Another sun struck early morning and more cameras come in, this time capturing images of the threatened Andean deer (Hippocamelus antisensis) that appears to be thriving in the High Andes of Madidi, as well as another cat – this time photographic confirmation of the Pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo) – another confirmed new record for Madidi. Guido, Maria, Herminio and the rest of the team celebrate with a cool soft drink in the clear and bracing Puina evening. As light mist dissipates, a dark but starry night sky is revealed.
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A sun blessed morning for the first time in days, and we are able to observe and photograph a viscacha mother with a sizeable youngster still demanding milk. The camera trap team collects a total of twenty-two cameras from across the larger Puina valley. The team sifts through thousands of wind-triggered pictures with no animals but is elated to find two different Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita), as well as skunk (Conepatus chinga) and the European hare (Lepus europaeus), the latter a species introduced to Argentina and spreading north to Ecuador and beyond. All three are new records for the park, confirming the teams Andean cat sighting a couple of days ago.
Today it is goodbye to James Aparicio and Fernando Guerra from the Bolivian Fauna Collection who both return to La Paz as our team is reduced to seven researchers along with our local guides and cook. Maria Viscarra, Guido Ayala and Herminio Ticona are all nerves before the start of the process of collecting camera traps begins on the morrow. The traps have been out for 15 days in sun, rain, hail, mist and snow. Will they reveal more secrets from this stunning Andean valley?
Fernando Guerra has one last day here to try and add to the butterfly list. He has already registered 39 species at this site and incredibly 21 are new records for the park. Today he brings back to camp an example of the rather bluntly named warty toad (Rhinella espinola) that poses for photographs before getting back to the business of searching for food in the shape of invertebrates. The arrival of a mechanic from La Paz offers hope for Rita the car but to no avail – a spare part is required...
Today another new rodent record for the park, the twelfth on this trip – this time it is the chinchillula (Chinchillula sahamae) that is not recognized by the Puina villagers. Because the High Andes of Madidi had not been studied before we had anticipated at least ten new rodent records on this trip and Puina is not disappointing.
A day of surprises both welcome and unwelcome! The day starts with a bang as the second car to Keara has an extraordinarily broad daylight encounter with the ghost cat of these mountains, the Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita). Representing a new record for the park, and although too quick for our photographers, this observation along with another of a Pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo) earlier in the week holds real promise for our camera traps. Meanwhile, the advance team presents to the Keara schoolchildren, teachers and parents about Bolivian wildlife and Madidi National Park. Our ornithologist, Rodrigo Soria, finally gets a look at the Critically Endangered Royal Cinclodes (Cinclodes abricoma) in the keñua (Polylepis) forests of the Keara valley, and we say goodbye to Andres Ramirez and Mileniusz Spanowicz who both return to La Paz with the flu. On our way back to Puina Rita the car breaks down and with some pushing and freewheeling and a tow from the quadbike we make it back to Puina as the sun goes down.
Every morning we observe the llamas & alpacas of Puina as they leave their corrales and take a dust bath before heading out to graze for the day. Today brings more new records for Madidi including another lizard this time from the Proctoporus genus living in the elfin treeline forest at 3,400 meters above sea level. Meanwhile team members attend a monthly meeting at the Keara community in the valley immediately adjacent to Puina, to inform people about the Identidad Madidi project and arrange a presentation at the village school.
The inappropriately named tree iguana (Liolaemus sp.) is found by herpetologist James Aparicio living at around 4,600 meters above sea level among rocks in a drier part of the Puina valley represents yet another new record for Madidi. Lizards of this genus can reach up to 5,200 meters above sea level and are some of the highest living reptiles in the world. High mountain species that are specialized to very specific climate conditions are also some of the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming and climate change.
As the ichthyologist and aquatic vertebrate team leaves, we are joined by three more Identidad Madidi experts: herpetologist James Aparicio and entomologist Fernando Guerra both of the Bolivian Fauna Collection and the National Natural History Museum, and Armonia ornithologist Rodrigo Soria. The High Andes of Madidi are relatively understudied for birds and butterflies and unknown for amphibians and reptiles and so these Bolivian experts will surely make significant biodiversity knowledge contributions for Madidi