Peru, Research Station Panguana

(September-October 2004)

Frank Hennemann & Oskar Conle



Mid of October 2004 we and four of our colleagues from the State Zoological Collections Munich (ZSMC) started for an expedition to the research station Panguana in the Amazone rainforest of Peru not far away from the Andes.
With an area of 1 285 216 square kilometres Peru is the after Brazil and Argentinia the third largest of the South American countries and can geographically be divided into three major regions: the 2300 km long coast (Costa), the central mountainous region (Sierra) and the tropical lowland of the Amazone (Oriente). Along the coast which covers about 11 % of the countries area, there is a desert band with an average width of 10-18 km and interrupted by numerous, green oases at the river-mouths. The Sierra divides into several mountain ranges which run from north to south an reach altitudes of up to 6500 metres. The lower valleys of the Andes are intensively used for agricultural purposes, while the higher regions in southern Peru are rather stingy and rocky. The Oriente (also La Selva) covers about 60 % of the countries area and is very sparingly settled. So far, only about 5 % of the primary rainforest have been destroyed. 3,2 % are National Parks and are under national protection.


From Munich via Madrid we took an Iberia flight to Peru's capital Lima (about 7 million inhabitatants). Our expectations of this versatile metropole and former Spanish colonial city, which is positioned directly at the Pacific coast, were high but our first impressions were disappointing. Chaotic traffic, dilapidated houses, slums, the garbage filled river-bed of the Rio Rimac and all covered by a grey, depressing sky. Our hotel was situated in Miraflores, Lima's “New Centre”. Numerous hotels, restaurants, shopping passages and gardenings give Miraflores a western flair which makes even Europeans feel homelike. The historic colonial centre of Lima with it's beautiful colonial palaces, cathedrals and the governemental palace was declared a world heritage by the UNESCO.
For obtaining the collecting and export permits and recognition of our project from the INRENA (Instituto Nacional de Recuras Naturales) and arrangements with the Natural History Museum, we had three days in Lima before and after our travel to Panguana. The spare time we used for sightseeing and visited the colonial centre of Lima, several cathedrals and museums like the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Antropologia which provides a good survey of the many old Peruvian cultures and Spanish colonial era.


Pucallpa (Province Ucayali)
On our fourth day we took a flight with the Peruvian Aero Continente from Lima to the Amazone metropole Pucallpa at the Rio Ucayali, which is with a length of 3000 km the longest of all Amazone affluents. Pucallpa counts some 300.000 inhabitants and in its surroundings of the natural resources are badly exploited. Rivers are systematically searched for gold, which makes alarming amounts of quick-silver polluting the nature, in the local saw-mills giant jungle-trees are manufactured into paper or boards and oil is extracted from the soil. In all, a rapidly growing, chaotic and unattractive city with oil-industry and uncountable, small shops. Furthermore, there is the San Juan brewery which produces real good beer.
Some 12 km west of Pucallpa towards Tingo María we had booked a bungalow in the holiday resort Divina Montaña. In addition to rather simple cottages this resort offers a restaurant, swimming-pool, and different bars and is mainly visited by the more wealthy locals during the weekend. During the week it is rather quiet with only a very few visitors and guest there. The hinder part of the garden-like resort is boardered by secondary rainforest which at once appeared prolific to us for collecting Phasmids. Already at our arrival we recognized several, large Ensifera to rest on the walls of our wooden bungalow. After a refreshing shower and a nice dinner we started our search. Collecting was however complicated by innumerable mosquitos which breed well in the small pond which is situated in the resorts centre. In the bright lights around and on our bungalow we were able to locate several different Praying-mantids (Mantodea), further Ensifera and many different butterflies (Lepidoptera). Most interesting was the discovery of an ootheca of the giant Mantid Macromantis hyalina (De Geer, 1773) from which we saw some males close to the roof of our bungalow.
Already after a few minutes we found the first Phasmids in the low vegetation around our bungalow. These were several adults of Pseudophasma velutinum (Redtenbacher, 1906), a few Prexaspes viridipes Redtenbacher, 1906 and some specimens of the at that time still undescribed Ocnophiloidea dillerorum Hennemann & Conle, 2007.
The next day we took two taxis to Pucallpa were we met Moro, the administrator of the research station Panguana. After a cool beer and some arrangement we ordered the pickups for our travel south to Panguana and began to purchase all kinds of things for our 12-day stay in the station. These included food (rice, maniok, biscuits etc.), plenty of drinks (water, coke, coffee and of course beer) and collecting equipment like plenty of plastic-boxes for storage of the collected insects or ethanol for preservation. In the evening we searched the vegetation around Divina Montaña once more and again found many large Ensifera and several specimens of the three mentioned Phasmid species. Around and beneath the lamps along the paths leading through the resort we found numerous small, black rhinoceros beetles (Dynastinae), which we could easily collect from the ground.
The next morning our drivers and two ordered pickups arrived at the resort by time at 6.20 am for loading our luggage and equipment. The supply of food and drinks, which Moro had purchased the day before, were already stored. Carefully all our bags and suitcases were stored and fixed to the loading-spaces of the two pickups and so we left Divina Montaña punctually at 7.00 am. Before us a strenous 170 km drive southwards with four persons plus the driver and two companions per car.


