Tuesday, July 30, 2013

City of the Forest - Manaus, Brazil

I'm here working with the Wildlife Conservation Society team in Manaus - the giant industrial City of the Amazon (pop. 1.8 million). 

Here's our little office located at the Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM). Its in a giant forest fragment (size of Central Park) in the middle of city. 

There are lots of birds and rare golden tamarin monkeys around the office. I didn't see any of these animals, but behind the office there was a nursery of local trees where the students also took in injured animals. Like this mother 3-toed sloth and her baby. 

My job in Manaus is to organize a training course for managers of protected areas in Amazonas. The site for the course is about 20 minutes up the Rio Negro (the Black River). Here's where we'll do the course (in a building up the hill). 

On the way there, we saw a sloth and a group of Saki monkeys (parauacĂș). 

Camila, a biologist with WCS, took me on a little tour around the city. She showed me the famous public transport river boats, where locals spend days (sleeping in hammocks) to travel up and down the rivers. River transport is the most efficient way to move around here. 

Their is lots of indigenous arts and culture here. Here are some examples of local seeds used for handicrafts and medicines from local natural products. Note the guarana (Sapindaceae, Paullinia cupana) powder in the green bag in the top left corner. Local people use the dried tongue of an Amazonian fish (the white object in the bag), which is very coarse, to sand the dried guarana fruit into a powder, which is used as a stimulant (2x more caffeine than is found in coffee beans). 

Manaus has an amazing array of amazonian fish. The fresh market is a great place to get a good idea of the diversity of these fish. Like tambaqui (photo) and arrawanna (photo), which is also sold as a very valuable aquarium fish in Asia (the fish that P'Aut had in Thailand). Not sure what the fish in the third photo is, but the way that they prepare fish to fry in this region is a technique that I've never seen before. Fish with a lot of bones is difficult to eat, so they slice numerous cuts into the fish and fry it. All of the bones become crunchy and its easy to eat whole. Quite efficient, actually, and I'm surprised that I've never seen it anywhere else - like in Asia where they eat a lot of fish. 

Brazil is rich with fruit diversity, and the Amazon has its fair share. The yellow round fruit in the back right of the cart (photo) is one of my favorite fruits to drink as a juice in Brazil - called bacuri. The second photo is some kind of annona fruit that I've never seen before.  

Last but not least, here is the famous Amazon Theatre - the Manaus opera house. It was built in the late 1800's during the rubber boom. I saw a modern dance performance here last time that I was in Manaus (about 7 years ago). Today, the theatre is still quite active.