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.

6 August 2010

A warm caimans’ welcome to Mamirauà

Fri Aug 6

« There’s more caimans than people in the Mamirauá reserve » said one of the eco-tourists boarding the same boat as us from Tefé. « Actually the ratio is 90 caimans per 1 person ! » Added the indigenous driver of the boat. That was a nice way to start the trip, making us feel the Amazon more in terms of its « jungle » definition than  « forest » (see blog Aug 2). Even though during the one and a half hours boat trip to the Reserve we saw more of the nice animals (yes, we did spot our first pink dolphins and quite some rare birds !) than the frightening ones, the prediction revealed correct when we approached the Uakari lodge.

« We are surrounded ! » screamed the children almost at the same time, looking around the boat. In any direction we looked, we spotted  black caimans (Melanosuchus niger) floating, motionless until you get very close. With a length up to 6 meters and a weight up to 200 kg, they are the most massive predator in continental America. These prehistoric looking animals, with their thick, profiled skin, hypnotizing, almost human looking eyes, and sharp teeth sticking out their long jaws, are the last terrestrials remnants of the giant reptiles of the Mesozoic and lived together with the dinosaurs 80 millions years ago. Their looks have not changed much, if you look at the fossils of that time.
With four species of crocodiles, the Amazon basin is one of the major centres of crocodilian diversity in the world, and three of these species are present in Mamirauá. All of the black caimans seem to have rallied right at the entrance to welcome us to the reserve!
The real welcome awaits us on the central platform of the floating lodge, where Bianca, a biologist and guide, and the six indigenous members of the team (guides, cooks, cleaning ladies, who all come from the four indigenous communities in the Reserve) introduce themselves friendly and warmly. « Forbidden to swim » is one of the strict rules.  That we will be easy to respect, even for a group of children that has just come back from the swimming Paradise, Noronha, with the king of the forest in the water at all times.

At the end of the day, Bianca gave a presentation about the Mamirauá reserve, which is in the middle of the Amazon, the biggest forest in the world and larger than Europe. There are thousands of species of animals and fish living here (1,500 species of fish in Amazonia, of which 300 in Mamirauá), some of which are threatened with extinction. Now we could use our experience from former expeditions, to ask the right questions. Alberto inquired about the effects of the protection programs for turtles and was very demanding on the numbers. The more you learn about the Amazon, the more questions come up. Bianca answered all of those patiently. It was already late when it was time for the last question, by Polina. ¨How high can caimans jump out of the water?¨  « About two meters, in less than a second », Bianca said. This fact was presented to us just before we made our way in the dark to the cabins over the boardwalk, where we had seen caimans floating patiently all day, as if they were waiting for the right moment to jump. Guess how easy it was to fall asleep with jumping caiman nightmares and the strange whistle we were all wondering about just as we were closing our eyes.

1 comment:

  1. Turismo racing game is a franchise that originated with the PS2. They have upgraded to the PS3 and also to the PSP.
    see more details:hotel samiria iquitos