Created in 2006 by science journalist Paola Catapano, MINIDARWIN aims at taking groups of children on scientific expeditions coached by real scientists and science communication professionals.

On the occasion of International Year of Biodiversity 2010, theMiniDarwins are ready to leave on their third expedition, to the Amazon Forest, devoted to biodiversity and its socio-economic spin offs. The MiniDarwins will be coached by biodiversity scientists and an ecological socio-economist specialised in ethno-ecology to experience life with an Indigenous population in the Amazon Forest

During the trip, we will publish on this blog a diary of the expedition and some of the photos, videos, interviews and texts we are producing for later publication on our website, book, reportage and documentary film.

11 August 2010

Hike with monkeys

Wed Aug 11

Today we’ve been hiking for two hours through the forest near the lodge. It was a heavy track, but it was worth it. We have seen several monkeys, like the howler and the black faced squirrel monkey, some beautiful and enormous black-white-red-yellow caterpillars, and today’s trophies: the Uakari monkey, which is the symbol of the lodge, and the footprints of a jaguar in the mud, which were the size of Maxine’s hand. You don’t believe it ? Look, we’ve got a photo..
But not of the real animal..
After dinner two researchers, Virginia and Natalie, came to the lodge to tell us about the Boto, the pink dolphin of the Amazon, and about the Mamirauá based program to protect the dolphins of the Amazon. It was a very clear presentation about these wonderful mammals, and also an introduction to biodiversity, evolution theory, and geological formation of the continents and oceans. Because all these factors play a role in the amazing story of the pink dolphins.

They descend from dolphins from the Pacific ocean, which where separated from their family 20 million ( !) years ago, when the Andes mountains have risen up, thus disconnecting the Amazon from the Pacific and turning it into a large lake. The dolphins have adapted to the circumstances in the rain forest, by developing a long nose, which they can use to catch fish in little holes between the roots of trees, and fins which they can use as paddles to swim backward, which is necessary for a big creature living in the forest. It was much later that the Amazon reversed its flow and found its way into the Atlantic ocean. This very ancient mammal has no equals left on our planet and is threatened because local fishermen use it as an easy bait (due to its very stinky meat when dead) to catch other fish very fashionable on Colombian markets.
Especially Alberto showed his concern about the Boto  and impatiently asked the possibilities of setting up nurseries with breeding programs of pink dolphins which later can be reintroduced in nature. Unfortunately, Virginia had to answer that pink dolphins do not do very well in captivity. She also told us that there is so much more to investigate in the lives of these beautiful animals. For those of you who think the days of the great discoveries in the world of animals and plants are over: THEY ARE NOT! You can still become a discoverer, just like Charles Darwin.
Do they really exist??

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