Jaguar monitoring at Brownsberg Nature ParkJaguar ecology at Kabalebo Nature ResortImpact of logging and hunting in the Matawai area (Upper Saramacca River)Mercury pollution in local communities of Suriname

Jaguar monitoring at Brownsberg Nature Park

This project was carried out at Brownsberg Nature Park, the most visited ecotourism destination in Suriname. This initiative has been ongoing since 2012 and is the 4th longest camera trap study on jaguars in the species’ distribution area. The first part of this project was funded by the VLIR (Vlaamse Inter-universitaire Raad) till 2016, and then it continued based on both private and other subsequent funding thereafter. The focus of the research was initially on the impact of ecotourism on the species of medium-large terrestrial mammals in the park. The results of this groundbreaking work was culminated in several publications on the subject (Ouboter et al., 2016; Ouboter et al., 2021). All 29 forest-dwelling species known in Suriname, were registered for Brownsberg Nature Park. The data was also utilized in by Vanessa Kadosoe for her MSc research on jaguar ecology, which resulted in a pioneering thesis on the natural variation of population density of the jaguar (Kadosoe, 2020). Over the course of nine years, 27 jaguars were recorded, with nine individuals occurring as long-term residents, by staying in the area for three or more consecutive years. However, the relatively short tenure of these resident jaguars, compared to other studies, suggested the disturbing likeliness of poaching within the area.

On March 17th, 2021, NeoWild signed an agreement with WWF-Guianas to continue the monitoring of the jaguar population, while both expanding the study area and covering the gold mining areas at the foot of the Brownsberg Mt. The outcome of this study showed that despite challenges, the jaguar population on the mountain plateau remained relatively stable. Notably, no jaguars were observed in the camera footage near the mining areas, underscoring the importance of continued monitoring and conservation efforts at Brownsberg Nature Park. The contract with WWF-Guianas ended in December 2022.

NeoWild is looking for new funding opportunities to continue the mammal monitoring at Brownsberg Nature Park and to deploy this crucial scientific study to train students in biodiversity assessment e.g. camera trapping and for thesis research. Brownsberg Nature Park is an ideally located biodiversity hotspot which makes the area the more suitable for biodiversity research and education. Monitoring in this area has also benefited the park by early detection and reporting of possible threats the the authorities e.g. expansion of illegal logging or mining activities within the boundaries of the park.

- Kadosoe, V.S., 2020. Long-term monitoring of the population status of the Jaguar (Panthera onca) at Brownsberg Nature Park, Suriname - following the royal bloodline of an apex predator. MSc thesis Institute for Graduate Studies and Research (IGSR), Anton de Kom University of Suriname.
- Ouboter, D.A., Kadosoe, V.S. & Ouboter, P.E., 2021. Impact of ecotourism on abundance, diversity and activity patterns of medium-large terrestrial mammals at Brownsberg Nature Park, Suriname. PLoS ONE https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250390
- Ouboter, P.E. & Kadosoe, V.S., 2016. Three years of continuous monitoring of the large terrestrial mammals of Brownsberg Nature Park, Suriname. Acad. J. Suriname 2016, 7: 643-660.

Jaguar ecology at Kabalebo Nature Resort

During our first visit to Kabalebo Nature Resort in March 2019 we immediately saw the potential to use this area to study the ecology of the jaguar in an almost pristine area. The main challenge of studying jaguars in an undisturbed area is the lack of a trail or road network, as findings from our previous studies have indicated that jaguars favor roaming on these man-made pathways. Consequently, cameras placed along these pathways are far more successful in capturing these felines in contrast to camera traps positioned randomly in the forest. In this aspect, Kabalebo Nature Resort presented a unique advantage, because even though it has trails in the forest, the frequency of hikers is still very low. Transportation in the area is also mainly by boat.

On February 5th, 2021, NeoWild signed an agreement with IUCN Netherlands to study the population ecology of the jaguar at the Kabalebo Nature Resort area. We positioned 16 camera stations in the area, 7 along the Kabalebo River and Zand Creek, 9 further inlands. The camera trap stations in this area are mainly along the river (Kabalebo river and the Zand Creek). However, the annual flooding of the riverbanks during the rainy season is a recurring challenge of this study. Consequently, every year the cameras along the shore must be removed in time before the flooding and replaced after the water has subsided. An additional complication has become the unpredictable nature of seasons (the start of the flooding)  during recent years, most likely due to climate fluctuations.

The contract with IUCN Netherlands ended in December 2022. Fortunately, the Stout Groep, a private company in the Netherlands, has stepped forward as a new ally. Their donation not only allows us to continue jaguar research in the Kabalebo area, and even extend our camera network further upstream. Currently the network consists of 37 camera stations, covering 135 km2.

Knowledge on the ecology of jaguars and other Neotropical wildlife in an undisturbed area, is of the utmost importance for comparisons with disturbed areas. Most studies of the jaguar in Central and South America have been carried out in predominately disturbed areas.

White morph of the tayra we observed several times at the study site.

Impact of logging and hunting in the Matawai area (Upper Saramacca River)

Neowild has joined hands with the Amazon Conservation Team Suriname (ACT), for mammal monitoring in the Upper Saramacca River region, in an endeavor that intertwines the well-being of local communities with the conservation of nature. The Amazon Conservation Team Suriname (ACT) works with the local Matawai communities, whose members voiced concerns about a troubling trend in the local terrestrial fauna. They observed a decline in game species and are faced with the difficult task of traveling longer distances to secure a successful hunt. A relation with logging activities on the right shore of the Saramacca River was indicated as the underlaying cause.

In response to this pressing issue, ACT reached out to NeoWild, forging a vital partnership that came to fruition in March 2022. Together, we embarked on a mission to investigate the intricate relationship between logging, hunting, and the changing dynamics of wildlife in the region. Thirty camera stations were positioned in the area, with the majority covering the area where most of the villages and logging activities are concentrated. The left shore of the river, e.g. along the river or along hunting trails is also being monitored. Camera stations were also strategically placed along the Tukumutu Creek, a location with limited human disturbance that can be considered as a control site. Several ACT rangers, from the local community, underwent comprehensive theoretical and practical training in camera trapping. The intermediate results we have obtained thus far are promising, providing substantial data to draw meaningful conclusions. The collaborative project will come to an end in January 2024. It is the intention that ACT will take over the practical monitoring in the field, and that NeoWild will carry out the data analysis.

Mercury pollution in local communities of Suriname

NeoWild is a partner in the Caribbean Consortium for Research in Environmental and Occupational Health (CCREOH), together with Tulane University, University of Alabama, University of Pittsburgh and the Anton de Kom University of Suriname. One of the objectives of the consortium is to investigate gold mining–related mercury contamination of indigenous food sources, specifically fish. Within this consortium, NeoWild has been mostly involved in environmental sampling and the supervision of one of the PhD students involved in the project. Recently an important paper was published proving through mercury isotope analysis, the correlation between high mercury levels in fish in pristine areas, and atmospheric deposition of mercury (Vreedzaam et al., 2023). Other publications are in preparation.

- Vreedzaam, A., Ouboter, P., Hindori-Mohangoo, A.D., Lepak, R., Rumschlag S., Janssen, S., Landburg, G., Shankar, A., Zijlmans, W., Lichtveld, M.Y. & Wickliffe, J.K., 2023. Contrasting mercury contamination scenarios and site susceptibilities confound fish mercury burdens in Suriname, South America. Environmental Pollution 336, 122447.

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