26 - 1:12:50
JN: Do these birds just fly in a big jumbled flock or do they have specific positions and jobs as the flock moves about?
CM: They have different trades, they even have little trade unions I think, because the in this case theres a sort of a cop who¿s watching for attacking hawks, and who makes a living it¿s actually a shake down racket, he gets insects that are flushed by other birds who are all looking for insects. The ones that are vigorously poking in leaves and in curled up dead leaves which actually has more insect richness than an average open green leaf because there¿s more places to hide. So the most of the birds are looking actively for insects, and there¿s one sentinel, pirate I call it, gets paid off by the flushed insects that get away from the active foragers. They all follow this sentinel and put up with his piracy because it gives the first alarm call, it always sees the hawk first, because by its nature it¿s sitting in one spot under a dome of foraging birds looking for any movement, so it sees incoming, Incoming!, and everyone dives for cover. So they can search for food more actively and take bigger risks and have a bigger payoff because they have someone watching their back. Unfortunatley the sentinel pirate also lies sometimes, it¿s a bird that cries wolf, it says there¿s a hawk when there isn¿t a hawk, cause that¿s the way it gets an insect that¿s been scared by the other birds, and is in play as it were, and so I published something about that.
1:12:50 - 1:14:19
JN: You noticed that standing right here?
CM: I noticed it actually standing in the understory, looking up getting a soar neck, for years, I just sort of stumbled on to it.Cause I was just studying flock organization and I saw an alarm call while there was an insect dropping and this pirate flying up after the insect giving the alarm call, and I thought that¿s weird so I recorded the fake alarm call and I played it back and I played a real alarm call back when a real hawk had flown by and the other birds react to both as if they¿re real alarm calls, which shows that it sounds like a alarm call but it¿s a lie. Course you can¿t lie too often or they wouldn¿t bother to follow them any more. So they can only lie so much.
JN: That is a level of complexity that you don¿t see in the suburbs or, I mean this is tropical forest behavior here?
CM: Well actually this has been found I think at feeders in the US too. I think chickadees are supposed to give little hawk alarms so that to scatter the bluejays which of course are much bigger brutes, scatter them just for a few second so they can get in, get some sunflower seeds and then leave again. And as soon as I published that report everyone else came out of the woodwork saying Oh I¿ve seen false alarms too, which probably means it¿s fairly common but until someone notices it first and can actually prove it then the others didn¿t really have the, I guess the confidence to actually say something that seemed a little too sophisticated for these little like wind up toys which is what birds are kind of like, little wind up toys they don¿t seem like they could be liars.
1:14:19 - 1:14:53
JN: But let¿s move to a different subject, let¿s talk a little about some of the issue and debate stuff¿ (JN scared)
1:14:53 - 1:16:10
CM: This is just for your information and not for the recording, but Steve Hilty, the author of Birds of Columbia, which is sort of the standard bird guide for all the Amazon, he came up here with a bird watching group and he said he thought this was the best canopy access system that he¿d ever seen, the simplist, user friendly.
Leo: Talks about Panama City, crane that moves you.
All talk about the cost of canopy access systems. Fear of flying.
1:16:10 - 1:17:59
JN: I gather one of the, let me ask you what I asked Walter here. What¿s your, I guess it¿s wide open what this area will look like in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years I mean, what are the possibilities at this point, what¿s the best and worst case scenarios? Just, not in terms of what solutions are put in place but in terms of what the park and its diversity, you know, what will become of it. You know what I mean?
