Para la Tierra

Trip Start Apr 08, 2012
Trip End Sep 25, 2012

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Where I stayed
Para la Tierra

Flag of Paraguay  , San Pedro,
Friday, April 27, 2012

Since I'm a volunteer I basically just help with whatever project needs someone else on that day.

I spent the first couple of days here going out with the two guys that are doing their theses on the 3 species of opossums in the area. They had set up 225 traps in the 3 different vegetation types before I got here - 3 in/around/below the same tree; 1 on the ground, 1 at eye level, and 1 up in the canopy (using a pulley system to get to it)
I went out with them to put the bait in each trap then set them open to wait for unsuspecting rodents.
The bait consists of peanut butter (the best way to catch any sort of rodent), with some crushed biscuits, and some vanilla essence to make the smell go as far as possible. 

The day we set the traps it was very hot, less so under the trees but instead very humid. The next morning, we left at 6 to go see what we had caught.
It was cloudy and much cooler and it started to rain right as we got to the first trap. The dense trees kept the water at bay until it became a thundering storm with lightning far too close for comfort with so many tall trees nearby. 
We were quickly soaked and, while cold, we barely felt the rain anymore. 
You cannot leave anything in the traps for longer than 48 hours, and it's best not to do so for more than 24 so we had to ignore the weather and get to the rest of them.
We only caught 6 or 7 mammals with the first 150 traps and 4 of them were possums, the others were various species of rats that we released.
We recorded the weight and sex of each possum then inserted the microchip into each neck using a syringe that made me wince each time it pierced their skin. 
Since we had to pass the house to get to the other traps in the Atlantic Forest I decided to stay and get warm.
They had 0 catches in the rest of the traps.
We had rebaited each trap and the next morning there were no more possums.

If this was my research I would definitely be feeling frustrated with the lack of results. To have so many traps out and catch something 3% of the time - and that's not even the target animal - would make me discouraged to say the least. 
But it's not my thesis, and the 2 guys have another 3 months to catch their possums.

This morning I went out with the guy doing the camera traps. He is moving the cameras 700m forward every week until he reaches the end of the Reserve. He has reached the transitional forest and he requested my help cutting through the dense bush to place the camera.
I happily agreed thinking it would be pretty destructive but fun.

What we had seen from the road as "forest" turned out to be what is known as the Spiny Forest (I really should have taken more note of this). We each had a machete and took turns cutting a "path" in front of us. 
The beginning was fine with just small branches and some vines that try to trip you - it gives great satisfaction to swing a machete at those. But as we got deeper in, every blade of grass, twig, branch, leaf seemed to grow thorns. 

My pants quickly became ripped along with my legs, shirt, arms, face.
There is an especially nasty plant that is at ground level with long bladed leaves that can reach up to stomach height. Not only are the leaf edges knife-sharp but they have tiny thorns spaced every few inches that seem to leap at you then detach and embed themselves in your skin.
Our machetes were relatively short and every time we tried to destroy one of these plants that littered the ground we came away with new scratches and holes in our hands.
We later discovered another small tree that had lethal thorns covering the branches that seemed to be in every direction we had to go.
As my destruction partner said, "Even the ferns have thorns!"

It took us almost 5 hours to clear ourselves a path of about 300m and we had to use the GPS to find our trail back.

I look like I've been attacked by a tiny cat and I'm sure my arm will be barely usable tomorrow but I'm having so much fun.

But that damn camera better have some brilliant captures on it.

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