Volunteer in South America - Amazonian plethora: biodiversity monitoring of jaguars, pumas, primates and other flagship species of the Peruvian Amazon
This expedition to volunteer in South America will take you to a remote and beautiful biodiversity hotspot of the upper Amazon rainforest. As part of a small international team, you will experience living and working in the jungle together with local biologists on an important wildlife survey concentrating on cats, primates and other flagship species of the Amazon to aid community conservation efforts and the development of sustainable management strategies. Based at a comfortable jungle lodge in a remote part of the forest, you will be working on foot in the jungle and in canoes on natural waterways, recording species, setting camera traps, creating databases, and much more. All this as an integral part of a conservation project that will preserve an intact landscape of forest for further multidisciplinary research projects.
"Just a quick note to thank you so much for the opportunity to take part in Biosphere Expeditions' conservation volunteer work in the Peruvian Amazon - it was truly an eye-opening, wonderful experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. Great company, great leader and scientist, and a really special location.” >
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Expedition contribution: £1240 (ca. €1690 | US$1820 | AU$2390) excluding flights per dates as shown below. Please note: expedition contributions are quoted in £ and the approximate € | US$ | AU$ equivalents. Try the XE currency converter for other currencies and up to date exchange rates.
Dates & meeting point: 6 - 12 Sep 2015 | 13 - 19 Sep 2015 | 4 - 10 Sep 2016 | 11 - 17 Sep 2016 (7 days) Other dates. Participants can join for multiple slots (within the periods specified). The meeting point is in Iquitos (a regional centre in Peru) and participants have to organise their own travel there. More details on this and how to get to the assembly point are in the .
Flat tropical rainforest and river systems.
Weather expected during expedition
The Amazon basin has a sub-tropical climate and the expedition takes place in the middle of the dry season when temperatures can reach highs of 36ºC (average 30°C). This period is free from the regular rainstorms that occur in the wet season and is a good time of year to be in the forest.
Base camp is a large, very comfortable riverside wooden jungle lodge / research station with single, twin and double rooms with showers and toilets.
Up to 12 team members + 1 local biologist + 1 expedition leader.
Skills & prerequisites required
None. You don't need to be a scientist or have any special qualifications - everyone can take part and there are no age limits whatsoever.
Fitness level required
Ability to walk about 6-10 km and conduct 2-hour canoe surveys (paddlling by local guides) in humid and sometimes hot weather.
Team assembly point
Aims & objectives
(1) To determine patterns of abundance and density of cat, primate and other flagship species at the Tahuayo River
(2) To monitor long-term the cat, primate and other flagship species populations in the Tahuayo River area to provide a good set of data to guide the area’s wildlife management
(3) To elucidate primate and cat population dynamics
(4) To assess the impact of human activities on primate and feline populations in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Regional Conservation Area (TTCRCA)
(5) To initiate a conservation project that will preserve an intact landscape of forest for further multidisciplinary research projects
Since the Amazon was first explored scientifically, naturalists have been astounded by its diversity of plants and animals, with the western Amazon boasting the area’s highest biodiversity. The Amazon harbours up to 300 species of trees in a single hectare (2.5 acres) as well as hundreds of species of shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants and ferns. The Amazon supports over 2,000 species of birds, almost a quarter of the world´s total and around 300 species of mammals.
This project will be based at the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Regional Conservation Area (TTCRCA). Previous studies suggest that this area has the greatest mammal diversity and particularly the greatest primate diversity in the entire Amazon.
The conservation activities performed by the communities of the upper Tahuayo River have had an important influence on the protection of the area. Logging, hunting and fishing activities were identified as serious threats and in the early 1980s a control system to prohibit the extraction of natural resources was introduced. Ten years later, in 1991, the Regional Government of Loreto declared the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Reserve and the high primate diversity was a factor in its creation. In 2007 the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Reserve changed its category to Area de Conservacion Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu Tahuayo.
Previous work in the study site suggests that there may be two species of titi monkeys (one so far unknown), two species of saki monkeys (one so far unknown), two species of squirrel monkeys (one so far unknown) and two species of night monkeys (one or both so far unknown). Much work has already been done by the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Centre, but there is still a big gap of information that needs to be filled by scientific work, especially as regards primates and cats.
