Saving Endangered Primates: How YOU are Helping the Cotton-top Tamarin

With their outrageous hairdos, there’s no question that in the primate kingdom the cotton-top tamarins are punk rock royalty. If you need more proof, just check out their scientific name Saguinus oedipus…it doesn’t get more hard core than that! If you’ve had a chance to visit these guys on a past visit to the Zoo, you’ll know that despite their large personalities they’re actually quite small – if it weren’t for their hair, you might mistake them for a squirrel. So how is it that such a small primate has earned itself a large enough reputation to have August 15th declared as Day of the Cotton-Top Tamarin?

Because they need our help. Cotton-top tamarins are one of the most endangered primates in the world due to deforestation and the pet trade. Luckily, our partners at Proyecto Tití in Colombia are working hard to make sure that this unique species can thrive in the wild for years to come. Proyecto Tití is committed to working with local communities to develop economic alternatives that assist in the protection of Colombia’s natural environment.  Some of their strategies to achieve this goal are as unique as the tamarin itself. Local women learn how to transform discarded plastic bags into colorfully designed, hand-knit mochilas (tote bags), which are then sold in an effort to support the community that is protecting cotton-top tamarins. Discarded plastic is also recycled and used to create fence posts farmers can use on their property. These fence posts last longer than wooden posts, and they reduce the need for wood to be harvested from the forests. More trees = more habitat for the tamarins!

There are plenty of reasons to love cotton-top tamarins, and as a result many end up in the illegal pet trade, eventually winding up in people’s homes. In many Colombian communities there is no distinction made between domestic and exotic wildlife, and many individuals do not understand how keeping a primate as a pet can be extremely harmful to the survival of the species. In 2017, the Houston Zoo supported 1,800 students that live around wild cotton-tops in Colombia to participate in education programs that focused on reducing the desire to keep cotton-top tamarins as pets. Students got to visit the forest and see cotton-top tamarins in their natural habitat. Proyecto Tití is working to reduce the number of native wildlife that are kept as pets in rural communities by encouraging families to adopt dogs and cats instead of cotton-top tamarins! By offering veterinary care and training classes, the team is helping communities bond with domestic animals reducing their desire to have wildlife as pets.

Our partners know better than anyone that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to saving wildlife, and saving a unique species often requires unique solutions. We are inspired by the creative minds that are hard at work protecting the cotton-top tamarin, and thankful to each and every one of you that help save this species by purchasing a ticket to the Zoo.

Houston Zoo Crew Teens Travel to Galapagos to Work Alongside Wildlife Warrior Lady Márquez

Last month, the Houston Zoo welcomed a special guest all the way from Galapagos. Lady Márquez, from our partners at Ecology Project International (EPI) came to visit us here in Houston after being chosen by the Houston Zoo admissions team as a 2017 Wildlife Warrior Award recipient. This award recognizes exceptional individuals from our wildlife conservation partner programs and provides wildlife warriors with an experience that will increase their abilities/knowledge.

Born and raised in the Galapagos Islands, Lady is an EPI alumni, and now acts as their Outreach Program Coordinator. In this role, she works to empower local teens to be future conservation leaders. Driven by her passion to inspire others to save wildlife, Lady helped to create an ecology club which brings together more than 20 local teens on a weekly basis to participate in various conservation activities like: wildlife documentary screenings, beach clean ups, bird mortality awareness campaigns, ecological monitoring, and many other citizen science based programs. Lady spent several days in Houston working with our conservation education team exchanging ideas and learning more about how our programs like Zoo Crew and Camp Zoofari inspire the next generation of Houstonians to become wildlife saving heroes.

This past weekend, a select group of 16 Houston Zoo Crew teens embarked on an exciting journey to visit Lady and see first hand how she and teens in the Galapagos are working to save wildlife. Today, Houston Zoo teens met up with Galapagos teens that are part of the conservation ecology club called Mola Mola. The Mola Mola club showed the Houston Zoo teens how they survey the beaches of Tortuga Bay for marine debris and explained how they monitor sea turtle nests. In 2016, this project led to the protection of 53 green sea turtle nests, and documented sightings of 1,940 hatchlings! In collaboration with the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation, the eco club was also successful in creating awareness on nest protection among visitors to Tortuga Bay, a public beach that also acts as a nesting ground for the turtle species.

