An even closer encounter with a Mountain Tapir in our Rio Zunac Reserve!


A few days ago I posted Alyssa Kullberg’s video of a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) that came to dinner at our research station in the Rio Zunac Reserve. On the same trip, she and our staff ran into this fearless Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque). Our guard Santiago Recalde caught the encounter on video.  These are extraordinary sightings of rare animals that seem to have lost all fear of humans, after being protected by us for the last dozen years.

Lou Jost. Fndacion EcoMinga

¡Un encuentro aún más cercano con un Tapir de Montaña en nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac!
Unos pocos días atrás publiqué el video de Alyssa Kullberg sobre un Oso de Anteojos (Tremarctos ornatus) que vino a cenar en nuestra estación científica en la Reserva Río Zuñac. En el mismo viaje, ella y nuestro equipo se encontraron con este intrépido Tapir de Montaña (Tapirus pinchaque). Nuestro guardia, Santiago Recalde, captó el encuentro en video. Estos son avistamientos extraordinarios de animales raros que parecen haber perdido todo temor a los humanos, después de haber sido protegidos por nosotros durante los últimos doce años.
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano-Flores

Spectacled Bear close encounter in our Rio Zunac Reserve

Dinner guest in the Rio Zunac Reserve. Video by Alyssa Kullberg.

[Vea traduccion en Espanol abajo]

Two weeks ago we posted our reserve guard Santiago Recalde’s video of a close encounter with a fearless Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Last week Santiago returned to the same reserve with Alyssa Kullberg, a Fulbright Scholar who has just arrived here to spend the next nine months studying our new Magnolia species. They have just come back from the reserve this evening with news of their an astounding encounter with another of our large mammals, a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus).

Alyssa told me that during the whole 4 hour hike from the roadhead to our very remote research station, they were seeing fresh Mountain Tapir, Spectacled Bear, and Puma tracks on the trail. They stayed a week in the reserve, and one day, while they were in the forest, a Spectacled Bear entered the station and stole some food. Later, while Alyssa and Santiago were eating dinner, the bear came back for more food, and approached the station quite closely (even though Alyssa and Santiago were loudly conversing) until it caught their scent. Even after catching their scent, the bear did not seem very frightened, as it paused to think about eating a young palm tree next to the trail.


Spectacled Bear coming to share dinner with Alyssa and Santiago. Note the Magnolia buds on the table in the foreground; most neotropical Magnolia species open only at night, so we have to collect the buds and care for them until nightfall. Photo: Alyssa Kullberg.

While we have seen tracks around the cabin before, and have had some minor bear damage in the past, this is the first time a bear has been this bold. We may be the victims of our own success in protecting this reserve– the animals are losing their fear of humans, so we may be heading for the kinds of bear problems that are common in North American national parks. We will try to be extra careful to protect our food, though this will not be easy. In any case, I’d rather have this problem than the problem of not having bears!

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

Encuentro cercano con un oso de anteojos en nuestra Reserva Rio Zuñac
Hace dos semanas posteamos un video de nuestro guardia Santiago Recalde acerca de un encuentro cercano con un tapir de montaña sin miedo en nuestra Reserva Rio Zuñac. La semana anterior regresamos a la misma reserva con Alyssa Kullberg, una becaria Fullbright que ha llegado aquí para invertir los siguientes nueve meses estudiando nuestra nueva especie de Magnolia. Han venido de regreso a la reserva esta tarde con noticias de su sorprendente encuentro con otro de nuestros grandes mamíferos, un oso de anteojos (Tremarctos ornatus).
Alyssa me dijo que durante las 4 horas de caminata desde la cabeza del camino hasta nuestra estación de investigación remota, vieron un Tapir de Montaña, un Oso de Anteojos, y caminos de Puma en el camino. Estuvieron una semana en la reserva , y un día, mientras estaban en el bosque, un Oso de Anteojos entró a la estación y robó algo de comida. Después, Alyssa y Santiago estaban comiendo la cena, el oso vino de regreso por mas comida, y se acercó bastante a la estación (a pesar de que Alyssa y Santiago conversaban en voz alta) hasta que atrapó su aroma. Incluso después de atrapar el aroma, el oso no se veía muy asustado, mientras se detenía a pensar en comer una palmera joven al lado del sendero.
Oso de anteojos ingresando para compartir la cena con Alyssa y Santiago. Tomar en cuenta que los brotes de Magnolia en la tabla en el suelo; muchas especies de Magnolias neotropicales se abren solo en la noche, así que tenemos que colectar los brotes y preocuparnos por ellos hasta que caiga la noche. Fotografía: Alyssa Kullberg.
Si bien hemos visto algunas pistas alrededor de la cabina antes, y hemos tenido daños menores en el pasado, esta es la primera vez que un oso de anteojos ha sido tan audaz. Es posible que seamos víctimas de nuestro propio éxito en la protección de esta reserva: los animales están perdiendo el miedo a los humanos, por lo que es posible que nos enfrentemos a los problemas de osos que son comunes en los parques nacionales de America del Norte. Intentaremos tener mucho cuidado en proteger nuestros alimentos, aunque esto no será fácil. En cualquier caso, ¿preferiría tener este problema que el problema de no tener osos!
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga.
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano Flores



Mountain Tapir close encounter


Our pair of Black-and-chestnut Eagles (Spizaetus isidori) has been nesting again in our Rio Zunac Reserve. The Peregrine Fund has hired two of our guards’ family members, Abel Recalde and Andi Salazar, to monitor this nest and record details of prey items, etc. We’ll report on that data after the Peregrine Fund finishes analyzing it.

