5th May

Monday 5 May

We get up for sunrise. Today, the distance we have to cover is not much, but as we are in a new environment, the jungle, we will probably stop a lot to take pictures. After only ten kilometres, just as we leave Puyo, we pass by the rescue centre of Yana Cocha (meaning black lagoon in Quechua). This place has been created to take care of the animals that were captured in the jungle, to feed the illegal market of the exotic pets. These animals are often ill-traited, in a state of shock, or no more adapted to real life, unable to find food by themselves. Sometimes, the centre can free again an animal, and it’s a real victory to have made it back to freedom.

When you visit the centre, many explanations intend to make you aware of the importance of this traffic, and the damage it does on the wild fauna. As they say, their dream is that such centres close because of the end of trafficking. The fauna and flora traffic is the third most lucrative illegal activity of the world, after drug traffic, and weapons traffic! According to Interpol, this illegal traffic generates 17 billion US$, 10 billion for the animals, and 7 billion for the plants. Do you know that on our planet, there are 2300 animal species seriously endangered, and 700 on the border of disappearing?

Ecuador is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megadiverse_countries), with an impressive numbers of species all along its small territoriy. In fact, it’s the country in the world with highest density of species of animals and plants per square kilometre. It’s the third country in the world in numbers of amphibians (410 species), fourths in birds (1580 species), fourth in reptiles (370 species), fifth in monkeys, sixth in mammals (360 species), ! There are around 22 000 different species of plants in Ecuador.

The white-bellied spider monkey (Ateles Belzebuth) is the most threatened species of primates in the Ecuadorian Amazonas basin. Its main enemies are the hunting and the deforestation. Ecuador loses every year an average of 198 000 hectares of forest (nearly 1% of the country total area!!). This monkey has a very elegant way of moving, called brachiation, or arm swinging. It consists in using the 5 extremities to move: the two arms, the two legs, and the tail. This way, it goes unbelievably fast.

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The brown-mantled tamarind (Saguinus Fuscicollis) are very small monkeys. They are really endangered because of the illegal trafficking. In addition, the primate can transmit many diseases to us, such as hepatitis, rabbis, tuberculosis, !

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The brown woolly monkey (Lagothrix Lagotricha) is a species of primates, the most robust of South America. They live in groups of up to 60 individuals. They also use their tail as a fifth hand, to hang when they want to reach the highest branches of a tree.

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The pygmy marmoset (Callithrix Pygmaea) is the smallest species of primates of the world. It’s the size of a rat, but of the family of the monkey! They use to live in groups of the two genitors and their descendants. Very often, the female have twins. In case of a predator, all the group attacks it till it flees, or they all freeze till the end of the threat.

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The white-fronted capuchin (Cebus Albifrons) is much researched to be sold later as pet. Yes, this monkey is so cute, looks his human like look. But its place is in the jungle, it cannot be happy among us. It is endangered by this overhunting and most of all by the destruction of its habitat, the rainforest, for agriculture and livestock farming.

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The black agouti (Dasyprocta Fuliginosa) looks like a big rat, or a small rabbit. How come this can arrive here? Who would want such a pet?

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The South American coati (Nasua Nasua) is another typical animal from Latin America. It has a long thin and mobile nose, and a beautiful ringed tail. Unfortunately, it is also victim of poaching.

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The capybara (Hydrochaeris Hydrochaeris) is the biggest and heaviest rodent in the world. It mainly eats herbs from the shore, but also some aquatic herbs. For this reason, you often see it in ponds, or nearby. It is a very swimmer, its feet have palms, like for the duck! Do you know cecotrope? Our friend the capybara is one of them: he produces soft excrements, that he immediately ingest again, to keep a bigger proportion of nutrients and fibers.

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As you can imagine, the parrots, budgerigars, and so on are among the best sellers of illegal species traffic, due to the vivid colour of their feathers.

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We also can admire the spectacled caiman (Caiman Crocodilus). In South America, there is an estimation of one million individuals, but the species is still considered under threat. You can recognize the caiman from its cousins (crocodile, alligator, gavial) looking at the shape and size of the mouth.

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The yellow/footed tortoise (Geochelone Denticulata) is the biggest terrestrial tortoise of South America. It can live up to 60 years. But it has a harsh time now: it is a renowned dish, both among the indigenous and the colons. And of course, it is also a target of the hunters, to bring it back as a pet for us Westeners.

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The reserve is full of jungle plants, flowers, insects, spiders, !

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After this very instructive visit, we continue our day towards Tena. It was a good choice to get up early despite the reduced number of kilometres. The way is very nice: the road is in good quality (in Ecuador you see a lot of signs saying “Tenemos carreteras de primera! Tenemos Patria”). On both sides of the road, you see a green ocean rising, with sometimes the grey ribbon of a river. The weather is quite hot and humid (I think we are very lucky it’s not raining! we are at the border of the rainforest).

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Just after crossing the Napo river (the biggest river of Ecuador), we reach Tena, the capital of the department Napo. We will sleep here tonight.

For sure we’ll sleep satisfied of our day, look an excerpt of what we saw today: