Down by the fish ponds a rock-lip allows water to slip over from the upper to the lower pond. Hummingbirds would swing in to inspect the area before dipping themselves into the flow. They had good reason, as we later observed, a Peruvian Boa snuggled its body between rocks with its head at the ready, just inches from the rock-lip.
I spent most of my days recording activity data on the newest addition to the Spectacled Bear population at Chaparri. Pier (pronounced Pierre) is an eight-month-old cub who is learning the ropes---but more like the tree limbs, rock cliffs, cacti, boxing and wrestling techniques with Collique, his Mom. To be precise, he is quite cute and the main attraction for the Peruvian tourists who come from Chiclayo or Lima mostly.
Another part of my job was to find Pier and keep him in view through the telescope, which was at times a challenge, so that the visitors could ooh, aah, and coo ¨que preciosa . . . ¨ I was positioned on a small adjacent hill to the area where they were located. Pier and Collique were in a large (approximately four hectares) enclosure of bush, tree, cacti, and hillside with cliffs and caves. On occasion, they were difficult, if not impossible, to locate. Over time, of course, I discovered the preferred hangouts and would always start my morning search in those locations. But, Pier is in the "age of discovery" so he is not as set on routines as elders tend to be. Usually, they would become visible within a half hour, but they would sometimes lounge and play in a somewhat ¨grassy¨ area that was out of view from the telescope position. Yet most tourists were able to get a view, even if it was only black fur draped across the limb of an algarrobo tree with one or two legs dangling down.
My days of observation showed me how a bear cub experiments with its ability and experience to test out the strength of limbs, branches, or a cactus. One day, when I was looking for him he appeared in his favorite algarrobo tree, where he had fashioned four different bedding areas from vines and branches. He saw me and came out on the nearest branch to get a better look---this is when I got my best photos of him. Curiosity, experimentation, and growing experience, I think Pier will do well with his liberty once it comes.
Chaparri is a rescue center for wild animals found in domestic settings, abused, or injured with a good chance of recovery. Once they are strong and demonstrate their ability to survive on wild sources of food they are radio-collared and released. A number of Spectacled Bears have been released since Chaparri´s inception eleven years ago. In fact, one female bear released from the reserve, brought back her partner a couple of years later. Apparently, they wanted una fiesta on their behalf. Currently there are seven bears at Chaparri, and all but two are set to be released at some point, including Pier and his mother. The two bears that will remain are special cases. Cuto was rescued from a circus, where his teeth were filed down and his claws cut. He will never be able to survive in the wild. But he now lives in a one hector enclosure and seems to be content with his life. In fact, I would say ¨Hola Cuto, como estas,¨ every morning on my way up the hill. He almost always responded and seemed to enjoy people talking to him. The other bear, a female, is too old to learn survival skills and she will spend her remaining years at Chaparri in a large enclosure.
When I was on the hill watching the bears I was was usually accompanied by lizards. Small sized guys, like Koepcke´s Curly-tailed, Western Curly-tailed, or the Lined Ameiva. On one occasion a Tumbesian Tegu appeared after making sufficient russling noise in the underbrush to get my attention. Before I saw what it was, I assumed it would be a snake, but no--it was a whitish-silver lizard about three feet long. It was rooting its nose into holes and crevices between rocks looking for insects and small lizards. All my smaller friends had disappeared. She or he didn´t seem to care about my presence, with a bit of distance, as I was photographing its passing.
The "lodge," where we stayed, was a regular crossroads for Green Iguanas, which are green when they are young and grey when they are full grown adults, up to five feet long. Even when they are adults they climb trees for fruit and to sun themselves on unobstructed branches. On land they usually move casually, but if they feel threatened, as they apparently did when Kirsten and I saw them in a pit near the Condor Station, they will take off at a good clip, seeming to run on their toes. They are rather impressive guys.
I was a bit frustrated with my inability to photograph the Pacific Parrotlet that appears to travel in pairs and would light on a branch, then be off before I could get either one in focus. Groups of Red-Masked Parakeets would fly by daily, but rarely land, and many times I could hear them but not see them. Then, of course, the hummingbirds which are difficult even when you are ready---lot of blurry shots. So I continue to practice.
I could go on about the Sechuran Foxes who would trot about looking to see what sort of scraps were available. Or, the White-tailed jays, always eager . . . But you´ll just have to go check out Chaparri yourself. It´s well worth the effort.