A few days ago, as Abel climbed the trail to the nest, he encountered a completely tame Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque). This endangered mammal is a special treat to see. He excitedly pulled out his cell phone and made the video posted above at close range. It is strong evidence that our wardens are doing a good job; our animals are loosing their fear of humans, because no one hurts them anymore.

By the way, the eagles successfully fledged a baby this year!


Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) baby, Generation 2018. Photo: Abel Recalde and Andi Salazar,  Peregrine Fund

Lou Jost. EcoMinga Foundation

An ornate creature from our Rio Zuñac Reserve


Click on any of these to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Katydid: Moncheca sp. (M. elegans or new species). Those jaws bit me many times during my photo shoots. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga


Different species of insects are primarily distinguished by their male genitalia. We found both a female (with sword-shaped ovipositor) and a male individual of this species. I include the genitalia here in case there is some expert who can help decide whether this is a new species. It is similar to Moncheca elegans but the colors are not right. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

My friends Tom Walla and Johanna Varner, professors at Colorado Mesa University, came to visit our Rio Zunac and Cerro Candelaria Reserves last month. They set up a light to attract night insects. They were especially interested in moths, and I’ll write more about that later. But along with many amazing moths we attracted two feisty individuals of this spectacular katydid. They were very active and often did a raised-wing display to try to scare me. They also really enjoyed biting me with their giant bright yellow mandibles. I became fascinated by them. They stayed alive for two weeks, allowing me to observe and photograph them (I found that they like to eat flowers), and when they died I mounted them and photographed them even more.

They belong to the genus Moncheca, which contains some of the world’s fanciest katydids, like M. pretiosa. Our individuals are most like M. elegans, but the colors don’t match an expert-certified photo on the internet. The male genitalia are the definitive way to tell them apart, so I provide a photo of the genitalia above in case an expert looks at this post. This exact form has been seen and photographed by my friend Andreas Kay, and also by someone named Moira who submitted her picture of it (from Sumaco, in eastern Ecuador, not far from our reserve) to an internet bug ID site, to no avail.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation



Remarkable mimicry

2017-07-19-15.27.39 ZS PMax

Spider that mimics a frog in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

I’ve been away again, this time gone for almost three weeks with a great group of students from Stanford University led by Dr Margaret (Minx) Fuller. We spent most of our time in the Amazonian lowland rainforest, but I also took them to EcoMinga’s Rio Zunac and Rio Anzu Reserves. Throughout the trip we found amazing examples of mimicry. The most unusual mimic was this spider, which was found by students Dylan Moore and Natalia Espinoza on our Rio Zunac trip. At first they thought it was a frog. It holds its forelegs in a position reminiscent of the hind legs of a frog, and its abdomen mimics a frog head, complete with eyes. I imagine that small birds or insects that would catch a spider might not want to waste energy or risk their lives trying to catch a frog.This spider seems to be related to the famous “bird poop spiders” but I don’t really know. If an arachnologist reads this, perhaps he or she could add some information about this?


Above and below: Spider that mimics a frog in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


Note added July 26 2017: Andreas Kay in nearby Puyo reports that he has also found this spider twice, and thinks it is in the genus Stephanopis; see his picture here:

It is always a pleasure to browse his site, Ecuador Megadiverso.

I found another exquisite mimic in our Rio Anzu Reserve the next day. This leaf-mimic katydid would have passed unnoticed except that when we walked past, it went into its hiding pose and moved its two antennae together so that they appeared as one. That motion caught my attention, but it still took me a minute to see the katydid.


A leaf-mimic katydid in our Rio Anzu Reserve. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

The best way to see exotic katydids, grasshoppers, and crickets is to walk in the forest at night. Here are some others we found in the eastern lowlands on this trip.


Dead-leaf katydid in the Amazon. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMnga.



Grasshopper in the Amazon. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.



Amazonian nymph katydid. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMimnga.

Mimicry is not limited to insects and arachnids, though. Birds can can also disguise themselves. The hardest birds to spot in these forests are the potoos, which look like dead stubs on tree branches. When some species of potoo sense danger, they even lift their heads to point straight up, enhancing the illusion. They sit all day on their chosen perch, and only hunt at night, sallying for large flying insects. The females lay their single egg carefully balanced on the broken-off tip of a branch, and the baby grows up looking just like an extension of the branch.


Great Potoo. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.



Common Potoo. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Thanks for looking,

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation.