Expedition Background

Background

The Beni Savannahs are located in the tropical lowlands of northern Bolivia’s Beni Department where they cover an area of around 160,000 km2. The ecosystem is endemic to Bolivia & considered a critically endangered ecosystem by The Nature Conservancy. Historically, a lack of technological advancement, coupled with reduced accessibility has afforded preservation of astonishing biodiversity in the remote region  with records including: 509 bird species, 146 mammal species and more than 5000 species of plant . Further, considering the significant lack of research conducted on the regions biota to date, it is believed there may still be much to uncover regarding its diversity

The Motacu Palm Attalea phalerata is one of the most dominant species of tree that inhabits the Beni savannah reserve. It is a large palm species reaching heights of 20 metres and it is important for the conservation of the critically endangered blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularisas the majority of the diet of this species is made of the fruits from this palm. Due to this it is thought to be of high ecological importance. Furthermore it has a high economic value in Bolivia, with its leaves being used for thatch roofs, and the oils are also obtained for local remedies and cosmetics.

Research conducted during the 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012 Glasgow University Bolivia Expeditions has highlighted the importance of the Reserva Barba Azul not only for the blue-throated macaw but also for several other threatened and near threatened species, including the cock-tailed tyrant (Alectrurus tricolor), sharp-tailed tyrant (Culicivora caudacuta), black-masked finch (Coryphaspiza melanotis), dark-throated seed-eater; (Sporophila ruficollis) and greater rhea (Rhea americana). The area shares many mammal species with the Amazon rainforest further north and several with the neighbouring Gran Chaco grasslands to the west. During the previous expeditions a wealth of large mammal species have been recorded by camera traps, including the near threatened maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) . vulnerable giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and near threatened  pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus), which were commonly encountered along transects and as well as frequently photographed on camera traps. Additionally, track surveys found some evidence for margay (Leopardus wiedii); and pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo) was recorded on camera trap for the first time during Bolivia 2012 Expedition. The discovery of the pampas cat in the reserve is in fact a range extension for this species. More common elements of the mammalian fauna include abundant howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya), at least two armadillo species, numerous capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) and crab eating fox (Cerdocyon thous).