Yasuni Wildlife

Picture of cicada At the Napo Wildlife Center they are fond of pointing out that while Yasuni has phenomenal biodiversity, it doesn't have all that much biodensity. That's another way of saying that there's a whole lot of wildlife here and you're likely to see some of it, but it's much more difficult to see a specific animal or set of animals. Most of the bigger animals are nocturnal, deep in the jungle and very challenging to spot. In 4 days at Yasuni we saw primates, birds, giant otters and reptiles but this cicada is largest animal of any sort we saw on dry land. To be fair, this is a rather large cicada probably around 5 inches (12 cm).
Picture of parakeet As mentioned on the NWC page we spent a morning hiding out in the blind at a parakeet lick. While it involves a couple hours of sitting around it was at least protected from the weather and the chairs were more comfortable than assorted muddy logs along a trail. It doesn't keep the mosquitos out, but then nothing really does. Our 17 percent Deet was entirely useless in Yasuni. Our Bulgarian friends had 100 percent deet, although it actually ate through the plastic bag they kept it in. I think something in between 17 and 100 might be the way to go. There is a parakeet in the center of this picture.
Picture of parakeets There are 10 parakeets in this picture at least. They approach clay licks in a method that can only be described as frustratingly cautious. Over the course of an hour or more a flock slowly approaches it, with the more intrepid members moving closer a branch at a time. If anything happens to spook them which could include a raindrop falling in the wrong place, the whole process has to start over again. Once they finally get there and the forerunners avoid being eaten by any hidden predators, the game is on. Hundreds of parakeets descend to the muddy bit of clay where they get salts and other dietary needs. The following pictures show the frenzy. These are almost all cobalt-winged parakeets.
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Picture of clay_lick3 It's pretty hard to capture a parakeet in flight, especially in poor lighting conditions. It should be obvious enough from this picture though why they are called cobalt-winged. The noise through this process is intense. It builds as they get closer to the clay lick. Once they're near the ground, watching from the blind becomes a matter of hiding as any movements could reset the process. Once they've settled though, we could be fairly bold with our movements and it's unlikely they would've been able to hear any noise we made even if we'd been shouting.
Picture of parakeets_flight They can be spooked. They tend to fly directly away from the lick which in this little grotto meant directly at the blind. If you've ever wondered what several hundred cobalt-winged parakeets flying directly at you looks like, this would be a good start. The actual video we took looks like a scrolling version of this that goes on for almost a full minute.
Picture of five_otters Giant Amazon River Otters. They're found only in S. America, generally deep in primary forest. There's a handful of places across Suriname, Brazil and Peru where they can be found. There are a very small number in Ecuador but one family (they are very social) live near the lagoon at the Napo Wildlife Center. This is actually a major reason we decided to go to the Napo Wildlife Center. We saw them twice. Once at a great distance after which we were able to paddle up a creek to within a few hundred meters of where they were hanging out in some tall grass and foliage. We couldn't see them there but we could hear the wide and bizarre range of noises they can make. The Spanish name for them translates as 'river wolves' and some of the barking/howling noises they make are reminiscent of wolves. The second time we saw them we were again in the canoe and they swam in front of us (not particularly close) on their way across the lake. There are five of them here, the largest are about 2-2.5 meters (6-8 ft) long including the tail. (Yes, those numbers are correct).
Picture of swimming_otters They look like extremely long versions of river otters found elsewhere in the world. When passing us, one member of the family would rise partially out of the water and watch our canoe, sort of an aquatic version of a meerkat. They're very fast swimmers and covered the length of the lagoon in just a couple minutes, surfacing only 4 or 5 times in the process.
Picture of marmoset Primates are probably the easiest animals to find in the jungle. They're much noisier than most everything else (except maybe Hoatzin), and they tend to move in relatively large families so the fact that a half dozen tree branches are waving wildly about generally gives them away. This is one of the quieter members who also refused to look at the camera. It's a marmoset. When they do move, it's so quick it's hard to follow them.
Picture of wooly_monkey1 Our native guide, Hugo, led us on a bit of bushwhack to track down a band of wooly monkeys. Not long after we found them, they found us. They stopped whatever they had been doing, became relatively quiet and the bolder males came about halfway down to the ground to get a better look at us.
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Picture of squirrel_monkey The most photogenic of the monkey species we saw were the squirrel monkeys. These pictures are a little blurry because they were taken from a moving canoe in low light at dawn. This troop of squirrel monkeys crossed the river directly overhead as we floated downstream.
Picture of squirrel_monkey2
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Picture of tree_anole This picture of a tree anole comes from high in the kapok tree that the Napo Wildlife Center has their canopy platform in. We saw assorted lizards down on the canopy floor as well but there was rarely much light inside the jungle, so our photographs here in the treetops came out substantially better. Flash photography is highly discouraged as it has an impact on the wildlife.

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