The Zoo has provided training, scholarships, and support for these future Galapagos conservation leaders and their instructors over the past 5 years. Throughout the rest of the week, Zoo Crew teens will participate in giant Galapagos tortoise monitoring research, visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, and much more! To learn more about our teen programs, click here.

Celebrating Our Pride of Lion Protectors on World Lion Day

Each time you visit Hasani, you are helping to save lions in Africa!

In honor of world lion day, we are shedding light on how your visit to the Zoo is saving lions in Africa! Each time you come to visit Hasani and our lovely lionesses, a portion of your admission ticket goes towards supporting organizations like Pride Lion Conservation Alliance (PRIDE), a Houston Zoo conservation partner. In fact, just by visiting the Zoo, you are helping to protect 20% of the lion population in Africa. PRIDE was created on the idea that we can do more to save lions in the wild by working together on a landscape level. Founded by six women with over 100 years of collective lion conservation experience, PRIDE is a collaborative effort that works across different African countries to save more lions and to inspire and improve future protection work. Located in Kenya, Lion Guardians is a member of PRIDE that works to save lions by recruiting young Maasai warriors and providing them with the skills necessary to transition from lion killers to lion protectors.

Lion Guardians are taught how to read, write, and speak in Swahili.

The opportunity to join the Lion Guardians team can be a life-changing experience for young Maasai warriors that have had no previous exposure to a formal education. Guardians are taught how to read, write, and communicate in Swahili, and are trained in wildlife management and conflict mitigation techniques. After completing their training, Lion Guardians are able to monitor lion movements, warn pastoralists when lions are in the area, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing, and intervene to stop lion hunting parties. By protecting the livestock local communities depend on, Lion Guardians build tolerance among locals for neighboring lions and other carnivores. This conservation model can be adapted to fit the needs of many cultures and wildlife species, which has given Lion Guardians the ability to expand outside of Kenya, into Tanzania and beyond.

Lion Guardian Luke is a Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior. Photo by: Philip J. Briggs

Since 2007, this unique approach has helped to reduce lion killing by more than 90 percent! The team has documented a tripling of the lion population in the non-protected areas of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem and provided passage between the Ngorongoro and Serengeti lion populations in Tanzania. Hard work and dedication over the past year has resulted in an 80% reduction in hunting parties from previous years – an impressive feat given the high levels of human-wildlife conflict currently being experienced in and around project areas. In addition, 2017 resulted in the protection of 136 bomas (livestock enclosures), the recovery of 90% of lost or threatened livestock, and the prevention of 8 lion hunts.

We are continually blown away by the hard work and dedication our family at Lion Guardians and PRIDE put into saving lions in the wild. As part of our pride, each and every one of you are lion protectors too! World lion day may only happen once a year, but every day is a good day to share your love of these big cats. So go ahead, let out a roar, and tell everyone you know how you are saving lions in Africa!

Houston Zoo’s Crisis Response Fund Lends a Hand to Wildlife Saving Partners

We all know that one person that always keeps their cool in an emergency. They are our rock, logically assessing the situation, keeping everyone around them calm, and working hard to resolve whatever issue they are confronted with. Here at the Zoo, we have a whole team dedicated to responding to emergencies, and ensuring the safety of everyone on Zoo grounds – the Rangers. Our Ranger team is not only responsible for safety and security on Zoo grounds, but they also provide support to our wildlife conservation partners around the globe whenever they need help mitigating a crisis. How is this done? Through the Zoo’s Crisis Response Fund. Simply put, the crisis fund exists to provide support in the event that a wildlife conservation crisis or urgent situation has occurred, and is in need of urgent action. Members of our Ranger team sit on a committee that assesses each situation and uses a criteria to see how the Zoo can help partners in their urgent time of need. Since the beginning of the year, the conservation team has sent Rangers requests from three of our partners in need of support:

Okapi Conservation Project – Democratic Republic of Congo

Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is home to multiple armed groups that compete for control of the region’s vast mineral resources. This can make living and working in the area quite dangerous, but it is also the only place in the world the endangered okapi live in the wild. On February 17th, one of the Okapi Conservation Project’s vehicles was ambushed by an unidentified group while carrying staff back to the okapi reserve. Tragically, 7 individuals lost their lives and an additional 3 were injured in the attack. The team’s truck was also damaged beyond repair. The Crisis Response Fund was able to help the Okapi Conservation Project purchase a new truck in order to ensure that daily operations could continue as the team worked to recover from this tremendous loss.

