Sunday, August 1, 2010

Red-Tailed Boa and Parakeet in the Amazon

After Galapagos, I went to the Amazon for just a couple of days to the Napo Wildlife Center.  The center is owned and operated by a tribe of indigenous people who decided to go with eco-tourism rather than sell their land for oil drilling.  Oil was discovered on their land, but the tribe of roughly 180 decided instead to build the lodge and preserve their land.  Thus far, revenue from the lodge has enabled them to hire a doctor and a nurse, build a new school for the village and hire teachers, and employ most of the men in the village. 

To get there, it's a 30 minute flight from Quito, and then about 2.5 hours in a motorized canoe up the Napo river, where there is a nature preserve on one side and oil drilling all over the other side, including burning fires in the forest and vast amounts of road building and other destruction of the rainforest.  Rather disgusting to see.  After the motor canoe, it's another 2 hours in a paddle boat to get to the lodge.

I had hoped that with such a remote location we would see a lot of animals, but the truth is, they are fleeting glimpses.  In this area, there was historically hunting and fishing, which is no longer taking place, but I don't know if the wildlife is still wary due to that.  The animals have a large area in which to disperse and we can only see them from trails or channels on which we take canoes, so the viewing tended to be scant and quick with the animals a bit far away.  Photos were very hard to come by because when you have large magnification and a moving boat and only a few seconds - you get a lot of blur, even with a good camera.  Shots were just VERY hard to come by.

The highlight of the Amazonian wildlife I did see was this red tailed boa constrictor that caught a green headed parakeet that was at a clay lick.  I was in a motorized canoe and the clay lick was packed with birds.  They all took off at once.  It turned out the boa had grabbed a parakeet - and then we watched it consume it and slither off. The snake was big...and I was doing my best to get photos while on the floor of a motorized canoe crouched at the foot of another passenger, balancing my camera, which was zoomed, as best I could.

The first shot shows the parakeet - it was quickly strangled.  The second one shows actual consumption.  This is the first time I have seen a snake in the wild eating anything - and it was hard to see; I would have loved to be able to see it closer or to at least be still instead of rocking around - it made it hard to see well with camera or binoculars.

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