Meet our Naturalist guides: Raul Velasquez

Raul is a passionate and dedicated tour guide, he was born in the Chiriqui Province among coffee farms and agriculture. He became a tour guide in 2008, he actively worked in the Pearl Archipelago when tourism was just starting in Panama. Raul guided whale watching tours as well as island day tours in the Archipelago and after 5 years working there he decided to come back to Boquete and start working as a naturalist and birding guide. He is a certified naturalist guide and MarViva guide. Birdwatching at the Ceriana Farm is his favorite activity and his favorite bird is the Three-wattled Bellbird. Raul enjoys showing Boquete to all visitors and encourages more people to visit the area. He currently resides in Boquete.

Favorite Bird:  Tree Wattle Bellbird

Advertisements

When travel to a destination hire the locals by STI

Enrich your travel experiences and make sure your travel dollars stay in the host community by hiring a local guide to show you around. Local guides know the area better than any other guides. Whether you are looking for someone to guide you every step of the way or just show you around a sight or two – a good local guide can be the highlight of your trip.

By choosing a local guide, the needs of the local economy can be better met and you are creating cross-cultural relationships. However, when choosing any guide, local or foreign, it is important to consider the environmental impact of your guide’s actions. Keep these questions in mind as you choose a tour operation: Do their guides foster a respect for the environment, particularly in the areas visited, and encourage their guests to do the same? Do guides ever intentionally disturb or encourage the disturbance of wildlife or wildlife habitats? Do they keep vehicles on designated roads and trails and abide by the rules and regulations of the natural areas they visit?

environmentaltoursOnce you’ve found some local guides, here are some additional questions to ask to make sure that you and your guide are well matched, as well as to make sure you will be safe:

  • How many people will be taking this tour?
  • How much control do I get over what we do, when we eat, and when we take breaks?  How strenuous is the tour?
  • What happens if we have bad weather?
  • What happens if someone in the party gets injured?
  • Are there any special safety precautions I need to take?

The key to an excellent eco tour experience is finding a guide that you are comfortable with. If the answers to your inquiries are unsatisfactory, keep looking until you find a tour that is compatible with your needs. Your efforts will be rewarded with an excellent tour guide that is excited to show you around because he or she cares about the destination and your experiences there.

To read complete article from Sustinable Travel International click here

Army Ant

One of the most interesting ants of the tropics are the army ants, which march through the rainforest with the sole intent of devouring small creatures within minutes, turning them into carcasses.  The army is like a wolf pack, but with thousands of miniature creatures of prey merging and uniting to form one great living organism.  Army ants´ jaws are so potent, Indians once used them to suture wounds.  The determined insect was held over a cut and its body squeezed so that its jaws intuitively shut, clamping the flesh together.  The body was then pinched off and the wound left to heal.

Another feature is that, unlike most ant species, army ants do not construct permanent nests; an army ant colony moves almost incessantly over the time it exists. All species are members of the true ant family, Formicidae, but several groups have independently evolved the same basic behavioral and ecological syndrome. This syndrome is often referred to as “legionary behavior”, and is an example of convergent evolution.

Slow-moving shallows put the heat on Bocas Coral

From STRI.org

Snorkel-perfect coral reefs in the calm, mangrove-fringed waters of the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago are expected to be among the hardest hit by warmer temperatures that lead to coral bleaching and mortality, a new study finds. These shallows in Panama’s Caribbean are characterized by low water flow, allowing water to reach precariously high sea surface temperature (SST) when compared to areas with greater water movement.

Angang Li and Matthew Reidenbach of the University of Virginia tapped into a wealth of long-term monitoring data collected by STRI scientists around the Bocas Del Toro Research Station, including coral bleaching records. Their models were published this May in the journal Coral Reefs.

“By 2084, almost all coral reefs are susceptible to bleaching-induced mortality, except for a region of relatively lower thermal stress along the outer boundary of the archipelago,” they write. “By 2084, only corals exposed to open ocean currents are predicted to survive.”

corals

 

There are some caveats. The key to heat-induced coral bleaching is not a single blast of hot water, rather long-term exposure to above-threshold temperatures. This is measured in degree heating weeks (DHW). By the end of the study period DHW >8 °C-weeks were modeled for the bay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts widespread bleaching and significant mortality under these conditions. By comparison, DHW values during a 2010 Bocas bleaching event ranged between 2.3 °C-weeks and 9.5 °C-weeks.

Some coral species may adapt to higher temperatures. The study’s models predict that areas flushed by cooler water will have a higher chance at surviving well into the future.

