• Diego Balbuena

Tree Top Manu I: The beginning

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Read the next entries: Tree Top Manu II: Diamante – Tree Top Manu III: Romero – Tree Top Manu IV: Shipetiari- The adventure zone
Or in Spanish: Tree Top Manu I: Primeros días

26/04/16 – 05/05/16

The team and I arrived at the Manu Learning Centre (MLC) on a Tuesday afternoon, after a long journey from Cuzco. We split up into two groups; one went to Shintuya to run butterfly, bird, amphibian and reptile surveys, while the other one, that included myself, stayed in the MLC to set up arboreal and terrestrial camera traps along the different trails in the reserve. We also collected fruits around the trees we were going to set the cameras on, as their diversity and/or abundance might be an important variable that correlates with the diversity and/or abundance of animals recorded on or around each tree.

Before we split up, we spent one night in the MLC, when a friaje (cold front) arrived during a thunderstorm and the strong, cold winds blew away most of the clothes in and out of the rooms, while the pouring rain soaked them on the ground; it was a bad night to leave my towel hanging to dry. The temperature dropped to 15°C overnight, and the hot rainforest weather became cold and humid, as it is in Lima. Thunder and lightning were also stronger than I had ever experienced; one lightning struck very close to us, quickly followed by the strongest thunder I’ve ever heard.


Unfortunately, everyday something went wrong.

  1. A tree we were planning to climb had fallen during a storm.

  2. The string we used to get the rope over the tree broke, so Andy had to shoot a new line over the tree, which is usually not an easy job.

  3. We were going to set up a terrestrial camera trap in a cage, as cameras had gone missing around that area in the past. We took the wrong key with us, so we had to chop down a small tree to retrieve the camera and the cage. Luckily it was just a small tree, which, as we learnt, is not a good place to set up a camera with a cage.

  4. An arboreal camera that we had set up was not positioned properly, so we had to go back to the tree, which was not close to the lodge, and fix its position.

  5. Sometimes the problem was not us, but the cameras just didn’t want to work.

All these things and more delayed us, but as we made mistakes (over and over again…) we learnt a lot. It’s better to make these kind of errors here at the MLC, where people are always available to fix them, than on the far away communities which we won’t visit again any time soon. The first week I started to understand more about the methodology, as well as learnt from my own and others’ mistakes; I hoped we didn’t get delayed on the other sites and were able to set up all 130 cameras!

On Thursday the 5th of May we left the MLC on our way to a lodge near the Native Community of Diamante to place 30 more camera traps, 20 arboreal and 10 terrestrial. After Diamante, we headed to Romero inside the Manú National Park to set up 10 camera traps and study the herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians); then, we traveled up-river to the Native Community of Shipetiari, were a native was pierced with an arrow last year, in an attack perpetrated by the Mashco-Piros, a group of uncontacted indigenous natives. Due to this incident, last year’s expedition did not include this site; however, it’d been over a year since the incident and things were looking safe. After Shipetiari we planned to go to Palotoa,but we didn’t hear anything from them.

Overall, the beginning of the adventure was an incredible experience, and be sure that there were a lot of awesome and unexpected things to come! Be patient as I write and translate the story of our adventures in Diamante; with more photos and some videos!


#Ecology #Mammals #Amazon #CameraTrapping #Arboreal #TreeTopManu #Rainforest