Saturday, November 28, 2009

Heroes of the Environment 2009

23 September, 2009
By Simon Robinson

From saving wild mountain rivers in China to measuring the Arctic's icy expanse, from protecting the lush forests of Africa to conducting a feisty online debate, our green heroes are informed by this simple notion: We can all make a difference

It's easy to think that all the hard decisions are in the hands of our leaders alone. Not true. As the men and women in the following pages prove, we can all make a difference. Pen Hadow, leader of a daring survey across the Arctic to measure the thickness of sea ice, puts it this way: "Turning off a standby light once won't make a difference. Do it for the rest of your life and that amounts to something. And if everybody's doing something, then we're moving in the right direction." We hope our environmental heroes provide both inspiration and action. Like financial pundits, most of them embrace the idea that a crisis also presents opportunity. They are heroes because they set out to discover what that opportunity might be.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The GreenTracks Naturalist

One of the great things about poking around in the rainforest of the upper Amazon basin is the variety of primates found there. In the greater Iquitos region there are at least 14 species of monkey representing two families. There are few places in the world with such a richness of species. The larger varieties such as Woolley, Spider and Red Howler monkeys are much persecuted for their meat, so seeing these often requires a bit of work. On the other hand, many of the smaller species such as tamarinds, Squirrel Monkeys, and Pygmy marmosets can be observed even close to the city. And the Pygmy marmoset is the world’s smallest primate. Goeldi’s Monkey ranks among the most elusive of all animals. And who can forget the bold red face of a Uakari? Hearing the deafening roar of Red Howlers greeting the dawn is an indelibly Amazonian experience and we always associate it with being topside on the deck, coffee, binoculars and bird guides in hand. Here’s a look at a few Amazonian monkeys…

White-bellied spider Monkey (Ateles belzebuth)

Sooty Capuchin (Cebus apella)

Goeldi’s Monkey (Callimico goeldi)

Equatorial Saki Monkey (Pithecia aequatorialis)

Red Uakari (Cacajao calvus rubicunda)


Saturday, November 21, 2009


An Introduction to Tropical Rain Forests
by Timothy Whitmore. 1998.
Oxford University Press, USA.

This new edition of Whitmore's classic introduction to tropical rain forests has been comprehensively revised and updated, reflecting the changes which have taken place since it was first published in 1990. The sections on human impact have been extended to include a new global assessment of deforestation as well as details of new research on biodiversity and conservation. Discussion of the future of the rain forests and priorities for action is incorporated. Accessibly written, and illustrated throughout with line-drawings and photographs, this is a must for biology and geography students, and anyone else who seeks to know more about the nature and importance of the world's tropical rain forests.

More info/Order


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trip report - Riverboat Expedition

We received this letter and photos from Solange Ethier who recently traveled with us on one of our riverboat expeditions.

I found GreenTracks and its great web site and it encompassed everything I needed to know about the company, boats, tours, guides, itineraries, etc. With my very first message to Greentracks, George answered promptly and was very professional. And then when I talked to him on the phone, well, that clinched it for me. He was very helpful in answering every question, offering solutions and suggesting viable options. Also, I must admit that all his suggestions were very helpful and he never failed me. I let him pick all the hotels and I never questioned his choices - never regretted it either. I think I’ll let him organize all my trips from now on! Plus, I had the feeling that Greentracks had a genuine interest in making me discover the true Amazon.

Arriving in Iquitos I was met by Joel, my Iquitos guide, who had a huge smile, and I immediately felt at ease. When we got to the hotel, and before I even walked in, Joel introduced me to Scott, GreenTracks’ Iquitos point man. A very nice introduction to my trip! I was impressed that he would be there for me. Felt very VIP. He gave me all sorts of information and time of departure for the cruise and took the time to sit and just talk with me.

Joel took me on the city tour, including the floating city of Belen, by motokar and canoe. He also took me to the butterfly farm. We had a special drink on the shore before leaving (an old man making ice from an antique manual ice crushing machine). Afterward, visited a local market where I had my first taste of the Peruvian watermelon, sitting right there in the market. I even went out dancing that night.

Solange and Joel

We went by bus to the small town of Nauta, where the M/V Clavero was waiting. Met Bill Lamar on the bus and he was very relaxed and friendly. On the way we stopped at a local roadside eatery where some of us tasted suri (grubs). NOT ME. But I tasted tacacho (mashed and fried plantain) with roasted pork and jungle grapes. Very good. I loved that stop and the local people were very friendly.

M/V Clavero

Bill Lamar and the adventurers

Ivonne Braga, Guide/Naturalist

I’m used to cruises leaving from big cities, but leaving from Nauta was the beginning of a very exciting and unique experience. We were welcomed on the ship and were each given palm-fiber bags with information and maps for the trip. Then boat rides, day and night treks in the jungle (especially the one walking over the logs), pisco sours, howling monkeys, bats, snakes, spiders; Dennis smiling and helping all the time; Rene very skillfully driving the small boat; meeting Antonio the fisherman, the natives, sloth pictures, black caiman; Ivy’s (GreenTracks guide) smile, jungle sounds, piranha fishing, etc. I really felt like an adventurer and could almost imagine myself alone on the Amazon, hearing strange bird and animal noises.... it was quite something. However, what made the cruise special was the care everyone took of us.