A word on mosquitoes: Our study site and base are on one of the Amazon’s “blackwater” river systems. Chemically, blackwater rivers are very low in dissolved minerals and often have no measurable water hardness. The very acidic, almost sterile water, with a pH between 3.5-6, keeps parasite, bacterial and mosquito populations to a minimum. For this reason, blackwater rivers are considered some of the cleanest natural waters in the world, most often compared to "slightly contaminated distilled water." Blackwater river systems are of course not free of mosquitoes and they will be around and may be bothersome, so come prepared with repellant, but you will not be “eaten alive” or whatever other wild exaggerations you may have heard.
The rainforest is home to a huge array of animal and bird species and we may encounter the following species:
Primates: Red uakari monkey, black spider monkey, common woolly monkey, red howler monkey, brown capuchin monkey, white-fronted capuchin, monk saki monkey, squirrel monkey, red titi monkey, night monkey, saddleback tamarind, moustached tamarind, pygmy marmoset.
Cats: Jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay.
Other mammals: Tapir, collared peccary, red brocket deer, tamandua, South American coati, armadillo, tayra
Other animals present include a large variety of birds such as: Cocoi heron, capped heron, white-throated toucan, channel-billed toucan, blue and yellow macaw, scarlet macaw, mealy parrot, blue-headed parrot, ringed kingfisher, Amazon kingfisher, green kingfisher, green and rufous kingfisher, American pygmy kingfisher, black-collared hawk, slate-coloured hawk.
You will rise with the sun for an early breakfast and then during the morning conduct a survey on foot or set camera or track traps. All teams will return to base around noon for lunch and some rest. Afternoons are generally spent conducting river transect surveys, checking track traps and entering data. Additional night walks or boat rides can be organised. A cook will prepare our meals at base camp where you will return to eat, rest and have a shower.
Peru is located on the Pacific coast of South America and is the third largest country on the continent. Two-thirds of Peruvian territory is located within the Amazon basin. The expedition base camp is within the Loreto Department, which boasts the second largest protected area, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (over two million hectares) and also the first Community Regional Conservation Area of the country, the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Regional Conservation Area (TTCRCA) of 421,000 hectares.
Biologists refer to the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo area as the “green paradise” of the Amazon forest. Located south of Iquitos, just off of the main Amazon river, the reserve encompasses areas around the Tamshiyacu and Tahuayo rivers eastward towards the border with Brazil, The reserve is currently adding a million acres of undisturbed forest onto its boundary, which will then include land all the way to the border with Brazil.
In terms of biological diversity, the research area is amongst the richest in the world and the TTCRCA harbours many species that exist nowhere else. The reserve’s mammal diversity has been shown to be the greatest of any region in the Amazon, and the number of primate species is the highest of any protected area or reserve in the world. The area also harbours 240 species of fishes that inhabit rivers and lakes, 550 species of birds, such as the harpy eagle and razor-billed curassow. 87 non-flying mammal species have been recorded, amongst them the Amazon manatee, pink river dolphin, giant river otter, and jaguar. At least 14 species of primates have been recorded, including an important population of the red uakari monkey. It is also an area of great plant diversity.
For this expedition to volunteer in Peru, Biosphere Expeditions is partnered with Amazonia Expeditions and the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center. Through our expedition base at the Tahuayo River we are also involved with the local community, creating jobs for local people, providing health care, improving the educational services and building capacity through training & creating assets.
And finally (almost)
Our expeditions are not about playing the primitive, neither are we a military style 'boot-camp'. Our expedition leader and the local scientist will be by your side and we believe strongly that we get the best out of our expedition teams by making them comfortable, safe and well fed. You won’t be living in the lap of luxury, but we will do our best to make you feel comfortable and at home in your working environment, as this is the key to a well-balanced and successful expedition.
And finally (briefing)
For even more details such as activities, staff, accommodation, the assembly point and how to get there, and lots more, please access the expedition briefing by providing your full name and e-mail.
Biosphere Expeditions will never share these details with anyone.
Sign up to this expedition now
Results & achievements
Biosphere Expeditions has been active in the Peruvian Amazon since its very beginnings, with the first expedition running in 2001. Within the Amazon rainforest, the 480,000 hectare Area de Conservacion Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu Tahuayo (ACRCTT) has been identified as one of the leading hotspots for biodiversity. Data on primate population dynamics collected by Biosphere Expeditions there is helping to assist in valuable conservation studies in this region. Some examples include recording the distribution of a newly described species of saki monkey found at the ACRCTT; assisting research on the bald red-faced uakari monkey, a species so rare and little studied that it is only found in the ACRCTT and only has one previous published article, by collecting distribution and movement data; and locating families of pygmy marmosets (the world's smallest monkey) to assist much-needed research on the food requirements of this species. Studies by Biosphere Expeditions of jaguar population density are still in their initial stages, but show promise of exciting insights into the management of this keystone species. Biosphere Expeditions also utilise the services of workers from the local communities. Such conservation-related work has replaced hunting as an economic activity of the local population that lives downriver from the ACRCTT and as such has an immediate positive impact on local biodiversity and conservation.
