(for background information, be sure to check out the previous chapter)

Phoenix Zoo educators Liesl Pimentel and Carrie Flood continue to share updates and photos from their adventures in Guyana. They are traveling on a Zoo Staff Conservation Grant, working with local conservation biologists, gathering information and images/video to enhance educational programming here at the Zoo.

As we briefly noted in our last post, Carrie and Liesl participated in a release of yellow spotted turtles early in their trip. These turtles were raised in ponds at Caiman House in the village of Yupukari. Kids from the wildlife club in the village helped with the release, which took place in a lake just outside Yupukari. As you can see, the kids are enthusiastic field biologists and Liesl and Carrie enjoyed their time together.

Carrie working with the children from a local wildlife club in Guyana.

Carrie working with the children from a local wildlife club in Guyana.

This project is part of a larger effort led by Rupununi Learners Incorporated (RLI), a group working in the North Rupununi Wetlands region of Guyana in South America. The Zoo funded a grant to RLI in 2013 to support community-based monitoring and head-starting of river turtles in the region. The project focuses on two villages in particular, one at each end of the Rupununi River, where human settlement is concentrated. Since overharvesting, flooding and predation are major factors influencing the turtle populations, head-starting is helping to reduce annual losses. The Zoo head-starts Chiricahua leopard frogs here in Phoenix to increase their survival rates at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of development, just as the villagers are doing for these turtles in Guyana.

With help from young field biologist, yellow spotted turtles are released into the wild.

With assistance from young field biologists, Liesl releases yellow spotted turtles into the wild.

The turtle project builds local conservation capacity by training villagers to become turtle monitors and by giving them the knowledge and tools needed to assist neighboring communities interested in starting conservation projects of their own. Kids participating in the village wildlife club get involved early in the work, while clearly having fun.

Also in the past week, Carrie and Liesl hiked into the Kanuku Mountains to check camera traps that are used to monitor animals using the forest habitat. Images captured included agouti, trumpeters, possum, peccary, paca, currasow, puma, margay and ocelot, but no jaguar just yet.  Our intrepid travelers will spend the next few days with jaguar researcher Matt Hallett in the area around the Iwokrama Research Center. Stay tuned for our next update!

Checking camera traps in Guyana

Checking camera traps (left). Camera trap photo of a wild ocelot (right).

Zoo Staff Conservation Grants are partly underwritten by The Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation. The Zoo is grateful to the Foundation for their generous support for our work here in Phoenix and beyond.