Guest post by Adrian Walker, “The Snake Whisperer”
To an ecologist the Amazon is magnetic, given its rich biodiversity but the urban ecology of a city such as Iquitos is almost as fascinating as the broader picture painted in the jungles surrounding the city.
Iquitos has over 400,000 inhabitants with many living in 3rd world poverty and so slum dwelling is common with associated poor sanitation and resultant hygiene problems. The rubbish dumps around these slums provide prime breeding grounds for vermin such as rats, cockroaches and their like and these animals all have the potential to rapidly spread disease to the human populace. Hence natural controls come into play and act as regulators ensuring the numbers of pests never reach plague proportions. Foremost amongst these predators are the scavenging Vultures, of which the New World has 8 species, all characterized by their bald heads, a thermo regulation device enabling the creatures to radiate heat and so maintain a constant body temperature. Vultures have highly corrosive acids in their stomachs which allow them to safely ingest dangerous disease vectors, even those infected with anthrax or botulism, both communicable to humans. Vultures rarely take living prey but instead act as garbage collectors, mopping up carcases and other human waste. Three species of Vulture are easily seen in Iquitos. These dumps also provide breeding grounds for numerous insects and these are in turn controlled by the yellow breasted, black and white headed Kiskadees, a type of flycatcher adept at gathering low flying insects on the wing in addition to occasional terra firms collection of prey. Smaller prey such as mosquitoes are taken by the more aerial swallows and martins and in this manner tonnes of potentially dangerous disease vectors and stinking carcases are removed daily from both the slums and streets of Iquitos. Seed is gathered by the ubiquitous introduced Rock Dove and to a lesser degree by sparrows and finches whereas fruit pulp is relished by a range of Tanagers.
In summary the urban ecology is a far less complex web than that found in the jungle but equally absorbing to the naturalist and observer.
Iquitos, An Urban Ecology
Guest post by Adrian Walker the author of Diary of a Snake Whisperer, Birds of Mission Beach, and several books of fiction.
Photo of Greater Yellow-headed Vulture by Glenn Bartley. Click this link to check out his wonderful wildlife and avian photography, http://www.glennbartley.com/
Hello, this is Bill Grimes reporting from Iquitos Peru. Adrian Walker and his family are living and observing the urban ecology of Iquitos from one of the Dawn on the Amazon apartments, and eating most meals at the Dawn on the Amazon Cafe, while considering their options to purchase or rent, or build a lodge. Adrian was kind enough to write this series of articles for my Captain’s Blog and the Iquitos Times. We hope this is Chapter eight of his new book, The Road to Iquitos. Click the links below to read chapters 1 – 7. Thank you.