Scientific reports and publications for this expedition are on the reports & publications page. As far as we are aware, Biosphere Expeditions is the only organisation in the world that has a direct and transparent link between the work done by citizen scientists and an expedition report. Each expedition year is matched by an expedition report for that year, which deals with the two main areas that expedition participants contribute to: funding and data collection. Chapter 1 of each report, written by Biosphere Expeditions, reviews the expedition logistics and publishes an expedition budget, which shows in a clear and transparent way income and expenditure for each expedition and the percentage of income spent on the project. Chapter 2 onwards, written by the expedition scientist, shows who collected what data, how they were analysed, what the conclusions were, as well as the conservation recommendations and actions flowing from this, and what future expeditions should do. In this way, each expedition comes full circle for its participants.
Awards & accolades
> more awards & accolades
The sound of parrots in the forest
Jaguars clashing in the forest (starts about half-way through the recording)
Read the background story to this recording here.
|Lore of the jungle
View article 1.22 Mb
|It's a jungle out there
View article 7.46 Mb
|Jaguar journey: battle of the titans
meeting jaguars face-to-face on expedition
|How volunteers can help with big cat conservation
View article 5.75 Mb
View article 1.00 Mb
|NOTE that the articles below are about a previous Biosphere Expeditions Peru Amazon volunteer project, in a different location and with more emphasis on birds. But they should give you a good impression of what it will be like on an Amazon rainforest expedition with Biosphere Expeditions.|
|The rare twitch project
View article 1.52 Mb
Deep in the Peruvian Amazon
|Discovering clay licks
View article 918.93 Kb
View article 1.47 Mb
|Zu Sechzehnt Lehm lecken
View article 501.27 Kb
|Das peruanische Dschungelbuch
View article 719.08 Kb
"Biosphere Expeditions provides a unique and valuable opportunity to monitor different taxa of wildlife including primates, birds and our endangered species of felines such as jaguar, puma, ocelot and margay through transect census, camera traps deployment and more, all of this at the Tahuayo River basin, one of the richest areas in the Amazon in terms of diversity of species. I'm very excited about this collaboration for people to volunteer in Peru, as it will enable me to perform many research and conservation activities, which would be impossible without the help from Biosphere Expeditions and its teams of volunteers."
Alfredo Dosantos Santillán, Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center, Peru.
"Biosphere Expeditions makes research and conservation projects a reality in countries where funding for such projects is hard to obtain. Our research in the Amazon rainforest of Peru is no exception. Without Biosphere there would be no chance of organising such a large-scale worthwhile research project to volunteer in South America."
Emma Hume & Juan Julio Durand, Las Piedras Research Station, Peru.
"My name is Aldo Ramirez Mejia. I am 21 years old and from the local community at Lake Sandoval. While I finish my studies in Puerto Maldonado, I work with the Tambopata Macaw Project studying macaws and claylicks, which is supported by Biosphere Expeditions. Traditionally, my family has fished, farmed and hunted, but thanks to Biosphere Expeditions and its ecotourism and conservation opportunities, I have been able to dedicate my time to my interest with the local wildlife with which I grew up, rather than hunting it. Thank you very much."
Aldo Ramirez Mejia, Lake Sandoval community, Peru.
"Just a quick note to thank you so much for the opportunity to take part in Biosphere Expeditions' work in the Peruvian Amazon - it was truly an eye-opening, wonderful experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. Great company, great leader and scientist, and a really special location.”
Katherine Marshall, 43, Australia.
"All the very best to everyone at base camp. It’s been a wonderful experience and we miss the jungle and all the lovely people we met already."
Tine van Bortel & Barney Eden, 35 & 37, Belgium & UK.
"It was so wonderful to spend time with you. Really enjoyed the experience. Definitely hope to see you in the future, somewhere in this big, happy world."
Eva Ho, 40, USA.
Feedback from team members about their experiences and reasons for coming (on/from various expeditions).
“Just a big thank you to everyone involved in making this the trip of a lifetime.”
Phil Bannister, 45.
“The expedition has been among the greatest experiences of my life.”
Peter Bird, 63.
