EPISODE 5 | FRAGMENTS OF EXTINCTION
The circadian portrait of a primary forest
We finally worked in a revitalized forest by the rain, using all the moments that there was no rain in the last two weeks, the first of which to Estacion Cientifica Yasunì, then completing the sampling of major habitats (terra firme forest, swamp forest, salt marshes, riverbank forest , Igapó). The place with the highest global rate of biodiversity is also the place where the oil industrial exploitation produces no noise control, and more unfortunately. Due to the topography of semi-flat land where we operated, we have verified in the field that each well or pump station produces concentrically within 10-12 Km a noise area every few minutes cycles, the stronger the closer you get to it . The work conducted by Fragments was then made primarily trying to get away as much as possible, either by browsing to the southeast and west of Rio Tiputini, or exploiting the troughs in the paths on foot, but not always able to 'hear' only the geophonies and biophonies of ecosystem. Also every time it was possible to raise to the level of the crown, through the climbing by Alex D'Emilia for placement of microphones on Seiva trees, about 40 meters of altitude, some times we thought we were seeing a rising sun, which unfortunately was instead the horizon glow of gas burned of mining: other sources of pollution, luminous this time.
On February 15th we then moved in a secluded area, on the east, on the edge between the Ecuadorian Yasuní and the border of Peru, the Tambococha and Jatuncocha lagoons, emerging slightly from the red zone of biodiversity rate. Our local contact has enabled to do a collaboration between the National Park Yasuní and Fragments of Extinction, which has allowed us to make base on the entryway check point of Rio Yasunì protected area, collaborating with a park ranger, expert, named Ramiro, big connoisseur of the area assigned specifically to us. We passed then the our situation from controlled persons to controllers, in a very remote area, without mining activity and no hunting allowed at least since 10 years. The work around Jatuncocha was extraordinary because, except for a few motorized canoe used by natives of Rio Yasuní, there was no human acoustic interference. The impression was that especially the birds were many, not frightened by hunting and by the constant roar of the wells, then with vocalizations much present, regular and systemically organized. After three days of inspections and excellent recordings spot, I decided to groped the three-dimensional record of 24-consecutive hours right there, in one of the areas with less human disturbance of the entire western Amazon. We then installed the temporary camp between the influx of Rio Yasunì (brown-yellowish water) and the output stream of Tambococha lagoon (water tanninose very dark). Choosing the exact spot where to work the circadian portrait, the most important of the entire registration campaign in Ecuador, it has been driven by all the noise considerations, logistical, ecological, and especially by finding a point at the intersection of several habitats, to maximize the simultaneous presence of the highest number of species. The circadian portrait has seen an impressive amount of species and neighboring sonic gestures, including nocturnal scary moments, with freshwater dolphins who hunted and vocalized surfacing right in front of the microphones at the confluence of the waters, 3 groups of howler monkeys at dawn from three sectors of the surrounding space, a water bird playing on the proximity of the microphones, a chorus of frogs at night which individuals could be heard hundreds of meters away, all with the reverberant field and the echoes generated by the forest "walls" riverbank around; the whole is result in 458 GB of data on contemporary 34 audio channels. The workstation for that night had been prepared to withstand the rain - which is on time, suddenly came to the eighteenth hour, causing many problems - with a hammock and mosquito net for the night rest of only one person, for constant controlling of the microphones and electric and general digital performance.
But when you stay alone, in the dark, in a primary forest, the fear and the unknown abyss can be stronger and make you scream, run away. Nature, in the dark, manifests its primitive form through sound: very rich, horrible, uncontrollable and wonderful at the same time, sensitive ecosystem and simultaneously insensitive to your presence. The only way to stay and win the instinct to escape as the reason to eliminate the risk of collision with the courses of nocturnal animals of all kinds (including snakes, cats and stinging insects of the most varied), it is what I have lived and experienced 'getting into the stream' of the sound forest. It's just sharing the development of ecological organism by hearing - which at night it is the only sense of perspective and location by the animals around you - that makes you overcome fear. I spent alone the whole night sleeping small pieces but somehow always in a vigilant way to listen and write on the diary during the night for recording all sound emergencies and the important moments. Alex and Nika in the morning took the victuals, important to break the concentration and the thinking of continuous annoyance due to insects that attack every flap of uncovered skin, such as hands and part of my face out of the mosquito net for head.
In the following days, I did many other records in the lagoons and in the forest terra firme, and then the exhausting arrival to bog (swamp forest) near Jatuncocha with more than 4 hours of total way with all the technology in the shoulder of Alex, me and a guide, and boots that sank into the mud. The recording itself is later proved a bit boring and disappointing, but this is the work: places that you reach after hours of walking which then turn out not ideal, because you can not listen to them before but you just have to assume that will you find there and have the fortune to install the equipment in the right place at the right time. In reality, however, each time, the hours of walking offer so many stops for an insect with unthinkable form, a wooden arboreal giant by an amazing architecture, mushrooms of all kinds, mosses, vines, unthinkably phosphorescent leaves, a highway of conveyor ants with edges of leaves of plants literally disassembled into pieces, a worm of rainbow colors or, the night, a snake on the path (we have encountered 4 here so far). The path itself is the beauty of the forest.
After this remarkable work, which culminated in the re-registration of one of the rivers tributaries to Jatuncocha lagoon, one of the primordial places and undisturbed ever experienced until now, tomorrow we move on Rio Napo and we will go in a more west lagoon nearby a Kichwa community with sustainable ecotourism development model has kept the habitat completely intact.
Rio Yasunì (0°58'53.22"S - 75°25'32.47"O), Ecuador, 21st February 2016
Photos by Alex D’Emilia e Nika Saravanja