Research Station Panguana (Province Huanuco)
The research station Panguana was founded by the German zoologists couple Maria Koepcke and Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke in 1968, where they conducted years of reserch on the animal fauna of the Amazone rainforest. The station comprises an area of about 2 square kilometres and is situated in the Peruvian rainforest (Province Huanuco) close to the western slopes of the Andes on the southern bank of the Rio Llullapichis (= Yuyapichis) an eastern affluent of the Rio Pachitea, some 170 km south of Pucallpa. When beginning with their studies, two abandoned wooden cottages of local Indigenas were used for accomodation. In subsequent years the area was measured and passed through by a 15 km long network of paths. Just recently the foodpaths were re-measured and numbered. Several scientific publications on the fauna of Peru were the result of their research which includes the well-known “Birds of Peru” by Maria Koepcke. In the early 1970's Mrs Koepcke died during a tragic airplane crash in the Peruvian Oriente, which meant the end of their zoological research in Panguana. Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke returned to Germany where he worked as the manager of the Herpetological section in Zoologische Institut and Museum of the University of Hamburg (ZMHU) and made the station for years accessible to different European scientists. After his death, his daughter Dr. Juliane Diller (presently manager of the library in the State Zoological Collections in Munich, ZSMC) inherited the station and since carries it on in her father's sense. Since the early 1980's it is administrated by the the local Moro Módena and his family. Because of the “Leuchtende Pfad”, a terrorist group which had also settled down in the close surroundings of Panguana, the station could not be used for scientific reasearch for a couple of years. In the 1990's however, the station was again visited by scientists and since Juliane Diller has made it accessible to all kinds of scientists for conducting field studies. In the meanwhile Moro has built two new wooden houses, one of which is used as an accomodation for visitors and offers space for up to eight persons.

For interested biologists a stay in Panguana undoubtly is an unforgetable experience and adventure, as it inherits a great diversity of different biotopes. Almost perfect conditions for biologists of different subjects are represented by the rich primary rainforest, areas of secondary forest, palm-swamps, plantations, pasturages, different river-bank biotopes as well as flowing rivers and small ponds. The living and working-conditions are still simple and ask the visitor for a great degree of improvisation and dispense to do without luxury. Up to now there is no flowing water nor are there toilets. The close Rio Llullapichis is the only possibility to wash ones laundry or take a bath.

From Pucallpa the station can be reached by a strenous 8-hour drive a muddy and stony track, which ends at the small village Yuyapichis on the western bank of the Rio Pachitea. When we arrived in Yuyapichis our luggage and equipment was stored on small boats, with which we crossed the Rio Pachitea. About 2 km south of Yuyapichis on the opposite bank we reached the cattle-farm Casa Modena. After carrying our luggage up a steep slope, we were already awaited by Alex with his tractor, who kindly transported it to the station which is still some 3 kilometres away from Casa Modena. Alex is an Austrian, who stayed in Peru and married a local woman after being member of an expedition to the close Sira Mountains in the 1980's. Now he conducts stock-farming and has since become father of three children. From the Casa Modena it is an one-hour walk to Panguana, which crosses the Rio Llullapichis and leads through several wide pasturages.
Exhausted and swet-covered we arrived in Panguana in the late afternoon and were heartly welcomed by Moro's son Ibrahim and his family. Directly we moved into our cottage and began to unpack our luggage. Shortly after darkness arised we were given a delicous and rich dinner which Ibrahims wife had prepared for us. After dinner we could not await to take a refreshing bath in the Rio Llullapichis and have a few bottles of beer. With great curiosity of what would await us the next morning, we fell asleep in our mosquito-net covered beds.


