|September 28, 2012|
|Activities at the Exploration Camp in Taraira:|
This week we had to conclude that our two camp dogs probably have been killed by a large wildcat. The cat in question is a puma that the locals refer to as the "tiger". These big cats are usually found roaming down on the flats between the Serrania ridge and the big Apaporis River rather than up on the ridges.
Our camp dogs were not jungle dogs but imports from other parts of Colombia. Before we adopted them they probably became strays when abandoned by hunters. As well, dogs will occasionally leave their owners when they get hopelessly lost and perish.
We particularly liked one of the dogs. Years ago, he was blinded by a fierce type of ant, which lives on the majina plant. Despite this obvious impediment he was the most perceptive of our adopted dogs. Any creature, big or small, approaching camp at night would cause this blind dog to bark until we were all wide awake.
A few weeks ago, the blind dog was found up on the ridge with very serious scratch wounds. The wounds appeared to have been inflicted by a "tiger". The poor dog was beyond saving so, unfortunately, our camp hands had to mercifully put him down.
To make things worse, for the last few weeks our other dog has failed to show up for the regular meals we put out for him.
Recently, one of our local staff was resetting the hose for our camp water, which flows from a few hundred meters NW of camp from the top of the Serrania. He noticed paw prints in the quartz sand in one of the old gold workings. A puma had left a paw print about four inches wide.
This find led to certain problems when we needed to get the exact location for the water source to be included in the final phases of our environmental licensing. One of our Bogota staff was too scared of the puma to go anywhere close to the water source to measure the coordinates. "City people!" laughed the local camp guys.
We also suspect that our "tiger" has slept in our empty peacock house.
The peacock house is a bird kennel, which we built on the top of the Serrania, located far away toward the woods from the camp buildings, however, just within hearing range. Peacocks are the best long distance, early-warning alarm systems against large predators. The peacock squawks can be heard for miles.
We put up a nice pen for the birds. It quite resembles a miniature Fort Knox. The perimeter is made up of thick-gage wire fencing, which is cemented into the ground in order to resist any prying attempts of a puma's claws. Just inside that perimeter, a very, very thin-gage small fence is installed to repel the "cuatro narices", or the fearsome four-noses snake.
The pen's defences are great, but even our toughened, local camp hand feels very bad at the thought of our poor "elegant birds", as he calls them, having to spend the night being hassled by the puma's hissing and clawing while snakes circle the pen trying to find any small gap to get inside. As such, the pen remains empty and it seems the "tiger" is using it as a shelter for himself. Tiger 1 -- Cosigo 0.
The puma is not the only big menace to local dogs. Recently the dogs from a nearby informal, goldmining camp have had to be tied up because they kept getting scratched and bruised by wild boar. The local miners tell us they can't even hunt with their dogs anymore because they worry that as soon as their dogs are running loose they will get caught by the "tiger".
This dog's ear shows signs of past struggles with wild boar.
It is a little odd to have larger predators and prey coming up on the ridge. They usually stay many kilometres away down by the big river.
Alaskan Elder Pete Esquiro has proposed a theory regarding the lack of fish in the big rivers. Earlier this year, Mr. Esquiro, a native elder of one of the Alaska First Nations went to Colombia and Brazil as a guest of Cosigo to share his experiences with the indigenous people. He discussed the economic evolution of a resource rich area and talked about how communities can best deal with societal changes.
One issue he brought to our attention was that as our exploration project progresses, the local natives, with Cosigo's assistance, should clear the large abandoned fish nets that are so wastefully killing fish in the streams and rivers. Called "ghost fishermen", the abandoned nets capture fish in the rivers long after the fishermen abandon them. There are so many abandoned ghost nets in streams and rivers that it is quite possible that they are have significantly impacted the fish available for humans and for wild creatures to capture. This in turn may force predators to seek food elsewhere, in places they have not been before.
Losing our dogs to the puma is one thing, but nothing like the sad situation in a small community along the lower Apaporis River where recently a small girl died in the river from being pulled beneath the surface by a large boa constrictor. One may think that something like this must be a frequent occurrence in the jungle. However, this is not the case and the local natives say it is far from normal. The number of fish in the rivers is dwindling, especially close to native villages in areas that have been over-fished. This forces the fishermen to go further and further up and downstream in hope of finding new areas for fishing. It is usually in these less frequently visited and fished areas that boas and alligators are found. To have a boa come right into the bay in front of the village, where the children swim, is an unsettling anomaly. One can't help but wonder how much the dwindling fish populations are affecting the behaviour of the boa and other large predators.
Kids of the Apaporis River.
Hopefully, Cosigo's upcoming plans to start pulling the ghost fishermen out of the rivers will help the fish survive and grow strong and, maybe, the ripple effect of this will help make the local children safer and, possibly, even help our scrappy camp dogs survive another day.
We are getting the Polaris 4x4 vehicles into good shape but the humidity is rapidly destroying the metal. New parts are suffering rapid oxidation in just months. Our practise is to keep all buildings and equipment such as the generator, backhoe and drills in good condition and ready for service. This means maintenance is always ongoing.
New bolt already showing high % oxidation.
The Local Daycare in Taraira:
We have a plan to help the little day care and orphanage in the three square block town of Taraira in southeastern Colombia.
Naptime for the children at the Taraira daycare and orphanage.
The childcare facility is getting crowded as more residents from farther out in the jungle are bringing their children and families to live in the village because of their worries about the new "tiger" coming closer to human habitations.
The children are suffering from the high mid-day heat in their shelter. Using the available little house was a good idea, but, it gets stifling hot between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. The two young ladies that are tasked with taking care of the kids are at their wits end. During the hottest part of the day they swing the few hammocks that they have to keep the kids cool. Most of the children without a hammock try to find cool spots on the concrete floor and just try and sleep through the midday heat.
We would like to install a solar panel on the roof and wire it to a small ventilator to keep the air moving in the house. Of course, not being experts in solar panels or appliances for such, we welcome the advice of any reader with know-how and a desire to help these kids. Perhaps someone knows of a simple but efficient human-powered fan? The care centre looks after up to twenty children at a time so several sources of a breeze will be needed. We will continue to work with local groups to find solutions to local problems.
Cosigo Management & Staff