 

Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) – Madagascar 

On the night of April 10, TSA staff were alerted to the confiscation of 10,976 critically endangered radiated tortoises from a single residence on the southwest coast of Madagascar. This is the largest rescue the TSA has encountered to date, and as such, it presented staff with many challenges. Each tortoise needed to be processed, evaluated, and provided with any medical care necessary before being placed in a temporary housing facility where they could be monitored throughout their recovery. An undertaking of this size is both labor-intensive and time consuming, and ongoing care can become quite expensive. The Houston Zoo was able to provide additional funding to help TSA carry out their wildlife-saving mission.

 

Hirola Conservation Program – Kenya 

Over the last three months, the area in and around the Hirola Conservation Program have experienced some of the worst flooding ever recorded, second only to the disastrous El Niño of 1997. These periods of high rainfall and flooding have previously proved to trigger livestock disease outbreaks that are escalated by vectors such as mosquitoes not only in Kenya, but across the East African region. Throughout the hirola’s geographical range, several million head of livestock co-occur with hirola and other wildlife species, as does the risk of viral and bacterial disease spread across species. The spread of disease from one species to another can lead to mass mortality of wildlife, livestock and in some cases, even humans. With the support of the Houston Zoo, the Hirola Conservation Project was able to secure crisis funds to vaccinate local livestock against various diseases, lessening the threat of an outbreak and further protecting the critically endangered hirola.

 

We are dedicated to doing everything we can to help save animals in the wild, and are grateful to each and every one of you who make programs like this possible through your visit to the zoo.

Malagasy Student at Rice University is Saving Lemurs in the Wild

From left: Houston Zoo Senior Director of Wildlife Conservation, Hasinala Ramangason, Rice University Professor Dr. Amy Dunham, and Houston Zoo Director of Madagascar Programs Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy

The Houston Zoo seeks opportunities to support current and future conservation leaders locally and around the world.  In doing so, we can help to ensure that the future is filled with leaders ready to save animals from extinction. Rice University has been working in Madagascar for many years now and several years ago we discovered our Madagascar conservation efforts aligned.  In 2018, we provided a fellowship for a Malagasy student to attend Rice University. Here is his story:  

Hello Everyone! My name is Hasinala and I am a visiting scholar at Rice University and Houston Zoo Conservation Fellow. I recently received my Masters degree in Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution from my home university in France.  I am originally from Madagascar, but moved to France in 2011, right after I graduated from high school in order to further my education. Despite my move to France several years ago, growing up in Madagascar, the world’s most biodiverse island, has definitely influenced my career goals and research interests. While I spent most my academic career in France, I have always been focused on returning to Madagascar. This is why I have done most of my research in Madagascar, studying their most iconic animals – the lemurs!

Choosing your advisor and where you are going to conduct your research for your Master’s thesis is of crucial importance as it will influence, to a certain extent, your future endeavors and what type of research you specialize in. I first heard about Dr. Amy Dunham, my advisor at Rice, a couple of years ago, when I met one of her former Malagasy PhD students, Onja Razafindratsima, in a research station in Madagascar. A year ago, when I first started to look for a research team to host me, Dr. Dunham was the first person I contacted among a list of +20 researchers, but lack of funding made it impossible for us to work together. While disappointing, I continued on my quest, and after several months I finally secured an internship with another research team conducting work in Madagascar. I couldn’t wait to get to work, but unfortunately nature had other plans. A plague outbreak started in Madagascar, causing the research team to postpone their trip, and once again I found myself without an internship. I desperately contacted Onja Razafindratsima, looking for labs that would host me. She suggested that I reach out to Dr. Dunham again and take another shot at collaborating with one another. A few weeks later, and against all odds, Dr. Dunham had managed to secure a fellowship for me working with her at Rice University thanks to the generosity of the Houston Zoo. The next thing I knew, I was at Rice University conducting research on seed dispersal by birds and lemurs and racing against time to wrap up my thesis. This has been, by far, the most exciting internship I’ve ever had! The main outcome of this research project has been to show that birds and lemurs, through seed dispersal, are crucial for the regeneration of forest gaps that were created by major cyclones in Madagascar. With climate change, it is expected that cyclone will be more frequent and more intense. This will cause more damage to tropical forests, and consequently there will be even more reliance on birds and lemurs to regenerate forests.