Animals of Panguana
Due to the almost untouched nature, Panguana inherits many many wild animals. Among them the Jaguar (Panthera onca, Fam. Felidae) with a body length of 1,80 m and a maximum weight of 150 kg the largest South American carnivore or the smaller Ocelot (Felis pardalis, Fam. Felidae). Regularely Caimans (Caiman crocodilus, Fam. Corocodylidae) can be observed along the banks of the Rio Llullapichis. Although these small crocodiles, which reach body lengths of up to 2,5 m do luckily not attack humans they make a bath in the river an adventure. The adventure is increased by innumerable small fishes which begin to nibble ones skin as soon as the water is entered. The well-known Red Piranha (Serrasalmus nattereri, Fam. Characidae) is not found in the Rio Llullapichis but other Piranha-species instead. Scientific observation however shows most of the horror-stories around these fishes to be strongly overstated. Only four of the 18 known species can cause harm to humans, and do so only when one has before endured blooding injuries. The clearly most dangerous animal in the rivers of the Amazone region is the fresh-water ray or “Pez Raya” (Potamotrygon motoro, Fam. Potamotrygonidae). This ray reaches a body length of about 30 cm including the tail and is predominantly found in sandy or swamy soil where it hides in the ground being almost invisible. The tail is armed with a very sharp and long spine, which is immediately thrown up when one steps onto it. The spine is easily capable to beat through rubber boots and even human bones. Due to a fluid which disintegrates texture, the injuries caused by a ray take extremely long to heal, tend to infect and can torment for several years. Although the ground of the Rio Llullapichis at the station is rather stony, we placed a long stick on the bank where we entered to river in order to carefully search the ground in front of us. Apart from different Ara-Parrots, there are many common birds like the Red-breast fisher (Megaceryle torquata, Fam. Alcedinidae) or the Amazone-fisher (Chloroceryle amazona, Fam. Alcedinidae). The latter is commonly encountered on the banks of the Rio Llullapichis. In the forest there are many different snakes, among them the very harmful and venomous Lanzenotter (Bothrops atrox, Fam. Viperidae), which is well camouflaged in the leaf-litter on the forest floor, and the Bush-Master (Lachesis muta, Fam. Viperidae). With a length of 3,5-4 m the latter is the largest venomous snake of South America and due to the large amount of venom inserted into the texture by a bite, it is considerably harmful for humans. During night-collecting we commonly encountered Banana-Spiders (Phoneutria ferox, Fam. Ctenidae) in the lower vegetation, which reaches a leg-span of 8-10 cm and is one of South Americas most dangerous spiders. They can jump over a distance of up to 1 m and their venom causes incredible pain, convulsions and the loss of coordination which can last for several hours. In some cases it can even cause death due to shortness of breath. Commonly the striking yellow and black coloured but poisonous Three-striped frog (Epipedobates trivittatus, Fam. Dendrobatidae) is see, which is one of the most typical animals of Panguana.


