Monkeys Forest Tales: A bit of history from the area

Today’s post is about a bit of the history of the study area and San Martin town. San Martin town is one of the oldest towns in the region. It was established in 1585 and it was a center for cattle ranching activities since then. Located in the Camoa’s river banks, this small town has a privileged position which make it an area of high diversity.
It’s main economic activities, cattle ranching, palm oil plantations (since 1970’s approximately) and more recently petrol exploration are the main threats to it’s biodiversity.
Santa Rosa farm, the center area of this project, was a compulsory stop for cattle ranchers transporting cattle from the serranias (natural savanna’s in the Eastern part of the town) towards the commercial centers since the colony period. Although this farm had a long history of cattle ranching and human exploration of forest resources, since the beginning of this project there has been a change in the management of their forest towards a better preservation of it’s natural resources.
The story of cattle ranching in the area had left a mark in the landscape and continue to impact it’s forest fragments today. A common practice in the area is to allow the entrance of cattle and horses to the gallery forest to roam and drink water. The main forest fragments that remains in the area are gallery forest. This practice had lead to forest fragments with poor understory, only few of the seedlings grow to be adult trees as cattle use them as food or to rubber their backs.
This impact is also seen in forest fragments of lowland rain forest near to the main small rivers in the area, such as the Camoa, Cumaral and Chunaipo, which are the tributaries of the Meta river in it’s source. The areas that has been deforested now are covered with introduced pastures such as Brachiaria spp. And more recently had been replaced by palm oil.
The other area in which this project was developed (2008 – 2019), is a natural reserve in which larger relicts of lowland rain forest and gallery forest persisted due to the visionary management of their owners who had protected big forest fragments that still conserve the original fauna of the region. These big areas of forest seems to be functioning as source population of many mammal species that otherwise will be locally extinct. Some examples of this is the persistence of tapirs, jaguars, cougars and the two peccaries, white-lipped and collared peccaries. Both species are abundant in this area. Although the white-lipped peccary used to roam around the town square, they have not reached the town since more than a decade ago, according to local people.
Despite the long history of human activities in this area the biodiversity present still maintain populations that seems to be stable, at least for some primates. However, the changes brought by palm oil plantations and petrol exploration, which increase the arrival of people from other regions with other cultural values and habits. This new arrivals can increase the pressures for the local fauna. An awareness and education program, as well as a continuous monitoring of the deforestation process in the area are important steps in the area to increase the probabilities to persist for the fauna in the area.
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