At the Southern tip of Colombia, the bustling river port of Leticia lies on the Northern bank of great Amazon at the junction of Brazil and Peru. No vehicle roads link the rest of the country with this frontier town of some 40,000 people and all access is by air or river. To the North and East of Leticia stretches dense Jungle and Amerindian villages.
The vast department of Amazonas is home to some 17 distinct, mainly indigenous groups, who live much as their forebears did. Many of these live in small villages on tributaries to the Amazon and need aid. There are few places where life flourishes in such abundance. Sloths move languidly in the high branches, small mammals scutter around in the undergrowth and sleek Jaguars prowl the forest. The screech of macaws shatters the silence and overhead king vultures wheel on the thermals. Some 580 species of birds and even more butterflies live in this green wilderness. The rivers teem with fish as well as the legendary boto or pink dolphin, often rising with its grey cousins to snuff and snort beside canoes. Moving quietly in the Jungle there is a good chance of seeing numerous monkeys, iguana, ant eaters and along the river banks spot black caiman resting in the shadows.
The temperature averages 28 ̊C year round but the 90 percent humidity can soon have one sweating. At the height of the wet season, the Amazon can rise 40 feet, flooding many of the villages. The likely time for the expedition will be in the period 10-30 May, when the river levels should permit navigation but not flood the villages.
The Indigenous people
Some 70,000 Amerindians live in an area roughly the size of Britain and on our recce we were able to make brief visits to four villages. Whilst the people have received some aid from the Government they still need help with educational material, dental treatment and reading glasses. They also asked for advice on solar power and water filtration.
A number of indians are employed as wardens protecting the fauna and flora of the area and are keen to teach the children the importance of conservation. They would love to have a short study done of the wildlife in the area using camera traps. The photos could then be used to brief the young people. They gave interesting accounts of giant frogs that they eat, strange turtles with snake like heads and aggressive jaguars that spend much of their time in the rivers. These are often black in colour and emit a high pitched call, not to be confused with the giant otter that is also found here. Clearly there is much of zoological interest in the area. The hunters we met would be willing to act as guides.
During our recce in March 2016 we noticed the use that the indians made of herbal medicine. One village actually organizes courses on the preparation and use of the local herbs. All the villagers we saw seemed to have very healthy skin and thrive on a natural diet. A study of their diet and use of herbs could be a useful part of a project.
We met with Senor Roosvelt Torres, the President of the Ticoya, the Association of Indian Communities and discussed ways in which an expedition might help the people. He liked the general idea of providing dental treatment, reading glasses and school books as well as giving advice on water filtration and solar power. Wildlife studies would also be welcome. However he said the most pressing need was for a fibre glass Ambulance Boat to carry urgent cases to the hospitals in Puerto Narino and Leticia. We plan to donate a small craft, around 23 feet in length, to carry 4-5 people and powered by a 40 HP outboard. They would also appreciate T shirts for their 300 volunteer wildlife guards and a trained mechanic to advise on the repair of various items of equipment in the villages.
It is planned that a team of up to 24 will visit the area in the period 10-30 May 2017 to catalogue the wildlife and give aid to the indigenous people. Our team will include a doctor, a dentist and zoologists as well as people interested in community aid work. For fuller details please contact us.