First, the remarkable avian diaspora would surround you, keeping pace with your descent or rising effortlessly on a current of warm air for the sheer joy of flying. There would be butterflies at the top of the canopy, and a riot of flowers, deceptively attractive to passing pollinators. You’d weave crazily through a tangle of vines, stretching from the ground up and then spreading like a fine network through the treetops. Monkeys would start at your appearance, uttering loud alarm calls and leaping out of the way, some performing incredible acrobatics with their prehensile tails and others leaping from strut to strut, chirruping and trilling as they magically hold on to perfectly vertical tree trunks. Soon you’d tumble into an epiphyte, enormous leaves breaking your fall, wet with water collected from the last rain. The earth would rush up to greet you, moist and forgiving as it cushions you and ruins your outfit. There would be butterflies there too, spectacularly colourful or with wings so transparent that they appear to fly by magic. A herd of peccaries would stumble noisily by and you would leap out of their way and climb a tree as all the jungle guides advise. Careful what you hold on to though, for any number of creatures live in a matapolo or a strangling fig that has consumed its host, not the least of which are wasps and ants that can turn a moment of wonder into one of excruciating pain.
Nevertheless it would be worth it! You would be in the last undisturbed haven on the planet filled with riotous life, ignorant of the condition of the world outside it. You would be careful of what you brought here so you could leave no mark on it. You would whisper as you walked along, fearing that your very breathing spells destruction to this complex paradise. Down here, like from your airplane, everything would seem uniformly green. Once more, life would quiet down, and you would feel a hundred invisible eyes on you, regarding you for what you are, a primate in socks and shoes, able to walk great distances on the ground but absolutely useless 3 feet above it. No opposable big toe, not a whisper of a tail and hairless, exposed skin offering a veritable buffet to the bugs.
If you were able to think at all, recovering from the shock of the fall, your mind would fill with endless questions – What just bit me? Why are these frogs so brightly coloured? Was that just the largest bee I’ve ever seen or, wait, could it have been a hummingbird? How does it all fit together? How long has it been like this down here?
A small look at what we know about rainforest ecology will introduce you to a crazy but undoubtedly dedicated group of people who have painstakingly worked to answer these questions. And you will find the questions they are yet to answer. Some of these just require hard work while others necessitate the invention of an entire methodology. Naturally, given the large variety of happenings in a rainforest, the people who study them are a violently varied bunch, ranging from the avid naturalist wading through swamps to the climate change specialist crunching numbers at his desk. They often misunderstand each other, have vociferous arguments over tiny details of all-consuming importance only to themselves, and have more ideas for new projects than they will ever accomplish in their lifetimes.
They all share the single, common belief, however, that the rainforest is rapidly shrinking, taking with it its mysteries, cures, and marvelous examples of breathtaking simplicity and complexity. They will disagree once more on the reasons to conserve biodiversity, believing in human-specific applications alone or just the right of all living things to evolve undisturbed, but they unite to struggle in their separate ways for the right of the rainforest to exist...the need for it to exist.
Our inspiration comes from falling from the sky into a green haven, learning along the way the difference between the two virulent bullet ant species, recognizing the presence of elusive creatures just by listening for them, and hiking non-stop after 300-gram monkeys for 14 hours straight.
This is how we choose to address our love for the jungle and our distress at its approaching demise. Welcome to PrimatesPeru, where science education, field research and the biological anthropology of tamarins mesh to fight for their right to an undisturbed existence.