I was very excited for today! After taking care of Foundation Jambeli’s animal residents, I had the opportunity to sit down with staff members and Julio, who is the wildlife veterinarian for the center. In addition to working with Foundation Jambeli, Julio also assists other establishments like the Guayaquil’s Historical Park! The main goal of our meeting was to exchange ideas from our own experiences on the proper diets for the Guayaquil macaws living at the center. We addressed several different aspects pertaining to macaw diets such as the amount and diversity of food they were receiving. A very important topic that we discussed was locating and transitioning the birds onto a more “local diet,” in other words seeds and fruits they would be able to find upon release into the wild. It was exciting and satisfying to be a part of this conversation because the transitioning of the Guayaquil Macaw population at Foundation Jambeli on a more natural diet is another very important step closer to the day a release can happen!
After we had finished our discussion about macaw diets we moved onto the topic of training! I was able to answer questions and share different types of husbandry training that the staff can easily incorporate in every day work at Foundation Jambeli. For example, we spoke about crate training the few ocelots at the center in order to make the cleaning of their exhibits and veterinarian exams easier.
After diet preparations this morning I followed two staff members over to the four “monkey islands” they have here at Foundation Jambeli. These islands are large outdoor areas for rescued brown headed spider monkeys, filled with tall trees and jungle gyms for climbing, large bushes, and long vines for swinging. When it’s feeding time, the staff will carefully walk across the mote on a large bamboo shoot with a food bucket in hand. This task is much easier said than done, but the staff seems to have the hang of it!
This afternoon I was able to help staff members Priscilla and Justo create a nest box for a new Guayaquil Macaw enclosure. The type of nest box that Fundacion Jambeli has had the most success with is a cylinder shaped wooden nest box which is lined inside and out with wired lining. The purpose of the wire lining is to assist birds while climbing in and out of the nest and of course for those of you who know macaws…to prevent them from chewing up the nest box; they love to chew! Assembling and attaching the wire lining was not simple, not to mention it was very difficult to cut through with wire cutters! We also had to cut an opening for a door on the lower back side of the nest box to enable staff members to check for eggs. Once placed into the enclosure the nest box’s back door will line up with another small door located outside the enclosure; this will allow staff members to easily check for eggs without entering the enclosure. Once completed, we pushed the large nest box in a wheel barrel over to the new macaw enclosure and placed it up on its supporting shelf, it looked great!
Not far from the center of town in Guayaquil, one of Ecuador’s largest cities, is Guayaquil’s Historical Park. This park consists of eight hectares of land dedicated to preserving, sharing, and educating visitors about Guayaquil’s flora and fauna, environment, and cultural history. The park is split up into the three sections: the animal section, the urban architectural section, and the traditional section.
While visiting the animals at Guayaquil’s Historical Park guests will find themselves walking on a raised board walk designed to protect the various types of habitat such as the dry tropical forest, the humid tropical forest, and the drizzle forest that they will travel through. Staff from both the park and Foundation Jambeli worked several years to pick out the plants and carefully carve and create all the various environments inside the park! The park has several species of native and non-native animals that were either rescued or surrendered by private owners or local government affiliated groups. The animals that can be seen range from harpy eagles, two-toed sloths, macaws, tapirs, and much more. Similar to SeaWorld & Busch Gardens, the park also has many behind the scenes facilities where they are able to care animals that need rehabilitation or special care.
In addition to meeting some amazing animals I had the chance to discuss and exchange various ideas with the park’s zookeepers about animal handling and care, training, and enrichment. Since many of the animals they receive cannot be released back into the wild, several of them have the opportunity to be animal ambassadors! Animal ambassadors are special animals that keepers bring out for visitor’s to learn about while having an up-close and personal experience. I was able to share my training experience and display different training techniques for handling macaws, two-toed sloths, ocelots, and coatis. Much of our day was also spent by discussing various ways to improve the educational value of the park by adding new educational tools and exhibits.
Foundation ProBosque is a non-government funded organization focused on the protection of the Cerro Blanco forest right outside of the city of Guayaquil. The Cerro Blanco forest is home to the critically endangered tropical dry forest, which consequently is home to the Guayaquil macaw. Additionally, the forest houses over five hundred plants species, over fifty species of mammals, and more than two hundred types of birds.
Rafaela and I went on a guided hike with a tour guide by the name of Perfecto; yes his name means Perfect! While walking through the tropical dry forest trails in Cerro Blanco, Perfecto pointed out many species of plants that the Guayaquil Macaw prefers to eat and nest in. The hike itself was amazing, but what ties my visit to ProBosque to my focus on the Guayaquil macaw project at Foundation Jambeli, is that the future release site of the birds will at this reserve! After our hike we took about an hour drive to another location on the reserve to check out a transition enclosure that the macaws will use right before their release. This transition enclosure has been already put to use with the release of rehabilitated parrots!
Currently Foundation Jambeli is working on a release protocol and monitoring system for their birds to ensure the most successful release possible. Please feel free to check out Foundation ProBosque at http://bosquecerroblano.org.
Today is my last day in Ecuador. Rafaela arranged a boat tour through the El Salado Mangrove Reserve with the Ministry of the Environment. The mangroves of Ecuador are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world; they provide many benefits to the coastal communities such as preventing soil erosion, acting as a nursery to fish and other wildlife, and the filtering of water. Unfortunately, about 70% of the mangroves in Ecuador have been lost due to shrimp farming and human development.
During the first half hour of the boat ride all I could see was human development! As we traveled through this area, the park rangers explained to me that, that entire area was once mangrove forest. It was eye opening to see rows of houses built so closely together and piles of trash flowing into the water. There are now laws against human development and strict fishing seasons enforced to help protect the mangroves against further destruction. The difference was amazing once we reached the area of the reserve where the mangroves still existed! We were completely surrounded by green scenery and several types of birds. The threatened El Salado Mangrove Reserve is also home to the critically endangered American Crocodile!
The boat tour through the mangroves was unfortunately an excellent way to view an issue that so desperately needs our attention. It was great to talk to the park rangers about their efforts and ideas about defending the mangrove forest. What an amazing way to end my trip here in Ecuador!