Biodiversity in Aquicuana
One of the main objectives of Sustainable Bolivia is to learn more about the biodiversity of the Aquicuana Reserve and, therefore, to know what species live there (animals, plants, mushrooms). This will help to better understand the natural reserve in order to protect it and follow its evolution over time. In addition, this will allow the development of the community-based ecotourism project in Aquicuana and offer visitors activities to discover nature in this region rich for its biodiversity. Being a student in biology, I feel lucky for being able to study the biodiversity in the Aquicuana Reserve. It is a great opportunity to be able to help Sustainable Bolivia in my field and to live at the same time an experience that will contribute a lot to me in my curriculum and in my personal life.
What do the volunteers do?
In order to complete the databases, we often go with other volunteers to visit the reserve to try to find species that have not yet been identified. On the field, the objective is to observe and take pictures of the found species. To manage this, sometimes it is necessary to walk several hours in the jungle and make a path using a machete. For nature lovers, it is a true paradise! Thanks to Erik, the founder of the NGO, we have the opportunity to sleep in cabins built in the reserve (in the Pisatahua Ecolodge). This allows us to go out at night and study night species. You might think that at night, the jungle sleeps and that everything is extremely quiet, but on the contrary, at night the sounds are stronger and life seems to wake up in every corner. A terrifying and magical noise at the same time, life is felt everywhere, you have to experience it once. Back to the volunteer house in Riberalta, we continue to identify the species that we have taken pictures of. If one of these species has not yet been identified, we add it to the database. Identification is sometimes difficult, but we are fortunate to have the support of a local biologist. It is also possible to find help from other specialists through the Internet. For the last project of the NGO on amphibians, we have had the help of the University of Texas for the uncertain identifications.
One of the projects of the NGO is to create a Field Guide of the animals of the Reserve that will be published on the NGO’s website and will be showed to visitors. The objective is to offer local and international tourists a tool to identify the species they will see during their stay in Aquicuana. At the beginning, the field guide will contain pictures of each species found in the Reserve with its name. Then, it will be completed with a description of the physiognomy, the way they live and the noise emitted by each of these species. Some animals, such as felines, are very difficult to observe. In this case, despite the absence of data, animals not observed but probably living in the reserve are also added. To complete our database, we use information from local biologists and we also obtain information from other professional field guides.
More than working on biodiversity
Sustainable Bolivia not only works on this biodiversity project. The NGO also has projects providing support locally. For example, every week I have the opportunity to go to help an orphanage by organizing activities for the children. This orphanage is run by two couples who have to take care of everything and receive no help from the State. It only works through donations from a foreign foundation. The participation of the volunteers greatly helps the few people who have to take care of the children seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. In addition, the hours we spend with children are a very important life lesson for us, who often come from more developed countries.
Coming to Riberalta to help Sustainable Bolivia is also coming to discover another culture. Living several weeks in a country with a totally different culture from ours is an experience that opens the mind. We discover another way of thinking, of living, of behaving with people and this allows us to realize that our reality is just one among many.