Group in front of a Ceiba tree

René Pérez with a Wolf Fish

Bill Lamar with a South American Coralsnake

Everybody was always smiling (even when we kept bugging them about the name of different animals we had on our cameras), very helpful, very knowledgeable, very funny, and the week went by too quickly. Of course I had charming and interesting traveling companions on this trip, too. I never once had the feeling that Bill had seen the same jungle a thousand times. We were all excited when we saw him catch the snake, handle the tarantula, etc. and he made it very different for each of us, according to our varied interests. That is a skillful art when you are with the same ‘’gringos’‘ for 7 days! There was never a dull moment on the boat. Ivy was unstoppable and we witnessed her MC skills when we met the indigenous people in the village of Bolivar, where they sang, danced and mimicked animal noises for us. Even at 06:00 hours on the deck with my coffee, Dennis and/or Ivy were there, bright and cheerful. But I must mention that everybody else on the boat owner’s crew was very nice to us, too. Always smiling, always bringing an extra glass of milk, pouring us drinks, etc. Forever grateful to Pablo for taking pictures of us.

Fried Piranha

Happy adventurers

The fact that I was escorted and given boarding passes every time I flew was impressive. The only upgrade would have been for them to carry me onto the plane! To tell you the truth, if GreenTracks traveled to all the countries I want to visit, they would be my one and only escorted tour operator! I only hope that George, Bill and their entire crew understand how much their help, suggestions, presence, efforts and behavior made this my very special birthday gift.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

The GreenTracks Crew - René Pérez

Our relationship with René Pérez, affectionately known to all as “Cosho,” began so long ago we can’t recall how it started. The grapevine is potent in the Amazon and word travels fast, so our non-traditional approach to eco-tourism soon had Cosho looking for us. By non-traditional we mean to say that tour operations tend to use guides first for their ability in English and secondarily for their deep knowledge of the forest. We’ve spent most of our lives in the Tropics, so our interest was less linguistic and more focused on woodsmen. We reasoned that it is easier to teach a second language than it is to gain deep knowledge about the rainforest.

When a grinning Cosho appeared, it took no time to realize that he was the woodsman supreme. The oldest of 18 (!) children, Cosho grew up in the riverside village of Yanamono, about four hours down the Amazon from Iquitos. His father was widely respected for his abilities as a traditional healer and Cosho always accompanied him on his treks in the forest. He got his training from his dad and his toughness from his mother. A unique blend of independence, deep knowledge of the forest, athleticism, and irrepressible impishness guaranteed that Cosho would fit right in to our program.

He’s wiry and tough as boot leather, possessed of an inquisitive mind and a boundless energy that leaves everyone wondering just when he sleeps. His tireless ministrations, from scrubbing everyone’s muddy boots to carving mementos from the forest have endeared him to all. When GreenTracks hosts film crews from Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geographic, or the BBC, Cosho is front-and-center. Invariably the producers and directors come away stating that their time would have been spent more productively filming Cosho himself!

His other nickname, and it is an apt one, translates to “multi-use,” but “indispensable” might come even closer to describing this man. From cooking (excellent cuisine!) to outboard motor repair to unerring bushwhacker, the irrepressible Cosho has become an integral part of GreenTracks’ Amazonian endeavors, and he has also proven himself to be an unforgettable character.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Ever Happened to the Amazon Rain Forest?


Friday, November 6, 2009

The GreenTracks Naturalist

The Giant Amazon Silkworm Moth (Rothschildia sp.) spends most of its life as a large, green caterpillar. The spectacular adults live only long enough to mate.

Assassin Bugs (family Reduviidae) exist in a bewildering array of forms and colors in the Amazon. All possess piercing mouthparts through which they suck the juices of their food. Some feed exclusively upon plant matter while others are predators of insects.

Orb spiders (Araneae sp.) are common in Amazonian rainforest. Some species produce webs of unbelievable strength and one has been copied to produce a material several times stronger than kevlar!

The Amazon Tree Runner (Plica plica) is a showy reptile that lives on the trunks of very large trees. The only way to get close to them is by night, when they can be found sleeping at low elevations.

Amazon Bird Spider, Avicularia urticans, feeds on a gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia). Despite their unsavory reptuations, these spiders are quite harmless and are interesting to observe.

The Yellow-spotted Sideneck (Podocnemis unifilis), known locally in Peru as "Terecaya," is a historically important source of food. Unfortunately, the habit of excavating the nests of these turtles, easily found on sandy beaches, in order to consume the eggs, has severely reduced their numbers.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

GreenTracks Bookstore

GreenTracks in association with offers a list of some of our favorite books about the Amazon region, rainforests, and flora and fauna.

All the books on the list are in print and readily available. Besides these, there are plenty of good books that are out of print. You might find such at used book stores.
Bill and George on the GreenTracks staff love to talk about books!

GreenTracks Bookstore