We decided to get up at 5:30 am this morning in an attempt to get a jump on the wildlife viewing. The only mammals we saw yesterday were pampas deer, one giant anteater in the distance, and human researchers – so we were determined to increase our count today.
By 7:00 pm that evening however, after traveling 300 kilometers in and around the park, we saw not so much as a bird, a bug or a "hobbit", much less any maned wolves or tapirs. We did get to stop however, and see several of the techniques Marcelo, Paula and Leandro use to gather data – including camera traps, mistnets and small prey pits.
TOOLS: See more techniques for gathering data in the field
Leandro, Marcelo and the other biologists here are extremely passionate about the Cerrado and its preservation. Leandro is actually from this area and to him, working in this landscape is close to heaven on earth. Although it all seems to be hiding from us today, we are told that the Cerrado is second only to the Amazon in Brazilian biodiversity, and that this savannah has the highest biodiversity in the world!
Unfortunately, with the exception of an armadillo, some rheas and the occasional pampas deer, the only other proof we have of this amazing wildlife, are the animal tracks we see along the trail. Wildlife viewing is like that some days though: You can drive for hours and not see anything.
ACTIVITY: Learn how to spot animal tracks
Only about 20% of the original Cerrado is left in Brazil, and of that, only about 3% is protected. You can easily see what is happening to the area if you look outside this park – soybean and cornfields cover all the land. And even though the farmers are required by law to leave 20% of their land in its natural state, there are unfortunately no guidelines to where this land must be set aside. So as a result, you can only find small fragments of natural vegetation here and there, like stepping stones scattered carelessly around the vast fields.
||"Only about 20% of the original Cerrado is left in Brazil, and of that, only about 3% is protected."|
Marcelo is trying to find out which animals can use these fragments and which cannot. By studying the specific needs, ranges and habitats of each species, he hopes to show through computer simulation which species can utilize these fragments successfully, and which will require strategic habitat restoration and protection to maintain the existing populations. Leandro is conducting a similar survey and analysis on crested eagles and other raptors
found within the park.
ACT: Protect an acre of forest and help save species
This information along with much of the other data being collected here, will be used to improve the proposed Corridor. It is also being utilized as a means to illustrate to local farmers why the location of their natural areas can make a difference, and how by planning and working together, they can preserve much more biodiversity.
Did I mention we rode the entire day in the open bed of a pick-up truck along dusty and bumpy trails? After about 8 hours of this nightmare ride, I opted for the air-conditioned interior before I went mad. Jeff had to stay outside though as there was no more room in the cab: he was mad.
Although the Expedition is rapidly coming to a close, it feels I have been here much longer than nine days. The people we have met here share our passion for wildlife and thirst for knowledge. These researchers, biologists and conservationists have a deep commitment to ensuring the future of Brazil's biodiversity, and they are certainly making a difference. Tomorrow is our last day in Brazil, but I can tell that I will be inspired by what we have seen here for a long time.
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