This research project has really ignited my interest for research in tropical ecology and conservation, and I am truly grateful to the Houston Zoo for making this possible. My next step ideally would be enrolling as a PhD student within the same research lab, but as you may have guessed, funding a PhD is a whole other ball game!

Meet the Houston Zoo 2018 Wildlife Warriors

In 2015, the Zoo established the Wildlife Warrior award program. Carefully chosen by the Zoo’s Admissions team, this award recognizes exceptional individuals from our wildlife conservation partner programs and provides wildlife warriors with an experience that will increase their abilities/knowledge and grow them as future conservation leaders. We are excited to share that the Admissions team has just announced three new recipients for the 2018 year, that will join the ranks of 15 Wildlife Warrior alumni based in developing countries around the globe!

The 2018 Wildlife Warriors are from our partner projects all over the world saving lions, hirola antelope, and painted dogs. Here are this year’s winners:


Maria Njamba: Painted Dog Conservation 

Maria Njamba is a mother of four children and resident of Hwange. She is the Interpretive Guide at the Painted Dog Conservation Visitors Centre in Hwange. Before being employed by Painted Dog Conservation,  Maria relied on selling baskets by the road in order to make enough money to care for herself and her children.
Her life and her children’s lives changed when she was offered a job at the Bush Camp. She thought she was one of the luckiest people alive and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Her job was the help take care of the children, feed them and make sure they were safe and happy. In her free time, Maria would learn more and more about the dogs because her main interest had become educating people about the dogs and the importance of conserving them.
Because of her passion, she became the first Interpretative Hall guide at our Visitor Centre. She has influenced or reinforced love for conservation of wildlife to more than 70,000 local and international visitors to Zimbabwe and more than 11,000 children from our Bush Camp have listened to her convincing voice as she recites the story of “Eyespot.” A compelling story that depicts the challenges the painted dogs face.

“Maria was chosen for her influence and passion for spreading the conservation message to over 80,000 Zimbabwe visitors”

 


Celestino Dauda: Niassa Carnivore Project 

In 2006,  Celestino became one of the first of 5 Wildlife Guardians in our community monitoring and extension program. Working on a small stipend he never wavered from his work and has now been a wildlife guardian for 12 years.  In 2014, we promoted him to the permanent position as Head Guardian and he works tirelessly with Horacio (the program coordinator) to coordinate  and inspire the team of 35 guardians across  remote villages collecting information on human wildlife conflict, sightings of animals and fishing.  These guardians are our connection to the villages in Niassa Reserve and this work is critically important for our team.
Celestino enjoys his work  and believes it is very important as he is learning which animals are a big problem to communities so that he can help them. We asked Celestino what his advice would be for all of us. He says we must still keep fighting to promote the message that wild animals and people can live together. This is the only way forward. He lives it and breathes our mission which is to promote coexistence between wildlife, especially lions and people.

“Celestino was chosen for his long term commitment to inspiring a team of guardians and promoting coexistence between wildlife, especially lions and people”


Aden Ibrahim: Hirola Conservation Program

Aden comes from a nomadic culture – because herding was his primary focus as a child, he did not attend school. However, he wasn’t willing to herd for long, and as such, escaped from his father’s homestead to spearhead charcoal burning for almost seven years. In 2014, Hirola Conservation Program identified him as one of the people destroying wildlife habitats and subsequently recruited him as a ranger. Although illiterate, he has worked with us for the last 3.5 years and has risen through the ranks steadily. Today he is the Manager of Rewamo Conservancy (formally Sangailu) established and overseen by the HCP. He leads a team of 12 local rangers, where amongst his great achievements is the recent discovery of the previously unknown population of Oribi antelope. Further, because of their patrols, a total of 90 hirolas were counted within the conservancy in March 2018.

Aden continues to mentor youths to join conservation and has recruited a dozen of them so far who would otherwise be vulnerable to drugs, terrorism and cattle rustling activities.  Aden is hopeful about the future where he aims to expand habitat for wildlife (a problem he contributed to in the past).

“Aden (right) was chosen for his desire to expand habitat, creating a hopeful future for hirola and other wildlife”

Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Lady Márquez is Headed to Town!

This weekend, the Zoo is welcoming another special guest who is visiting us from the Galapagos Islands! Lady Márquez is here from our partners at Ecology Project International (EPI) after being chosen by the Houston Zoo admissions team as a 2017 Wildlife Warrior Award recipient. This award recognizes exceptional individuals from our wildlife conservation partner programs and provides wildlife warriors with an experience that will increase their abilities/knowledge.