CM: Well, it could be clear cut and turned into chip-board and toilet paper, that¿s not a very likely outcome, but there¿s a very large chance that other pieces of the Peruvian Amazon will have that happen to it relatively soon. The best case scenario is that relatively few contacted indigenous groups get so involved in conservation, whether it¿s film-making or radio program making or just with conventional tourism that they don¿t have time to hunt any more and the women can guide just as well as the men cause ecotourism doesn¿t require muscles, so they¿ll have less interest in having babies, that¿s already been shown, there are professional indian women from the lowlands and they don¿t have babies, they¿ll have one baby or two babies when they¿re 30, instead of, you know like a typical German or North American woman you know who has her career to, so that would be the best I think if they got so involved that conservation groups had a chance to practice involving the indigenous people in conservation to the point where you don¿t have to kick them out of a park but rather you get them so involved in things they just don¿t have time to hurt the resources any more and they are very interested in having more fun and less babies.
1:17:59 - 1:18:51
JN: Well, what¿s the right way to get them involved, and what¿s the wrong way?
CM: Well there are probably a variety of different ways you can get them involved, but the best way is to give them equity and a place that¿s bound to make money. And there are a number of those spots already. And you¿re only talking about 20 or 30 people in all those communities you have to employ and here we are at Manu wildlife center which only started in August ¿96, so three years ago, this place has created 25 jobs already, just here. And not to mention another 3 or 4 in Lima and Cuzco, in terms of administration and sales and accounting, so it¿s created 40 jobs, 25 of which are local. So if they¿d built this there, everyone would be neutralized already. Everyone who had any interest in being a yuppie and hunting monkeys and selling the monkey meat and things like that.
1:18:51 - 1:19:52
JN: You mean the indigenous equivalent of a yuppie.
CM: Yeah, an indigenous yuppie, which is to say, in every village there are some young people, most of them are men in these cultures but there are women too, who have curiosity and intelligence and they want more out of life than just what they always had, where they know there¿s more to life, there¿re more options and they want to explore them. Doesn¿t mean they want to stop being indigenous indians, doesn¿t mean they want to stop speaking their language but it does mean they want to incorporate tricks from the rest of the world into their culture.
JN: They want to get ahead.
CM: Yeah, I mean my approach is that to the extent that¿s possible, we should have fun saving the world. It should be fun, it shouldn¿t be drudgery, doesn¿t mean that it¿s, that you can relax while you¿re doing it but you, well we¿ve had fun today, and you guys are here helping save the world! Basically.
JN: I saw a bumper sticker one time that said screw the world, save yourself.
1:19:52 - 1:20:56
CM: Well I would suggest the Indians save themselves and they save the park while they¿re at it, and vice versa, the park can save them and they can save the park. They¿re not very many of them, now it¿s very different if there were 3000 in contact indians. Then we¿d be talking a very different story, we¿re talking about 35 families, 40 families, that¿s really very few people.
JN: But it also makes it an urgent matter to get whatever solutions are eventually picked in place, now.
CM: Yeah, but that¿s more of a problem of dealing with the beaurocracy than anything else. Cause the model that was going to be implimented there has been implimented here and has demonstrated what already in 3 years, in a place that didn¿t have any tourist flow, that place already had 5 or 10 thousand person/nights per year. So that place could have been a big hit right away. Those indians, those 35 indians, would be busy getting high school and college degrees in Cuzco, they wouldn¿t have time to come hunt monkeys.
1:20:56 - 1:22:46
JN: Now, what¿s the differencd between this stuff you¿re talking about and sustainable development?
CM: Sustainable development is a lofty goal, worthy of pursuit, but it¿s not that easy because the devil¿s in the details. And so it¿s easy to talk about it like a mantra but it¿s another thing to actually implement it. You have to figure out how many people are there that you have to involve in sustainable development and what level of development do they need to feel realized, so each ecosystem is differnet. If you want sustainable development in hunting monkeys for their meat, that¿s going to be very difficult to attain because monkeys have a very low reproductive rate, so you can¿t hunt many monkeys, just can¿t produce a lot of monkey meat per year, so forget that, and yet a lot of projects that area sustainable development ignore the details of the resource use and the local socio-economic realities and just think that you can plan in a sort of big sweeping way that you¿re going to go for sustainable development. So it¿s really a question of figuring out how many people there are and what the resources are that you can get them involved in sustainably developing, and how you have a self regulating system, because you really should not depend on the governments in these countries to do the self regulating or the regulating of, better to develop a system that tends to get stronger through time, which is to say, where the incentive is clear for the community and for each individual of the community, that if someone infringes a law or ruins a resource that that will immediately bring a negative outcome to that person, and likewise, if somebody does a good job they get rewarded quickly. This is essentially a meritocracy or capitalism applied to rainforest conservation.
