In February 1995, my old friend Bruce Miller provided me the opportunity to experience the Neotropics in Belize . . . .
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The trip involved testing the efficacy of the Anabat system for working on non-whispering bats. The equipment proved to be invaluable and prompted us to initiate a long-term collaborative effort. We are building a comprehensive library of vocal signatures and systematically sampling throughout the country to update distribution maps. Visit the Belize Biodiversity Information System.
In January 1999, we had the opportunity to gain access to the extreme southern portion of Belize and collect the first inventory information for that part of the country. There are no roads in this area and access is by boat only. Tom Bright and Cindy Liles, who manage the Wildlife Conservation Society Glover's Reef Marine Research Station provided us with a research vessel, the Meddy Bemps, for river travel. They also made their sail boat, Tempest, available for us to live on while foraying up the rivers. The trip was a tremendous success and incredibly fun. As an added bonus, Glenn Zorpette (an editor/writer with Scientific American) and Steve Winter (a photographer with National Geographic) participated. Glenn produced an article about the trip in the June 1999 issue of Scientific American and Steve has kindly given permission to use his photos.
In April 1999, Bruce Miller and I were asked to present a workshop on the use of Anabat hardware and software . . . .
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The request came from José Ochoa G who operates an NGO call ACOANA (Asociación Venezolano para la Conservación de Areas Naturales) and an affiliate with the Wildlife Conservation Society. José arranged for us to present the workshop at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Maracay, Estado Aragua. Participants included 11 students from three Venezuelan universities and 10 professional (biologists, agronomists, veterinarians and environmental technicians), including two Colombian researchers. The logistics were handled by the ACOANA administrative assistant, Elisandra Delgado. I believe it would have been impossible to have had such a successful workshop and field trip without her tireless work. Likewise, an interpreter was essential and that task was filled by Javier Sánchez with the Museo de la Estación Biológica de Rancho Grande in nearby Limon.
After a three-day workshop, including nightly recording at various localities on the campus, we took a select group to five locations in northwestern Venezuela covering a variety of distinct habitat types: 1) Estación Biológica de Rancho Grande, Parque Nacional Henri Pittier, Estado Aragua; 2) Refugio de Fauna Silvestre Cuare, Estado Falcón; 3) El Limón, Parque Nacional Henri Pittier, Estado Aragua; 4) Parque Nacional Guatopo, Estados Miranda y Guárico; and 5) Embalse Agua Fría, Parque Nacional Macarao, Distrito Federal. We were able to build on the workshop experience providing practical application of the Anabat system, begin establishing a library of vocal signatures, and introduce the use of harp traps. Bruce had purchased two Austbat harp traps and left them for permanent use by José and his team. We were able to make great progress on the library as well as enjoying a excellent field trip with wonderful people.
José and Javier maintained contact and shared acoustic files for discussion and analysis. As part of conservation work on the Peninsula Paraguaná, José introduced me to the possibility of an undescribed new species of mustache bat. It has been listed as a small subspecies of the widely distributed Parnell's mustache bat (Pteronotus parnellii). He offered the opportunity to travel with them to collect vocalizations as one parameter that might help to determine the specific status of this animal. I jumped at the chance. As part of the trip, I was able to stay with both their families, which was a real treat. When we arrived at the peninsula we were able to stay at the community-owned biological station. Each night after bat work, we were able to enjoy a spectacular view of the lights from Aruba while relaxing in our hammocks on the back veranda of the station. To top the trip off in style, they took me into a limestone sink hole cave at Piedra Honda that housed a variety of bat species including an estimated 10,000 lesser long-tongued bat (Leptonycteris curasaoae) and endangered species in southwestern United States.