“We were most impressed with the fact that Lady is dedicating her life to empowering the next generation of conservation leaders in Galapagos!” – Houston Zoo Staff 

 

Born and raised in the Galapagos Islands, Lady is an EPI alumni, and now acts as their Outreach Program Coordinator. In this role, she works to empower local teens to be future conservation leaders. Driven by her passion to inspire others to save wildlife, Lady helped to create an ecology club which brings together more than 20 local teens on a weekly basis to participate in various conservation activities like: wildlife documentary screenings, beach clean ups, bird mortality awareness campaigns, ecological monitoring, and many other citizen science based programs.

One of these efforts, centered around the protection of green sea turtles, resulted in 22 students receiving training in monitoring protocols, while another 40 students helped to collect data and protect nesting sites. In 2016, this project led to the protection of 53 green sea turtle nests, and documented sightings of 1,940 hatchlings! In collaboration with the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation, the eco club was also successful in creating awareness on nest protection among visitors to a public beach that also acts as a nesting ground for the turtle species.

Lady has used her Wildlife Warrior Award to attend a week-long training focused on enhancing conservation efforts at the community level. This opportunity has allowed her to explore different teaching methods and begin designing her own strategies for empowering her students to address threats to wildlife and take action to save species! Now that her training is complete, Lady will spend several days in Houston working with our conservation education team exchanging ideas and learning more about how our programs like Zoo Crew and Camp Zoofari inspire the next generation of Houstonians to become wildlife saving heroes.

Saving Lemurs in Madagascar through Empowering the Next Generation of Wildlife Saving Heroes

Over the past week, lucky Zoo goers may have had the pleasure of running into Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy, Houston Zoo’s Director of Madagascar Programs and one of the founding members of GERP, an organization saving lemurs in the wild. Over 90% of the wildlife and plant life found in Manombo, one of the Zoo’s research sites in Madagascar, are found only in Madagascar, including eight species of lemurs such as the black and white ruffed lemur, brown mouse lemur, eastern and lesser wooly lemurs, and one of the most critically endangered lemurs on the island, the James’ sportive lemur. There are small mammals such as tenrecs, falanouc (a cool mongoose like mammal), fossa and ring-tailed mongoose as well as nearly 60 species of birds and reptiles and amphibians such as geckos, mantella’s, Madagascar crocodiles and many others. In the past few years, Jonah and the team at GERP have discovered two new species of mouse lemurs – they continue to work tirelessly in order to save each and every one of these species from extinction.

Jonah  took a break from his work in the field and spent all of last week visiting us here in Houston serving as a guest instructor for the Zoo’s Collegiate Conservation Program sponsored by ExxonMobil. Each year, 10 students from universities around the US are selected to spend a summer at the Houston Zoo in order to train, learn, and work alongside Zoo staff and regional conservation partners. Jonah led the interns through discussions and activities focused on current community-based conservation topics such as properly engaging and empowering local communities, addressing human/wildlife conflict, and effective leadership. Opportunities to learn from conservation heroes like Jonah are rare, and the interns treasured every moment they had with him. As Jamie put it, “his perseverance in life shines through in every accomplishment he has made, and listening to him speak you could feel his passion fill the room”. When their week with Jonah came to an end, the interns were left with one feeling shared between them all – they were inspired:

“Jonah’s visit left me with more confidence than I have ever felt in the field of conservation that is usually filled with consistent challenges and failure. As he explained over and over, it is okay to fail as long as you get back up, and as long as you set your goals and stick to them. I will never forget his visit and hope that we will one day meet again – but instead of being a college student, being a conservation hero alongside him.”  – Brooke, 2018 CCP Intern

 

It is safe to say that the lessons learned during this week will not soon be forgotten.

Dr. Jonah spent the remainder of his time in Houston making wildlife saving plans with our team at the Zoo and sharing his love of lemurs with guests out on Zoo grounds. Jonah says that no lemurs will become extinct on his watch, and we believe him! He reminds us that no matter what you do for a living, everyone has a skill that can benefit conservation, and just by visiting the Zoo you are helping to save lemurs in the wild.

To see more about the Zoo’s lemur saving work , check out this KPRC special feature.

