This is Yohamir Casanca Leon. He works on the biological monitoring team at the Tambopata-Bahuaja Biodiversity Reserve project in Peru.
A key component of the project is to monitor and record the health of the ecosystem and the flora and fauna it protects – as the reserve covers an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot area. This work is critical for understanding the impacts of human influences on the protected forest and to predict and prevent any activities that degrade, deforest or disrupt the ecosystem.
Three times a year, Yohamir undertakes extensive observations on line transects in grids through the forest in the protected area. He and his team conduct this exercise in different seasons to record wildlife and ecosystem health under all conditions: the dry season (in the northern hemisphere summer months), the wet season (in the norther hemisphere winter months) and in the ‘transition’ season in around October/ November. This is such an extensive and detail-oriented job that volunteers are called in to help walk the grid transects and make observations. This is one of the ways that local communities are integrated into the work of the project to understand and protect the forest.
As part of this exercise, Yohamir monitors priority species such as the giant otter, jaguar, harpy eagle, peccary, and spider monkey all of which are classified as high conservation value species. Many of these species are ‘umbrella’ species, that indicate the health of the whole forest because they depend on other animals (are large predators such as the harpy eagle), have a large range (such as the jaguar) or are very sensitive to human activity (such as the giant otter).
He also records any cases of illegal human activities in the forest, such as illegal gold mining. As Yohamir says, “if we monitor it gives us early warnings so that we or the chiefs in charge can make decisions about what is happening in the area and how to address it.”
One of Yohamir’s other responsibilities is to monitor the various species of macaws at different locations across the reserve. Macaws are an iconic bird of the Tambopata-Bahuaja National Reserve, as it has one of the highest concentrations of and also largest known clay lick in the world. Hundreds of macaws (including the endangered Blue-Headed Macaw) and parrots of up to 15 species congregate daily to ingest the clay that has high concentrations of minerals with detoxifying qualities the birds need to stay healthy.
Yohamir is an avid bird fan. Every time he goes into the forest he takes with him a huge, sensitive microphone and tape recorder which he uses to record bird sounds. He has recorded and can identify hundreds of bird calls and gets excited when he comes across a call he hasn’t recorded yet.
Yohamir commented “the most amazing moment I have experienced in this job is when we were sailing along the Chunchos River in the Bahuaja Sonene National Park. We had met a jaguar that was sunbathing on a tree, and the boat approached a bit and the jaguar wanted to jump into the boat. Then we were all super scared, but we never stopped taking pictures and filming the jaguar.”
Yohamir’s job is essential to maintaining the health of the forest through identifying active threats and human conflict, as well as assessing the success of the project work. It is one of the 632 jobs that is being supported at the Tambopata-Bahuaja Biodiversity Reserve Project through climate finance to address the drivers of deforestation. We thank our clients who work to mitigate their carbon or landscape footprint through purchasing carbon credits for making this work possible. See here for our business solutions that help companies address climate, deforestation and development targets through supporting projects like Tambopata.
Read about the ‘Amazoncam’ programme that is also part of the biological monitoring work to capture on camera and record critical data about wildlife in this biodiversity hotspot.