I Met the Emperor of the Amazon

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/01/23 - 8:03pm.

The Emperor Tamarin
The Emperor Tamarin

There are few things I enjoy more than exploring a new part of the world, listening to new sounds, observing new species of wildlife and just poking around and seeing what I can see in a new place. One region of the world I have long been keen to explore and learn more about is the Amazon basin. Although not a native Peruvian, Krista (the BCIT FWR graduate I am visiting) has been living in the Amazon region of Peru for the past three years and is incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife and natural history of the area.

Krista Adamek, at the Los Amigos Research Station, PeruKrista Adamek, at the Los Amigos Research Station, Peru

I was keen to explore so we were out walking the trails of the research station fairly early in the morning. It became obvious very quickly how important the trail system is at the station. Without the patchwork pattern of trails it would be virtually impossible to make your way through the thick tropical forest. The trails allow you to travel more easily and help you see where your feet are going to land… as there are snakes and sharp thorny plants to contend with!

For the past three years Krista has been working on a research project for WWF (World Wildlife Fund aka World Wide Fund for Nature) focussing on a variety of wildlife species including high profile carnivores like the Jaguar but also focusing on a range of birds including three different species of Macaw (Scarlet, Red-and-green and Blue-and-yellow). Macaws are the world’s largest parrots and unfortunately many of the world's 17 species are at risk. The illegal international trade of parrots as well as habitat loss are two of the major threats to Macaws. Another threat described by Krista is the loss of one of the Macaws favourite nesting trees and food sources, the Aguaje palm. The problem is that it is not only the Macaws that like the fruits of the Aguaje palm, the local people do too. Due to the size of the trees (some 30 metres or more) the locals are finding it easier to simply cut the tree down than climbing up to pick the fruits.

Blue-and-yellow Macaw
Blue-and-yellow Macaw

To learn more about these birds, Krista and her colleagues have a large number of Macaws tagged with radio transmitters so she and her team can follow their seasonal movements. In North America (for the most part) we have 4 seasons while in the Amazon there are really only two main seasons, the wet and the dry. One of the tagged Macaws traveled a fair distance over to Bolivia but then made its way back to the area between the Rio Madre de Dios and the Rio Los Amigos.

Wildlife movements never cease to amaze me. You can learn more about the movement patterns of some of our northern species of birds by checking out the Global Connections page of this website. Dr. Sean Boyd, a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, describes some of the migration patterns of species that he studies, and we will soon have other short essays by other contributors. Bird movement and migration are great examples of global connections. Some species, like the macaws, move short distances, while others, like the neotropical migrants we know so well in North America (warblers, vireos, hummingbirds, etc) may travel many thousands of miles!

Cicada Tubes, Amazon Region, Peru
Cicada Tubes, Amazon Region, Peru

As we walked through the forest I was quite intrigued by the tall, thin tubes of mud sticking up from the ground (I thought they were small ant hills) but Krista pointed out that they were in fact the above ground part of a cicada burrow. I know we have cicadas in Canada with an amazing life history but I know virtually nothing about these tropical ones. The Amazonian cicadas apparently have a mysterious 17 year life history, but that is about all I could find out. I will need to do some research to learn more.

You want me to go up there?

When wildlife species are tagged with transmitters, the researcher will use a small antenna and a receiver to pick up the frequency of the different tagged individuals. The researcher can then plot the locations on a map to see where the individuals are spending their time. One of the things a researcher must do though is get to a high vantage point to scan as far as possible to try and locate the tagged individuals. The process is called ‘radio-telemetry’and it is used all over the world to learn more about the movement patterns of wildlife. In North America a broad range of wildlife species are ‘collared’ or ‘fitted’ with transmitters and then researchers use radio receivers to track the individuals movements. Bears, deer, wild cats (eg. cougars and lynx), as well as birds such as snow geese, seabirds like albatross and shearwaters and large raptors (eagles and osprey) have all been followed using this technique.

The Tower, Los Amigos Research Station, Peru
The Tower, Los Amigos Research Station, Peru

In the Los Amigos research area Krista and her colleagues use vantage points as well as small planes and ultralights to follow the movements of their collared animals. In fact, Krista’s brother is a pilot and has worked alongside Krista helping with data collection. If you don’t have a plane though, another way to get the telemetry locations is to climb to the top of towers and use the receiver to get locations. Krista asked if I was open to climbing to the top of one of the towers that she uses and I jumped at the opportunity! But… jimmeny crickets (excuse my language) I didn’t realize how tall the tower actually was!! Yikes…

The climb up was safe as we used a special harness to inch (or metre) our way to the top. There was no chance of actually falling and injuring ourselves but it was just the height of the tower that was the issue. From the bottom it looked like no problem… but jeeshhh it was 60 metres high (I think that is what she said)! As I approached the top I was trying to ensure that Krista didn’t see how pale & wide-eyed I was … but once I got to the top I realized that was not an issue as she was at the bottom waiting for me to reach the upper platform.

The View from the TopThe View from the Top

The view from the top of the tower was amazing … and we could hear macaws, falcons, songbirds and other forest creatures and could see for miles in every direction. There was even a rainbow stretched across the sky! Unfortunately though our time at the top was limited as it was late afternoon and we didn’t want to be trekking back to the station in the dark. The trip down was faster and easier than the trip up… but not too fast!

On our way back to the station we met up with a troop of Emperor Tamarins that suddenly appeared and then left as quickly as they came. When we got back to the station we had a very enjoyable dinner chatting with some of the other researchers at the station from different regions of Peru as well as other South American countries.

After dinner I recorded an interview with Krista which you are welcome to listen to:

Submitted by paul d NZ (not verified) on Thu, 2007/01/25 - 1:24am.
hi chap great to hear and see your enterprise.  best wishes.  Paul D
Submitted by Danny Catt on Thu, 2007/01/25 - 4:24am.

Well hello there... great to see that you are connected and have had a chance to interact with the website! I hope all is well in New Zealand and please do let me know how you and your family are doing! All is well here along the Chilean coast.

Cheerios, Danny

Submitted by Diane Monckton (not verified) on Fri, 2007/01/26 - 3:05pm.

Hi Danny!

I've been following your adventure - photos are awesome! Are you sure you don't need your own personal dentist on this trip?!! Take care.  Diane  :-)  

Submitted by Danny Catt on Fri, 2007/01/26 - 4:53pm.

Great to hear from you! I hope all is well in the UK and I promise to add more blog content and photos soon. I appreciate your kind words. Say hi to all of our friends in the UK for me and encourage them to click on the site and say hello :) Keep me posted on how you are doing.

Cheers from Chile,


Submitted by Pikake on Fri, 2007/01/26 - 3:52pm.
Hey Danny, Great to hear of your adventures again. Things are chugging along here. Everyone is so stoked about this website - so great to be involved! Look forward to your next posting!
Submitted by Natalie (not verified) on Sat, 2007/01/27 - 9:37am.

Hi Danny, it's Natalie (FWR grad 2000).  It's been so long since we last spoke (sorry), but I've been following your journey, and I think it's absolutely fantastic that you are taking the tour across South America.  I went to Peru last year and did the 4-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.  It was fantastic!  Saw lots of amazing sights.  If you get a chance, try the sandboarding activity they have there - it's wicked fun.  Good luck on your journey.



Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:36pm.

Thanks Natalie! I thought I responded to your hello many moons ago... sorry for not doing so. I have been thoroughly enjoying South America and just got back from Antarctica. I appreciate you taking the time to say hi and I hope you enjoy the posts coming up!



Submitted by Andrew Appleton (not verified) on Sat, 2007/01/27 - 10:43am.

Hey Danny!

Andrew here, have been following your blog with great interest - Would love to get down there some day! Your photos are fantastic as usual and you've had quite the adventure already even though you've not even been gone a month... The Tamarins are amazing.

Is that an Evergreen shirt I see traveling the world?!

Talking about radio telemetry was making me nostalgic for our senior year research project at BCIT- you recall we were tracking Coho Salmon using tags inserted into their stomachs. Never had to had to climb any tall towers to get a signal- fish in rivers tend to be pretty confined in elevation!

Will be looking forward to your next post!

Cheers, Andrew

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:43pm.

Hi Andrew

Thanks so much for your note and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. My connections here in South America are often slow... and I thought I had replied to you many moons ago... but alas I did not! All is well ... I am a bit behind in my blog posts but I hope to fix that in the next day or two. I am glad you are following along. I also remember very well your research project on the island following the movements of salmon with radio telemetry. I hope all is well back home... and yes, I have worn the Evergreen shirt often!



Submitted by Brent Matsuda (not verified) on Sun, 2007/01/28 - 2:51am.

Hola Danny!

Just read your recent blog - great to hear you're having such an awesome trip! And so techno-connected too!!! This is the extent of my tech - email/blogs.  I'm even still shooting slides!  Just returned from my first visit to Angkor Wat today(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat).  Have a few more days before heading back to Thailand, then south to Sumatra (main objective this trip) & hopefully spend some time in Bukit Lawang to check out the orangutan reserve.  But I'll be back in Van by Feb 19!  Ugh!  Would've loved to have romped around here a bit more. Its been 15 yrs since my last visit to SE Asia, but I miss South America (at least I could speak the language there) and your essays bring back fond memories.  But I know I will return back there.  Enjoy your trip and keep an eye out for the beavers (yes, imported from Canada) when you're down in Patagonia.



P.S. Make sure you indulge in some Malbec vino while you're there! And of  course, Pisco Sours!

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:53pm.

Hello from Argentina!

I hope your journey is going fabulously! I have not been to Cambodia, but hope to do so one day. I had a chance to see the handiwork of the Canadian beavers in Tierra del Fuego National Park as you suggested. They have quite a bit of damage in the park (seeing as they have virtually no predators). I will look forward to connecting with you when I return.

Cheers, Danny

Submitted by Marla (not verified) on Mon, 2007/01/29 - 4:34am.

Hola Danny,

Have been following your site since day 1.  I share your love of learning so has been fabulous following you thru SA.  Your enthusiasm is infectious :)  Will use your insights to plan my own trip next year.  The photos are stunning!  Was talking to a friend this weekend who alerted me to some of the enviromemental impacts of mining in the Amazon, esp the use of mercury to extract gold by the smaller producers.  Found out a bit more from the attached:


 Looking forward to the rest of the journey!


Looking forward to the rest of the journey.

Submitted by Danny Catt on Mon, 2007/01/29 - 5:51am.

Thanks so much for your note... and for the link to the more detailed information on the impacts of mining in the Amazon. Mercury has serious impacts as the article describes... and is likely the reason that the researchers at  the Los Amigos Research Station do not eat any fish taken from the river (don't quote me on that ... but that was the suggestion). I will be adding more to the blog soon... keep posted :)


Submitted by Cassie Kosterman (not verified) on Mon, 2007/01/29 - 3:37pm.
Hey Danny,  I have been following your journey with great interest and I am learning so much about South America.  Beautiful photos as always; keep them coming.  I am sitting in the critical thinking lab with GeoJohn and learning a lot but I am very jealous of all the amazing experiences you are having.  Krystal tells me its 12 days until the Yellowstone trip.  When we're trecking around in the snow I'll be jealous of you again.  Got to get back to thinking critical.  More from me later :)
Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:39pm.

Thanks for your note and I hope all is well back in the classroom... and that you have enjoyed Yellowstone and some of the other adventures in second year. Apologies for not being in touch sooner and as often as I would like. The internet connections here have varied from fast (like the one I am on now) to very very slow... I thought I had replied to your hello a long time ago... but when I checked today I see I have not. Sorry about that. I have been on the move a lot in recent weeks but all is well. The visit to Antarctica was amazing and I will tell you about it on the blog (with more photos) and when I get back. Good luck with the home stretch! How is your home decorating going?


Danny :)

Submitted by dud (not verified) on Mon, 2007/02/19 - 2:32pm.


Submitted by dud (not verified) on Mon, 2007/02/19 - 2:34pm.

send more pics and reaply to me

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:54pm.

More photos are coming... so keep posted!

Cheers, Danny

Submitted by shrimpo (not verified) on Tue, 2007/02/20 - 2:31pm.

Hello Danny I think the monkey is awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! do you like doing what you do? you must see lots of animals write back plz tnks shrimpo

P.S.the route and journey looks kewl can you take more pics their intresting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/03/20 - 12:48pm.

Hello and thanks for your message! I most certainly enjoy what I do. I am lucky to have a job that I love. I have been able to see all sorts of animals on this trip and I will add more photos soon. I hope you are well... wherever you are!



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