Li and Reidenbach studied modern water-flow patterns, simulated heating scenarios for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s, and quantified local thermal stress on coral reefs. While previous studies have looked at SST impact on corals at a large scale, the researchers focused on a much smaller spatial scale, which is less common. The fine scale of their work better lends itself to the creation of mitigation strategies for marine protected areas in Bocas.

“Our findings are also likely applicable to many coral reef regions worldwide, and in particular reefs that are found in shallow and partially enclosed coastal regions with long water retention times,” they conclude.

New Tour in San Felipe: engage with our community

By Marius & Marc

EcoCircuitos staff tour Casco Viejo yesterday to take part in an insightful and poignantly tour organized by “Esperanza San Felipe”. This organization is founded by 5 previous gang members of San Felipe. They have decided to change their lives and thus created this group to bring hope, benefit and income to the community of San Felipe, neighboring Casco Viejo. The revenue of the tours is distributed amongst the community to enhance the living conditions of the people and to provide a better future for the next generation.

With curiosity and excitement we have left Casco Viejo to look for the guides and entered San Felipe. We did not have to search very long since the guys welcomed us very friendly directly behind the border of Casco Viejo to San Felipe. Although the quarter has a dangerous image, during the whole tour we felt safe because of the police appearance and the calmness of the people. The whole atmosphere was just peaceful. We made an appointment for a tour and met our guide a couple of hours later in Plaza Herrera just in front of the American Trade Hotel that was also our first attraction.

Nowadays a place for the rich and upper class, in the past it was used as headquarter for thieves, murderers and gang members. We were absolutely amazed by the dark past of the building and the radiating atmosphere. The only evidence of the dark history is the stairway that shows the graffiti paintings and signs of the former inhabitants.

After passing Manu Tigre, a former fortification, we had the chance to gain a deep insight behind Panama City’s glamourous facade by visiting the housing of the community. It was touchingly but also revealing to see beyond the tourist facade of Panama. Although we felt a little bit uncomfortable entering foreign property, the people were very open-minded and warm towards us.

Especially the street that divides the quarters El Chorrillo and San Felipe offered a lot of narrative material. In past days many gun fights took place although it was considered as a neutral zone between two hostile gangs. For a foreigner it was not possible to walk the street at that time without getting robbed. Today it is a vivid street and the entrance to Cinta Costera 1 as well as a place for backpackers, bikers and fun nightlife.

The end of the tour was a most delicious Panamanian meal with self-made cocktails. During the dinner we got the chance to listen to more exciting stories of people and their past thug live.

Especially for us it was touching since we come from a protected area in Germany. We got the unique chance to engage with local people and going one step further than the common tourist.

By offering this tour EcoCircuitos gives those people the opportunity to help themselves in a sustainable way. There is also big hope in the new president to enhance the living conditions.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact us directly at 1-800-830-7142.

Mercenary ants defend agricultural society

From Stri.org

Image

Often superior to citizen soldiers, mercenaries have played an important role in human conflicts since ancient times. A research team working at STRI discovered that a species of agriculturalist ants, Sericomyrmex amabilis, hosts a species of better-armed mercenary ants, Megalomyrmex symmetochus, who come to their rescue when their fungal gardens are invaded.

“Newly mated queens of the parasitic mercenary ants stealthily enter and establish their colonies in the gardens of the fungus-growing host ants,” said Rachelle Adams from Jacobus Boomsma’s lab at the University of Copenhagen. Adams is lead-author of the report published last week in PNAS.

With co-authors from Copenhagen and from the Department of Chemistry at the Virginia Military Institute, she found that the parasitic mercenary ants use their potent chemicals called alkaloids to defend host colonies against the raiding predatory ants, Gnamptogenys hartmani. The raiders can take over Sericomyrmex fungal gardens and nests.

During an attack, the mercenaries proved to be much more efficient than the host ants at killing the raiding predators. Even a moderate number of parasitic guest ants can provide protection against predatory attacks, effectively reducing host ant mortality.

However, the host ants pay a high price for the help. The mercenaries hamper host colony growth by feeding on the brood–the eggs and larvae–and by clipping the wings of host virgin queens, possibly to retain them as an additional work-force rather than let them disperse.

In addition, the authors show that raider ant scouts prefer to recruit to the colonies of the fungus-farming ants whose odor indicated that no mercenary ants were inside.

The inspiration for this project was a direct outcome of the University of Copenhagen and STRI supported graduate course, Tropical Behavioral Ecology and Evolution, offered in 2011, 2013 and planned for 2015. Two Copenhagen students from the 2011 course are junior authors on the study.

Adams, R.M.M., Liberti, J., Illum, A.A., Jones, T.H., Nash, D.R. and Boomsma, J.J. 2013. Chemically armed mercenary ants protect fungus-farming societies PNAS http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1311654110