Pacuyacu cave exploring expedition

The Pacuyacu cave in the South spur of the Cordillera del Condor is possibly one of the biggest cave systems in Peru (or South America?) and totally unexplored. A colleague made his thesis on OIL Birds (Guacharos) in this cave entrance and his pictures are uploaded soon. Guacharos are ancient night birds, feeding highly specialized on palm fruits. They fly long distances by night to their feeding places (how do they orient? magnetic fields?) and hide and breed in dark caverns all along the East Andes and oriental cordilleras. There are also mysterious migrations of those birds observed and we need more studies with ringed Oil birds to detect their action radius around one home cave. 

The parents build in the caves cones of mud with a dish top, where they put their eggs in and incubate them. Since ancient times, the natives and now also the settlers of those ranges hunt and harvest such exceptional birds and in the case of the Pacuyacu cave- an overharvesting might took place currently, which we try to control in the future by establishing a protection time during the main preproduction season where hunting will be forbidden, also extraction of young birds and eggs. 
There is an impact observed, if tourists enters such caves and disturb those birds and their nesting places: at Cajamarca, San Martin, similar but smaller caves lost all their oil birds because of disturbance and hunting and we do not want to repeat this error!


Caves in Peru which hold lots of bat species and the oil birds are very dangerous to human visitants: in the often more than a meter thick sediments of Guano and fruit shell residues lives a dangerous fungus which might attack the human lungs. Human casualties had been observed by visiting the Cueva de las Lechuzas at Tingo Maria, Huanuco, and it is better to enter with special masks which protect us from the spores of this dangerous fungus. Deeper inside the cave, where no Guano is present but clean sandy soil there is no danger. It is important to know those cave exploring rules in South America to avoid health risks. 

The Pacuyacu cave is tremendous- to the first steep abyss one can walk about two hours. The Abyss must be passed with safety harness and special climbing rope and then one can go on exploring for a lot of time- no end of the cave could be reached yet and one must mark well the way with white paint on the cave walls to avoid to loose orientation. Several people disappeared in this cave and never came back in the past. Different from other Karst caves in the former Yugoslavia, there is only a small creek inside the cave and the dangerous pools formed in European caves are not present- at least up to where the local habitats and natives could explore. At the moment, the mayor obstacle to explore this cave and to map it is the lack of sufficient long lasting and powerful lighting. The last group of American tourists entered with Carbide miner lamps but had to return because they run out off Carbide supply- as the cave was deeper than expected and they could not pass the Abyss because they had no climbing gear with them.

We are looking for European or US specialists (Speleologists) which might come and explore and map this big cave system. Requirements are protective masks to pass the bird and bat filled cave entrances, climbing harness and climbing ropes and special headlamps of long duration. For details and coordination please contact INIBICO. If there are students or researchers which want to investigate the life of the oil birds in this region of Peru we can help with logistics.


Bosque.jpg