March 5, 2015, Lima, Peru — You can tell that a lodge caters to birders when they serve a full, sit-down breakfast at 4:30! Gunnar, Glenn and I were joined for predawn pancakes today at Pousada Amazonas by a guide named Silverio Duri, one of Peru’s best local birders and conservationists. Silverio is from a native community of several hundred people called Infierno, located along the Tambopata River. In the early '90s, he helped envision and manage the project that became Pousada Amazonas.
Amazonas may be unique among South American bird lodges in how it is run. The idea for an ecolodge in this area was originally hatched by an outside company called Rainforest Expeditions, but they decided to work with the community of Infierno (partly because the community controlled access to the best forest) to build the lodge. Twenty years later, the plan is to hand all control over to the community by 2019, and the lodge, as a successful business, is now one of Infierno’s main sources of income. They have been able to build a new school because of Amazonas, and the lodge trains and employs many local people. The closest parallel I can think of in the United States are the many casinos operated by native tribes—but obviously that is an entirely different business! In any case, Pousada Amazonas is a shining example of how ecotourism can motivate conservation and local prosperity.
Silverio signed on as one of Amazonas’ original managers and became interested in birds while guiding guests at the lodge. Along the way, a motorcycle accident sent him to Lima for a significant hospital stay, and he took the opportunity to learn English (which Silverio now speaks better than many Americans). He returned to Amazonas, stepped down as a manager, and became a specialized bird guide. Silverio knows the birds here better than anyone—we spent several hours with him this morning at Amazonas’ canopy tower and on several trails, and he knew every sound in the forest. If you ever get the opportunity to go birding with Silverio, take it—the man is a legend!
Mid-morning, we said goodbye to Pousada Amazonas, and I said goodbye to Gunnar and Glenn (my excellent birding companions for the past three weeks!), and to Peru. In 21 days of bouncing around this country I’ve seen 784 species of birds (488 of which were new for my year). It’s time to move on. This afternoon I caught a flight from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco, then to Lima, and will take a redeye to Quito, Ecuador tonight. The Big Year rolls on!
New birds today: 15
Year list: 1468