As I was wrapping up my time in the Peruvian Amazon this fall (see post Science Takes Time), I briefly met with a colleague recently arrived in Peru to embark on his first Amazonian adventure: Javier Quiroz. Coming to the Amazon laden with several bags of ropes, harnesses, and carabiners, Javier was about to set out with Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Bowler to the small village of Sucusari for 10 days of climbing the majestic trees of the Amazon basin. And he was clearly very excited about it all.
As lead arborist at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and a native Spanish speaker, Javier is perfectly suited to not only help place camera traps as part of a study on primates in the Amazon but also to teach Mark and a local ground crew to safely scale the trees on their own. The ability to manipulate the ropes to reach the forest canopy offers a unique view and a great camera angle for capturing primates on the move. This skill will allow Mark to better study the recovering populations of many monkey species, including howler, squirrel, and capuchin monkeys.
It is hardly surprising that the great amount of animal expertise collectively held by the staffs of the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, has repeatedly proved valuable to the researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Perhaps less obviously, the expertise of the horticulture departments has also proven invaluable on research projects. In tasks ranging from helping geneticists sort through and identify rare coral plants or helping to plant 600 Tecate cypress seedlings as an insurance policy for the species against San Diego fires, the horticulturalists at the Zoo and Safari Park have been eager to lend their skills to the various research projects presented to them. (This on top of their regular duties tending to the beautiful gardens, landscaping, and exhibits of their home facilities, not to mention the growing and collecting of the browse that feeds many of the animals within the parks!)
Javier’s opportunity just happened to take him up the beautiful buttressed trees of the Amazon, encountering both spectacular bromeliads and painful bullet ants along the way.
Christa Horn is a research coordinator with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.