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Crees Foundation – Manu Learning Centre

Since I was a child I wanted to visit the Amazon rainforest, and as I grew up this matured into a desire to make a conservational difference to the world’s most unique and biodiverse eco system. Therefore, moving to Peru seemed to be a pretty good decision for me, despite working in Lima the capital city in a large private school. Before I moved to Peru I heard of a foundation located on the buffer zone of the Manu National park, a UNESCO World Heritage centre located in the Madre de Dios not far from Cusco. I decided even before I moved out here that at some point during my year abroad I wanted to work for the foundation – called Crees.

I was meant to volunteer there for six weeks in January, however my broken ankle inhibited this as I had to return to England for physio therapy. However, once I was back to full fitness and had also completed my appropriate working time for my year abroad, I began my volunteering for Crees.

The foundation supports a sustainable Amazon by focussing on two main aims; research and community. The community aspect focusses on education and entrepreneurship, teaching local people about the inherent value of their surroundings, the forest and its wildlife, while simultaneously encouraging sustainable entrepreneurship through the construction of bio gardens and agro forestry plots, so that local people can sustainably sell home grown products.

The research aspect mainly focusses on determining the value of regenerating rainforest. At the Manu Learning Centre there are three levels of regenerating forest, completely cleared (which was used for grazing cattle 50 years ago), partially cleared forest, and selectively logged forest. The foundation runs a variety of surveys using indicator species such as butterflies and amphibians, to evaluate each level of forest. As well as monitoring parrot and macaw numbers visiting the clay lick, next to the centre, and recording incidental sightings. A number of new species have been discovered by Crees, notably my friend Jenni and her frog.

I spent six weeks at the centre, catching and IDing butterflies; maintaining and checking pitfall traps for mammals, amphibians and reptiles; recording incidental sightings of mammals and footprints, helping to build bio gardens in the local town and I can honestly say it was the best experience of my life. For me, it enforced my preexisting idea that I need to work outside, and that I want to work in conservation after I graduate. I haven’t felt quite the same sense of contentment anywhere else in the world. I hope to return to the MLC in the future in some capacity and I will follow up with post with a wildlife post, with some photos and highlights of my time in the jungle.

Amelia Steele

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