That’s why they call it cloudforest

A weekend in El Copé sketched the beautiful nature that is captured on these images. I was surrounded by scenic beauty, in the rol of a silent witness. On an altitude of 1600 meters we were bordering north and south: de mountain range Serranía de Tabasará divides Panama in humid tropical rainforest on the Caribbean side and montane forest on the Pacific side (north respectively south). On a clear day National Park Omar Torrijos is one of the few places in Panama where you can see both the Caribbean as the Pacific coast. We were fortunate enough to feel surrounded by the cloud forest: the veil of clouds deprived us of the view of both coastlines, but placed us on an island amid a sea of mist.

Hold on to me

We sat there holding hands. Or better said, she was holding my hand with her foot. Her hands were occupied clasping my leg, by which it was pressed against her cage. Preciosa is a spider monkey, and she’s depressed. And that makes sense, if you’ve been kept in a too small cage for years, in an establishment that was open each night until 3 am. Drunk men would lure her with food, to break the bones in her stretched arms and fingers with their intoxicated power. Now she tries to grab a piece of banana with her deformed, grown together fingers.

Holding 'hands' Continue reading


Like all the other nights, this one also feels like a warm blanket around me. There has been little rain lately, so it’s not clammy. With my big backpack filled with field equipment I walk over the path, carefully holding my two speakers in my hands. The slope is steep, will I get my speakers down in one go? Carefully I balance, and then a small jump. I look back: how I’ll get them back up is a care for later.

I set up my new experiment (read here about my previous one). Speaker on one side, speaker on the other side. In this new experiment we investigate the influence of habitat on the predation preference of bats. Does vegetation affect the echolocation of bats? Aside from that, there is the suspicion that vegetation influences the amount of flies bothering the frogs. The speakers play the sound of the tùngara frogs (listen here), sometimes with vegetation on top of the speakers and other times without. With this experiment, we hope to see an interaction between vegetation and predation risk by bats or parasitic load by the bloodsucking flies. I put the cameras in their place, so they can be the silent witnesses of the visiting bats. The fly traps are ready to catch ignorant flies with their stickiness. Infrared lights, cameras, action! Continue reading

Good neighbour or far friend?

His skin is a testimony of his lifestyle. A beaded skirt is the only cover for his skin, the rest is literally exposed to the elements. Members of his tribe traditionally hunted for capybara’s, agouti’s and peccaries in the tropical rainforest and went fishing in the river. They grew their own vegetables and were largely self-sufficient. He is a part of the Embera-Wounaan tribe, one of seven indigenous tribes of Panama. Originally from the Darién province, he moved to the region east of the Darién with multiple families.

Photo by Peter Marting

Photo by Peter Marting

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Work ethics and tropical farmers

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8, NIV

Leafcutter antsAnts and their sophisticated habits have intrigued people for ages. The above noted passage in the Bible proves that: the book of Proverbs was written in the 2nd century before Christ. Here in the tropics I’m also confronted with the never-ending motivation of ants. While I’m continuing my path up a hill, sighing and groaning, I see leafcutter ants carrying their load with indefatigable strength. A continuous line of moving green leaves shows me the way to the top, while the setting sun frames the rocking leaves and their carriers. Continue reading