1:22:46 - 1:24:02
JN: People have to be invested, they have to feel like they you know, they¿re protecting what¿s theirs, otherwise they won¿t protect it. Is that part of what you¿re talking about?
CM: Yeah, that¿s true, but in some places there are no indigenous people, they all died from slavery or disease and in those areas it doesn¿t have to be an indigenous person that¿s running a conservation operation or a conservation related tourism operation, it could be an investor from the outside, from anywhere else in the world, but that person preferably, I mean it¿s better to work with local communities because they can¿t cut and run so easily. An investor from Europe or the United States who builds a lodge here, if things go sour or if he or she doesn¿t reinvest in environmental protection, protecting the wildlife and the project generates, then they can just cut and run. They take their profits, they sell at a loss perhaps but then later in the stages, and they put their money somewhere else, they can put it back in the stock market. Local communities - [ambi of cicadas] - those are some pretty noisy cicadas.
JN: Either that or it¿s a car alarm.
1:24:02 - 1:24:52
CM: The local people can¿t cut and run as easily and they tend to know more about the resources here, especially indigenous lowland people, they aren¿t born thinking the jungle is creepy and should be all cut down. People from the coast or the highlands which tends to be open habitats or from North America or Europe, when they first visit a closed, humid, complex strange habitat like this, they often feel uncomfortable and so I really don¿t like to try to deal with people from cultures where they want to see the wide open plains, because they want to cut all this creepy rainforest. The local indians know how to live in this rainforest. They can learn quickly how to cut it all down, I mean, if that¿s the way they¿re taught it¿s the way to get ahead, they¿ll cut it all down and they¿ll become loggers and they¿ll become cattle ranchers if that¿s the way they¿re taught to get ahead, but they don¿t have to do that because they already like the forest, they¿re not scared of it.
1:24:52 - 1:27:18
JN: A forest like this could be ruined in a variety of ways, almost over night. Is that true?
CM: With modern - with huge chainsaws and the heavy equipment that can knock trees over, yeah, you can lay waste to many acres a day quickly. Which is to say, several football fields a day if you really work at it, if you get a little army of people from the highlands working on it who are happy about clearing the forest.
JN: Or the latest mining equipment or with the most acurate guns.
CM: Yeah, the worst thing that could happen here would be the strip mining of the gold that¿s happening in the central part of this state of Peru, because southeastern Peru is a state called Madre de Dios it¿s about the size of New York State, and there are about a thousand front-end loaders running around the middle section of the state digging up, digging up a lot of soil and just tossing away the rainforest and it¿s some of the best soil in the lowlands, so that¿s even worse. It¿s not just that they¿re destroying forest, they¿re destroying soil that could produce excellent crops and trees and new rainforest again, if you had a sustainable rotation management. So that¿s one of the worse things that could happen, would be for the gold miners to come over in this direction. And that¿s one of the reasons that the conservation groups that are involved in these tourism projects would like to use these projects as ways to produce money to fight the logg¿What¿s going on? What are you looking at?
