Late in the evening last night, we met up with two researchers who founded and run the largest research and conservation effort in Emas. Leandro Silveira and Anah Jacomo started Pro-carnivoros in 1996, and today the group has a professional staff of sixteen biologists and veterinarians, as well as a regular team of student volunteers who help conduct the research.
Their organization looks at Cerrado carnivore and prey population issues, as well as fragmentation implications outside the park, and wildlife conflicts with neighboring farmers and ranchers. Leandro has conducted studies on resident maned wolves, pumas, and jaguars, among other creatures, while Anah has focused on prey species such as peccaries and tapirs.
In addition to biological research on species and predator/prey dynamics, they have also been working diligently with landowners around the park finding sustainable economic
||"The pilot and I are standing in the back of the truck looking over the cab when the lights of the car reflect on a horrifying sight"|
alternatives to eradicating wildlife. For example, peccary herds regularly raid crop fields and cause significant damage. Therefore, Leandro and Anah are trying to establish a value for peccarries that will compensate for the crops farmers lose to these animals.
Ecotourism and regulated wildlife farming are two opportunities that Leandro and Anah have introduced to local landowners as a way to resolve conflict with native species, and so far, they seem to be working.
After leaving Leandro and Anah, we do a night ride home in the truck – with me and the airplane pilot standing in the cold, dusty back, while Patrick, Julie and the researchers enjoy the comforts of being inside the truck. The upside of this is that I get an amazing view of a maned wolf that we pass while it is hunting about thirty feet off the road. It's an incredible sight, and we watch it for about fifteen minutes. What a great animal sighting!
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But the downside of riding in the back literally hits me in the face about thirty minutes later. The pilot and I are standing in the back of the truck looking over the cab when the lights of the car reflect on a horrifying sight: A gigantic spider web creating a net between two trees on either side of the road. The 12 foot high web is filled with a patchwork of connected squares – each with a huge spinning orb spider at its center. The end effect is a cluster colony of over fifty spiders in a nest made of orb spider cobwebs – one of the strongest natural fibers known.
And we crashed right through it.
The pilot and I throw ourselves onto the floor of the flatbed. But by then, we have cobwebs all over us, and without a doubt, giant spiders crawling on the truck and us. We flick off any spiders we can see with a piece of wood from inside the truck, and spend the remainder of the drive home in the back, paranoid of every tickle and itch on our skin.
The next morning we get up, pack, and prepare for the next 24 hours of travel we have ahead of us. I'm disappointed that I never saw my tapir, but that's just how it goes sometimes. Maybe I can get to Malaysia and try to see one there next year...
When we arrive in Campo Grande, Patrick takes a plane to Belo Horizonte on his way to visit a project conserving highly endangered northern muriqui monkeys. About this time we discover that one of Julie's bags somehow got left behind in the Cerrado, so she spends the next hour trying to sort out how she will recover it. In the meantime, while we wait to start the last leg of our journey home, I try to sort out what I've learned from the trip, and how this information can be used back in the States to further the conservation efforts going on here.
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