Meet Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy this Weekend and Learn how YOU are Saving Lemurs in Madagascar!

This Saturday, July 7th Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy, the Houston Zoo’s Director of Madagascar Programs, will come from his field work in Madagascar, saving lemurs, to meet guests at the Zoo’s ring-tailed lemur and sifaka exhibit in the Wortham World of Primates. The event runs Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 3pm, with special talks from Dr. Jonah and the lemur keepers taking place at 12pm and 3:30pm.

Dr. Jonah has discovered several new species of lemurs in the wild over the past few years. He is working hard at saving all lemurs from extinction.  Over 90% of the wildlife and plant life found in Manombo, one of the Zoo’s research sites in Madagascar, are found only in Madagascar, including seven species of lemurs such as the black and white ruffed lemur, brown mouse lemur, eastern and lesser wooly lemurs, and one of the most critically endangered lemurs on the island, the James’ sportive lemur. There are small mammals such as tenrecs, falanouc (a cool mongoose like mammal), fossa and ring-tailed mongoose as well as nearly 60 species of birds and reptiles and amphibians such as geckos, mantella’s, Madagascar crocodiles and many others.

See more about the Zoo’s lemur saving work on this KPRC special feature https://www.houstonzoo.org/conservation/saving-lemurs-madagascar/ .

Dr. Jonah is here to make wildlife saving plans with our team at the Zoo, and spend a week as a guest instructor for the Zoo’s Collegiate Conservation Program. College students are specially selected for this conservation leadership training program. He will lead the interns on current community-based conservation topics such as properly engaging and empowering local communities, addressing human/wildlife conflict and effective leadership.

The Zoo’s Spotlight on Species event this weekend will be a fantastic opportunity for zoo goers to meet and hear from our special guest on how the Zoo is helping lemurs in the wild and learn more about how to support this important work. In addition to meeting Jonah, guests will have the opportunity to take part in interactive activities and shop for animal paintings, pint glasses, magnets and more (while supplies last!) 100 percent of all proceeds will be donated to saving lemurs in the wild.

Zoo members will have an additional chance to chat with Jonah during the member morning event on Saturday. Members can enter the Zoo one hour before the general public and see the keepers prepare enrichment and animal areas all around the zoo. Jonah will be near the Ring-Tailed Lemur exhibit at 8:30am.

Make sure to join us and learn how you are helping to save lemurs in Madagascar – see you there!

Amazon to Andes Field Course Inspires Youth to Save Wildlife

Houston Zoo Galapagos conservation partner, Ecology Project International (EPI)  is educating local kids on the Galapagos Islands about the wildlife that lives in their area, while engaging them in hands-on activities to protect species (beach cleanups, monitoring sea turtle nests, etc.). This year the Houston Zoo supported development opportunities for EPI students.  A student named Ibrahi recently took part in EPI’s “Amazon to Andes” field course with the Houston Zoo’s support. This is Ibrahi’s story: 

Alongside a number of students from California, we went to the Amazon to Andes Course of EPI which covers several different locations within the Amazon rainforest, the Andean cloud forest, and paramo (a treeless, elevated area in South America). During the course, we fulfilled many amazing activities, and also took part in some new activities that not all people have access to. First, we made new friends because as a Mola Mola Eco-club member, we got to know students from the US, and also reconnect with one chaperone who was once a student in the Galapagos Islands Ecology Course. During our time in the field, we had to go kayaking on the river in order to get to our camping site, which was both a new and incredible experience. We also had the opportunity to interact with a Kichwa community (the only community within the national park), and learned how to make the famous “chicha”, which is a traditional beverage.

Taking a night walk in the Amazon rainforest in the search of caiman’s hatchlings was amazing, even if we didn’t end up spotting any! Making our way up to the Andean part of Ecuador was great because special birds received us – hummingbirds! I learned more about the differences between ecosystems and how to use satellite telemetry in order to find species. In the mountains, we were in search of Andean Bears and Tapirs, which are both endangered species. We weren’t lucky enough to see both animals, but an Andean male tapir, wearing a collar allowed us to track him using satellite telemetry, putting the skills we had learned to good use.

Throughout this experience we learned a lot about our ecological footprint and how we can reduce it by changing our buying habits as consumers. As I return home to study at university, I hope to make changes in order to reduce my ecological footprint and live more sustainably. By continuing in the field of wildlife conservation, I hope to become a marine biologist to do my own research about sea turtles.

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