These wildlife videos were captured using movement sensitive cameras during community mapping work with the Waorani and Secoya people. In the face of relentless pressure from extractive industries this technology provides a means of showing the world the irreplaceable ecological richness within their territories, especially at specific sites such as mineral wallows and critically important migratory corridors.
Bush dog (Speothus venaticus). One of the most rarely encountered mammals in the amazon, this small canine patrols a creek at night in search of its preferred food- the nocturnal paca that frequents the water at night in search of aquatic snails. Although here it is alone, it more commonly hunts systematically in a well-organized pack to flush animals, mainly large rodents, out of burrows to other members laying in wait for the kill. Although relatively little is known to the world science, the indigenous experts speak of this dogs’ nomadic behavior during year-long migratory routes, and of its requirement for large, un-fragmented territories and connecting corridors. On rare occasions, bush dog pups have been caught and raised into exceptionally good hunting companions, but apparently all domestication attempts have failed.
White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari). With a range from southern Mexico to the southern tip of Brazil the white-lipped peccary is of the most important animals in the diet of nearly all neo-tropical traditional peoples. In this scene, a group of over 100 peccaries visit a mineral wallow- a natural formation of low lying, mineral-rich, clayish water. These frequently visited sites are critically important ecological features to peccary and a multitude of other animals, such as the tapir, brocket deer, and a host of birds. The peccary wallow for hours, drinking the mineral-rich water, and rooting for delectable snails. Ecologically, the peccary performs an important role in determining tropical forest composition and structure through their incessant rooting and churning of the soil, much as a rototiller. Furthermore, many large seeds and palm nuts will not sprout unless it is scuffed within their powerful jaws and pressed deep into the ground by their hooves. Their presence is an important indicator of a large, healthy and un-fragmented territory.
Jaguar (Panthera onca). The jaguar is one of the most powerful animals in the rainforest; an animal of deep spiritual importance to indigenous peoples. Traditionally, healers aspired to attain the strength, power, and sensory abilities of the jaguar through intense training, trances, and ingesting medicinal plants. Jaguars were almost hunted to extinction in the Western Amazon, but have made an amazing comeback in more remote, protected indigenous territories. Venerated for its beauty and strength, and unparalleled mastery of the forest by nearly all indigenous people over its range from Mexico to southern Brazil, the jaguar is also at the center of countless, bone-chilling myths and bedtime stories. Unique among all the wildlife footage captured over the past year, the native elders remark on how the jaguar senses the camera, ears up and tail flicking back and forth, he feels being watched. The silent awe and admiration broke into chuckles when the jaguar takes the slightest of missteps into a hole in the creek bed…. “Hah! not so different from us afterall” (group of Secoya elders).
Grey-winged Trumpeter (Psophia crepitans). In this video, with strategically placed watch guards on either side of the river, a flock of trumpeters take an afternoon bath, a scene that would be nearly impossible to witness without the use of motion cameras. A common game bird throughout the Amazon, the trumpeter chicks are also highly sought to be carefully raised as family pets. The trumpeter has an exceptionally keen eye for venomous snakes, and is even said to play the role of a baby-sitter in protecting children from biting flies and other pestering insects when parents are working in the gardens. They are also trained as hunting companions that, rather vocally, accompany hunting dogs during wild boar chases. The most skilled stalkers of this region will spend their lifetime in the forest attempting to approach this bird to observe a purported “sport” that the trumpeters play by tossing a small, carefully chosen, white stick back and forth amongst the cackling flock, as if in a game of rudimentary rugby.
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As a result of invasion, conquest and resource extraction, indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been struggling to protect their cultures from extinction.