“I enjoyed the expedition immensely and loved my experience as a volunteer in South America. This place is truly a paradise and I hope all our assistance will help to preserve this habitat. Thanks for a very memorable trip!”
Wendy Wood, 41.
“I spent a wonderful time here in the rainforest and I’m so thankful to everybody who helped to make it so perfect! Thank you!”
Eveline Häusler, 31.
“An excellent trip, which exceeded all expectations.”
Charlie MacLaughlan, 41.
“Thank you very much for this amazing experience. I will absolutely come on another expedition with Biosphere Expeditions.”
Jany Dredge, 30.
“A wonderful time, truly pleasurable company and the experience of a lifetime in combination with a worthwhile cause.”
Deanna Steele, 35.
“I really liked the diversity of surveys that we could work on and the freedom to choose our daily activities. It was incredible to be able to go out on surveys one-on-one with a local guide.”
Melissa Craddock, 48.
“This expedition was absolutely amazing….the scientists and staff were really passionate about the expedition.”
Johannes Goerg, 30.
“I feel it was a professional, safe, well-organised expedition with top leader, scientists and accommodation. The place is amazing.”
“Another excellent expedition. A great experience.”
Bob Hussey, 48.
“A great expedition. I really feel I’ve learnt a lot in the last two weeks and had the chance to experience the beauty and wildlife of the rainforest. Thank you to everyone involved.”
Katie Bunting, 33.
“A great expedition which was well organised……had a fantastic time. Thanks to all.”
Janice Thompson, 33.
Expedition diary / blog
See what's gone on during past expeditions via the expedition diary and blog.
Frequently asked questions
What's the accommodation like and how do I get to the assembly point?
A description of the accommodation and some pictures are in the . All participants organise their own travel to the assembly point, which is an easy to find place in-country, and exact instructions on how to get there at what time are in the . > more
Is it just young people roughing it, i.e. will it be for me or am I too old/young/unfit?
A common misconception is that conservation expeditions are full of youngsters roughing it and boozing. With Biosphere Expeditions nothing could be further from the truth! Our typical participant is in his/her mid-30s to late 70s (average age 42.3, spread six months to 87 years). It is rare to have fewer than five nationalities, typically from Europe, North America and Australasia, on the expedition, all united by the common interest in wildlife, wilderness and conservation. If you would like details who is already signed up, then just get in touch. > more
Do I need special skills or fitness?
Apart from the ability to communicate in English and a diving qualification for our diving expeditions, there are no special skills (biological or otherwise) required to join our expeditions, and there are no age limits whatsoever. If you have special needs, please contact us to find out about the suitability of the experience of your choice. > more
How good does my English have to be?
If, with the help of a dictionary and a little patience, you can understand what we are talking about here, then don't worry - you'll be fine.
Will I be safe?
Yes. Although we are not in the business of controlling nature and expect you to take some responsibilities, safety is our top priority. Our three key watchwords are ‘safety, science, satisfaction’ - in that order. We always have emergency procedures and backup systems in place. Biosphere Expeditions has an excellent safety record with no serious accidents, long-lasting injuries or let alone deaths since its foundation in 1999. > more
Can people under 18 attend?
Yes, because there are no (upper or lower) age restrictions. With their parents' consent they can also come by themselves.
How do I sign up and when do I pay?
Signing up is easy: Use the and pay a deposit of £300; the full balance will be due four weeks before the start of the expedition. If you don't want to sign up online, you can also download paper forms to fax or snail-mail.
What's included and what's not included?
Once you have made it to the assembly point and we’re on our way, we pay for everything apart from the obvious such as personal souvenirs, luxury drinks, phone calls home, etc. (and in many places we go to there's no need for money anyway ;). Travel arrangements to the assembly point are for you to make and pay for. Additional costs may include passport, visa and airport fees, your personal gear and preparations, and travel insurance, but not much more. There are certainly no hidden fees from our end.
Where does my money go?
On average at least two-thirds of your contribution will benefit the project directly and locally, the rest will go towards administrative back-up, as well as researching and setting up new expeditions. Within six to twelve months after your expedition you will receive an expedition report with full details on how your expedition contribution was spent on running the expedition and supporting its research work. We can put as much as two-thirds into the project, because we are a non-profit/charitable research and conservation organisation, not a large scale tourism business, which means that we can keep expensive overhead costs to a minimum. We also do very little advertising and costly marketing, concentrating instead on press, media and research publication work. > more
> more FAQs and detailed answers in text and video format are on the FAQ page