Place Where You Live:

Learning to “See”: Lessons from Amazonia, Tambopata, Peru

Flying into Tambopata, Peru

Rivers of life curved graciously through the sea of dense, deep green that blanketed the landscape below.  The richness and abundance of life supported by this intricate ecosystem have called my heart.  Only then, I knew of it from books and nature documentaries.  Now, the forest seeps through my pores, the essence always remains.  For it was seven hours motorized canoe up the Madre Dios River in Tambopata, Peru where the forest taught me how to “see”.

Like a jaguar, I quietly weaved through bamboo, Mauritia palm swamp, floodplain, terra firma and lowland moist tropical rainforests.  Climbing some 25 plus meters high up in the canopy with jumar ascenders, I monitored artificial PVC macaw nesting sites.  With the care that a mother has holding a newborn child, I transported macaw chicks into a bucket that was lowered to the forest floor. The chicks’ weight, and feather, body, and beak length were measured.  It was up in the trees where I began to feel what life must have been like before the opposable thumb.

As the sun rose, it exposed speckles of all colors of the rainbow on the deep orange riverbank that stood 50 meters high and extended 500 meters long.  Using a telescope, I could identify hundreds of birds representing fifteen species of Psittacidae (parrot family).  They gathered on the clay lick daily to receive minerals from the clay and neutralize the toxins in the unripe fruits they consume.

Intact plant specimens cut by the sharp beaks of the macaws and parrots decorated the forest floor.  My curiosity and love of plants sparked a new research project on the diet of Psittacidae. The trees began speaking to me in another way. 

During my last solo climb, I noticed several Psittacidae species flying in and out of a natural cavity never documented.  Noting what kind of tree it was from above, I bushwhacked across the forest to the tree from below.  There I stood under the leguminous tree smiling, thankful for the forest teaching me how to “see”.