Leo: Oh, sorry. I¿m looking at termites¿
1:27:18 - 1:28:24
CM: I like the story about the indian who we say can hunt something but he doesn¿t want to hunt. He¿s from Taiya Come, originally. He works as the director or field operations for the conservation groups tour company here in the lowlands, in the jungle and he grew up in Taiya Come and then left the park to look for opportunity, so he¿s one of these sort of young indigenous yuppies, if you will, and we said to him, you know on your camp site across the river from the lodge where you have your boats and operation for transport, you can hunt wild pigs, the wild pekaries, occasionally just for your own consumption, don¿t sell the meat, but, and tell us how many you kill just so we can keep track of it, but over there the tourists are never going to go over on those trails, and those animals have lots of babies per year so you can shoot one occasionally just to have some red meat. He said no no, I don¿t want to shoot anything, and I said what¿s wrong with that? It¿s totally sustainable, all the studies have shown that low density people can hunt those pekaries and they¿ll never go extinct, he said well, I want all the animals to be tame because it¿s going to bring more tourists. So he¿s more catholic than the pope, as it were.
1:28:24 - 1:30:36
JN: Give me an example of sustainable development at its worst. It can be generic.
CM: Interesting, which project is - I know it can be generic, but it¿s more interesting to be specific. [ambi] I guess, I guess sustainable development at its worst that I¿ve seen in my 25 years in Peru, was in 1987 through 1990, when the Peruvian government was giving out below replacement loans, so less than zero interest loans to people to clear the forest for cattle ranching. Beause there were soil studies from 30 years ago saying that the bad soils in that area really were good enough for cattle ranching, and they weren¿t. So they were clearing forest that would never produce any amount of cattle, it would fail and be full of weeds pretty quickly, and basically you would just end up with degraded scrub. And they were using up money cause it wasn¿t even a loan that would be paid back, so that was the worst example, using incorrect assumptions about the quality of the soil. You start with a mistake like that and you get in pretty bad shape quickly. Mr. Ludwig lost about eight hundred million dollars, I think in the Shadi project in the eastern Brazilian Amazon by not getting the data correct about growth rates of eucalyptis and caribean pine, which they wanted to grow sustainably in rotations for a paper mill. And it turns out it didn¿t grow, it grew about 40% or 50% slower than they¿d thought, because they didn¿t do large enough samples, and really do their studies properly, and so he lost his shirt - he went from second richest man in the world to something like tenth richest man in the world, because he had to sell that project at a big loss.
JN: Well then give me an example, I mean, and now, and then give me an example of ecotourism at its worst.
CM: Ecotourism at its worst, the worst I¿ve seen is between 1991 and 1993 in the lowlands of Bolivia, where what passed for ecotourism was people saying hey, you want to hunt a Jaguar? Or actually worse than that because people would say yes and they¿d go out and hunt a Jaguar which is bad enough, but the worse than that, if you can believe there¿s something worse than that, that the same operators would say, okay let¿s, we¿ll go out in the jungle, we¿ll only charge you twenty dollars a day, this is very cheap, and these would be backpackers, a lot of European backpackers, and they¿d get out in the jungle and they¿d see spidermonkeys which are the most acrobatic and spectacular of the monkeys really in the Amazon, they¿d be swinging through the trees - they also happen to be delicious but they have a very low reproductive rate, so you can¿t hunt them, they go extinct locally immediately, and the guide, the ecotourism guide would say, Oh a monkey, what would should we do, should we kill it? And these European backpackers would go uh uh uh BOOM! He¿d already shot it. And the monkey¿s lying there bleeding to death in front of these German and Dutch backpackers who are just horrified, you know because they¿re greens. And they came back just kind of shaking and I saw them a couple of days later, and I say, well what¿s wrong, and they say, They served us this monkey, uh uh they told us we should shoot it, we didn¿t know, they shot it before we could do anything - And that kept going for several years, and only stopped because of one courageous woman who teamed up with some navy oficers and basically took troops in there and told these operators to stop that stuff. That¿s pretty bad. [GREAT AMBI BEHIND THIS, CICADAS]
1:32:21 - 1:33:22
JN: Another car alarm. Now. What¿s, where does Turbourg go wrong with the idea that we oughta just, that the only solution is to get people out.