Captured Insects
The second day we conducted a guided walk through the stations area. Immediately we recognized the immense richness of insects in Panguana. For the satisfaction of our colleagues we were able to locate numerous butterlies (Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera) and grasshoppers (Saltatoria) along the paths. On the trunks of tall, living trees we found several specimens of a small Tree-mantid of the genus Liturgusa Saussure, 1869 (Fam. Liturgusinae). In the afternoon, after returning from our walk, our colleagues installed the first traps (Malaise- and Light-traps) and we looked out for a suiting locality to search for Phasmids at night. During our stay in Panguana the Malaise-traps in particular would prove to be most prolific for various insect orders. But also the light-trap attracted innumerable nocturnal Lepidoptera, Microlepidoptera, various wasps (Hymenoptera), bugs, cicadas and Praying-mantids (Mantodea). With the use of pheromone-traps our Hymenopterologist Prof. K. Schönitzer was able to collect a considerable number of the beautiful metallic green or blue bees of the genus Euglossa (Fam. Apiidae).
During our nocturnal search for Phasmids we very commonly encountered Pseudophasma velutinum (Redtenbacher, 1906) and Lobolibethra panguana Hennemann & Conle, 2007. Both species were very numerous and undoubtly the two most common species in Panguana. But also Ocnophiloidea dillerorum Hennemann & Conle, 2007 which we already found in Pucallpa was quite commonly encountered. Furthermore, we found several specimens of Dyme bifrons Stal, 1875 and another, unidentified species of Dyme mamillata Brunner v. Wattenwyl, 1907. Less commonly, we found adult specimens of the beautiful Metriophasma stollii (Gray, 1835) and of Creoxylus corniger Audinet-Serville, 1838. Both species we found almost exceptionally on various plants of the Family Araceae. While the Creoxylus were found in the lower vegetation, Metriophasma stollii was only find in heights of up to 5 metres. Quite rarely we located predominantly nymphs but also a few adults of the large Phanocles virgulatus (Redtenbacher, 1908) whose females reached body lengths of up to 18 cm. In addition we located single specimens of Isagoras brevipes Redtenbacher, 1906 and an adult couple of a slender, brown Agrostia-species which we found on a small tree in a height of about 3 metres. On the same tree we also found several small and medium-sized nymphs of Agrostia. One night, the head-torch of our colleague Tanja Kithe (ZSMC) attracted a very beautiful and extremely colourful female of a so far unidentified species of Parastratocles, which remained the only specimen to be found during our stay. Undoubtedly this species usually lives in the canopy-region of the rainforest. Unfortunately we were not able to locate any specimens of the nice Neophasma scabriusculum Redtenbacher, 1906 from which we had before our departure seen photos taken in Panguana.
Apart from the Phasmids we commonly encountered specimens of two different Proscopiidae. These were Apioscelis bulbosa (Scudder, 1868) and the giant Pseudoproscopia latirostris (Brunner v. Wattenwyl, 1890), the latter of which reached body lengths of up to 16 cm in the females. Also many different species of Ensifera were commonly found but they were less numerous than in Pucallpa. Highlights were several Leaf-crickets (Pseudophyllinae), among them three different species of Mimetica Pictet, 1888 and a giant so far unidentified species with beautifully coloured wings. In addition we found specimens of two different species of Stick-mantids, namely Angela guianensis Rehn, 1906 and Angela armata (De Haan, 1842) both members of the family Angelinae and a female of the striking, brown Leaf-mantid Acanthops erosula Stal, 1877. Tanja found further praying-mantids, among them a second, much smaller species of Acanthops. The most common Mantid was a green species of Stagmatoptera (Subfam. Vatinae) with yellow tesselated hind wings, the males of which were commonly attracted by the light-traps. Apart from several large nocturnal Lepidoptera, interesting captures at the light-traps included the giant Tobacco-sphingid (Manduca sexta, Fam. Sphingidae) with a wing-span of 12 cm and large male of the typically South American rhinoceros beetle Enema pan (Subfam. Dynastinae).
At day-time we regularely found innumerable, often beautiful grasshoppers (Caelifera), among them the colourful Stenopola boliviana Rehn 1913 and the larger, blue and yellow coloured Chromacris icterus (Pictet & Saussure, 1887). Whilst checking the light-trap next to the river in the early morning, Klaus Schönitzer found a beautiful male of the largest South American Flower-beetle Inca clathratus. While searching for Longicorn-beetles (Ceramycidae) and Bark-bugs in the wood of fallen trees, Tanja was able to locate a specimen of the colourful giant Buprestid beetle Euchroma gigantea (Fam. Buprestidae). Directly at the station numerous Lepidoptera were observed, including the beautifully coloured Urania leilus (Fam. Uraniidae). More rarely we could observe large species of Papilio (Fam. Papilionidae) and the very fast-flying Morpho-butterfly Morpha menelaus (Fam. Morhidae).
One night we decided to search for Phasmids along the “Carretera” a broad track crossing the station in the southern region. This locality appeared quite prolific to us, but the collecting was meant to be less successful than we expected. We found several adult specimens of a so far unidentified species of Pseudophasma with bright red bases of the femora and some Creoxylus. The most impressing capture was an adult female of the giant Mantid Macromantis hyalina (De Geer, 1773) which had a body length of about 13 cm. On our way back to the station we found a giant specimen of a Heterophrynus-species (Fam. Phrynidae) which had an amazing leg-span of 60 cm ! In addition to this large, brown species, a smaller black species with reddish legs is found in Panguana. At day-time we commonly observed Morpho-butterflies along the “Carretera”.


We would like to express our thanks to our colleagues and friends Prof. Klaus Schönitzer (ZSMC), Tanja Kothe (ZSMC), Dr. Andreas Segerer (ZSMC), Magdalena Breitsameter (Munich) as well as Prof. Joachim Oehlke (DIE) and his wife for the wonderful time in Peru. Prof. Lamas of the Museo de Historia Natural, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima (MUSM) shall be thanked for access to the collection and help in obtaining the collecting and export permit. Finally, we are most gratful to Dr. Juliane Diller (ZSMC) for allowance to visit the scientific station Panguana and her immense help in organizing the expedition.



Some of the Phasmatodea collected on this expedition were published in the following paper:

HENNEMANN, F.H. & CONLE, O.V. (2007): Studies on neotropical Phasmatodea VII. Description of a new genus and four new species of Diapheromerinae from Peru and Bolivia. Mitteilungen der Münchner Entomologischen Gesellschaft, 97 Supplement, S. 1-113.


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