Explorer Paul Rosolie and his team uncovered a trove of endangered and rare Amazonian wildlife in the forests of Madre de Dios along the lower Las Piedras river. This region is being maimed illegally and uncontrollably by loggers, gold miners, hunters, and drug-dealers, owing to the recently constructed Trans-Amazon highway. In an effort to conserve the Las Piedras watershed, Rosolie’s team set out to showcase the incredible animal diversity there.
“In the last month there was one jaguar shot and another hit by a car, plus a guy on my team saw loggers kill a macaw—it’s bad. People don’t realize how delicate wildlife is. For the wildlife on the Las Piedras, the subject of the videos, the situation is urgent.” Rosolie explains.
According to him, if lower Las Piedras was saved from being defaced, then it would be “the final piece of the puzzle” in what could possibly become the greatest network of protected areas in the world, connecting Manu National Park and Alto Purus National Park to Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and Madidi National Park in Bolivia.
They set up camera traps in several hidden locations and managed to capture no less than 30 Amazonian species on video, including seven that are currently imperiled.
Rosolie tells mongabay.com in a 2013 interview:
“Most people think of the rainforest and they picture animals everywhere, but in reality, even in healthy forest, you could walk all day and see nothing, but the camera traps show a different view. The footage not only allows us to better understand what species visit the colpa and when, but it allows us to observe natural behavior: tapir and deer visiting with their young, birds and deer sharing the colpa, the ocelot tracking an agouti.”
Jaguars, tapirs, and giant armadillos feature among this catalogue of creatures that they secretly filmed. The wild is full of wild things, however, and undertaking such an expedition into the thick of Amazon did not come without its dangers. He reveals that on more than one occasion he was stalked by jaguars and had the feeling that he was being watched while checking his videos. Footage from the camera proved that there were, indeed, jaguars walking nearby while he was in plain sight and unprotected.
Rosolie has always had a love affair with the Amazon and even captured one of its rarest species – the short-eared dog.
It happened while he was in pursuit of a blue morpho butterfly on the Tambopata River trail (used for Brazil nut collection). Rosolie admits that he mistook it for a bush dog initially, but was soon reminded that both species were extremely cryptic and incredibly rare to encounter. He explains further,
“Neither appear in photo-books or documentaries about the Amazon because they are too secretive to film or photograph, and since I had never seen one in the wild before, I was a bit taken off guard.”
The short-eared dog is so difficult to find that until a few years ago, their conservation status in the IUCN was described as Data Deficient. Rosolie adds to this,
“Their area of highest density seems to be the Madre de Dios, though they seem to exist only in the most inaccessible and remote reaches of the region. Virtually nothing is known about breeding or social structure, in fact, they are so rare that we don’t know how to classify them.”
The Madre de Dios region of Peru connects a system of areas that have the greatest biodiversity on Earth, even setting world records in several species of birds, butterflies, and dragonflies.
The recent completion of the Trans-Amazon highway caused a lot of damage to the Las Piedras area. Innumerable logging roads were cut into the forest, causing a massive influx of dwellers from the Andes. Construction of houses and farms in these pristine, untouched areas is happening at a dangerously rapid rate, clearing the forest away day by day.
“Because so much of it remains so intact, we have the chance to ensure it survives. The Andes/Amazon interface is the engine that powers the rest of the Amazon, a system that has an incalculable influence on not only South America, but also the entire planet.” Rosolie says, making a sincere case for the help that this region needs.
Rosolie and his team of explorers aim to spread awareness by using their camera traps and the power of social media as a means. The 2,000 or so videos he captured in the forests of the Amazon were turned into an award-winning short film, An Unseen World, that included copious narration to tell the incredible story of this place.
“For people who might not be so familiar with the animals of a given ecosystem, or know what challenges they face or what makes them unique—you have to give some context and presentation—make it possible for them to join in too.”
“I think these videos have the power to tell a story, to give people a glimpse into a world that was never visible before camera traps. I want to use them to help protect the region.”