CM: Well actually I agree with him that the solution, the long term solution to indigenous people in parks is to get them out, but I¿d rather lure them out with some many attractive and interesting options, that include their working in things related to the forest protection that they, that they -
Leo: I¿m trying my damndest to hold off a fart - pardon.
CM: Oh well, go with that, I would say.
1:33:22 - 1:34:21
CM: Actually I agree with John Turbourg when he suggests that we should try to get indigenous people out of protected areas, but the method I prefer would be to lure them out with the carrot rather than to use any kind of a stick, and the carrot that we have to offer them is good employment, fun employment that makes use of their knowledge of the forest, in forests adjacent to the park that¿s as good quality as the park, working for filmmakers and nature tour companies and running their own operations. [VERY STRONG CICADA] I think we¿ve got some cicadas joining us at the top of this tree.
JN: I would say so.
CM: Does that matter or was that fun? That was fun. Did I complete that thought or did the cicada -
JN: Well, try it again.
1:34:21 - 1:35:13
CM: I agree with John Turbourg that it would be good to get indigenous people out of parks, but the best way to do it in my opinion would be to lure them out with attractive job offers involved in ecotourism and rain forest protection. They¿re awefully good at it and they save filmmakers lots of money by doing pre-production - finding animals building towers, building blinds, things that they¿re much better at than people from the cities or from the mountains.
JN: It¿s one of those things that sort of has to work, isn¿t it? I mean, it¿s gotta work. But you seem to think based on what you¿ve got here, that it can, right? All you need is towers like these, you kow 10 or 12 of them inside the park next time.
1:35:13 - 1:36:25
CM: Actually, my feelings about ecotourism is that little of what¿s called ecotourism is really ecotourism, which is to say, it cares more about the protecting the environment in the end than it does about making money. I don¿t mind people making money as long as they don¿t hurt the environment, and often they, whether they hurt the environment or not is really a function of random rather than real planning. In the case of true ecotourism, which is to say really getting people involved in the habitat and giving them guarteed pay-off - wildlife sitings and things like that, that hasn¿t really been tested in a really significant way, certainly not anywhere in South America, and certainly not in Indonesia and only in a few places of tropical forest Africa, so I think there¿s a lot of scope for doing a lot more dynamic canopy work and guarenteeing people up-close views of wildlife. At the moment as far as I can tell our group, our system, our conservation system seems to be the only one doing systematic guarenteed wildlife sitings just by knowing the biology of the animals so well, at least the animals that are attractive to visitors, that you can guarentee people good views of things that otherwise you just getting fleeting glimpses of elsewhere.
1:36:25 - 1:37:30
JN: And you¿re not talking about chaining a Jaguar up on point a on a trail, you¿re talking about studying their movements, I assume.
CM: I¿m not talking about restraining any animals. I¿m talking about animals by their free will choosing to be in locations where you can be hidden and get a good look at them, or eventually they get so used to watching them without you doing anything bad to them that you can just watch them from up close without even being concealed. We had, we asked 200 tourists in Cuzco sitting in the airport whether, among other things, whether they would pay more or go back to the jungle if they could go to a place where they could be guarenteed views of large monkeys, large tucans, or large parrots at 20 feet or less in good light at eye level or below. And most of them said yes, but it was interesting, about 20% of them wrote in the margins no, because it¿s impossible you¿d have to put them in cages, you¿d have to tie them up. Things like you just said. And that¿s not true, they just don¿t know enough about the biology of the animal to know that it¿s possible, because we¿ve done it over and over again for the BBC and for you, so.
1:37:30 - 1:38:10
JN: I¿m not sure I know what else to ask at this point.
CM: I think you¿re done.
JN: I¿m gradually becoming aware that I¿m standing close to 200 feet in the air in a giant tree in the rainforest and it¿s getting dark¿
Leo¿s indication, AMBI!!