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Proposed Mountain Tapir Tour with Itinerary:
Sangay National Park, Ecuador
Guide: Craig C. Downer, A. B., M. S., Ph.D. studies
Post Office Box 456, Minden, Nevada 89423 USA
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 775-
I UCN, Species Survival Commission, Tapir Specialist Group; American Society of Mammalogists.
Author of mountain tapir chapter in Tapirs: a Road to Recovery (IUCN, 1997), including an action plan to save the mountain tapir from extinction, plus several other articles, both scientific and popular, on the mountain tapir.
Date of preparation of proposal and itinerary: August 12th, 2005 Possible dates of
tour: Any time but preferably during the dry season, which is generally October through
January. A tour could be arranged for latter half of year 2005. Duration of tour:
Two weeks, plus travel time.
Cost of tour
$2000 dollars per person plus airfare round-
Mountain hiking boots, impermeable coat and pants, sleeping bag adequate to freezing
Meet in Quito. Overnight in Quito. Introductory talk and slide/video show on mountain tapir presented by Downer. Tour participants will be provided with maps of the tour and articles concerning the mountain tapir and Sangay National Park. Final check of equipment required. Final arrangement for travel to Sangay National Park.
Proceed to Riobomba, about four hours to the south of Quito in vehicle. Meet with
Sangay National Park Superintendent to discuss tour and receive updated recommendations
for best observation areas. Purchase provisions for expedition at native Riobamba
market. I (Downer) will oversee major purchases while catering to the particular
requests of tour members. Tour members will assist. Proceed to Alao in the afternoon,
arriving before sunset. Camp at Sangay National Park ranger station in this quaint
town inhabited by Puruhaes Indians. Final arrangements for local guides and porters,
who have worked with Downer for years. They will be informed of our coming beforehand
through the park officials daily radio communications. After dinner, prepare for
After breakfast, hike into Culebrillas sector of Sangay National Park, ascending
from circa 2,900 meters at Alao, to over 3,900 meters elevation at La Tranca pass
by midday, passing through delightful Bosque San Luis, with spectacular views of
upper Alao Valley, a classical glacially-
The morning will serve for rest and recuperation; however, after mid-
Hike east from Culebrillas camp over Timaran Pungo (Timaran = “peak” in Quichua),
about 4,100 meters elevation, through elfin forest, to grassy highland paramo. Then
descend through paramo grassland to Llanallacu camp where Downer earlier observed
a Great Horned Owl. Llanallacu refers to "black waters" in Quichua, the native tongue
widely spoken in the northern Andes. The waters are black due to the heavy ash deposits
received during frequent eruptions from Sangay volcano. Meters of ashen soil attest
the presence of Sangay Volcano, which is the longest active volcano in the world
and the most active for all the Andes. Some interesting birds should be observed,
including the distinctive orangish, large, round-
Hike to La Playa, base camp for ascending Sangay Volcano. An early start, within
one hour of sunrise, will permit us to take a slow but sure hike through some upper
cloud forests, affording some excellent bird observations. When we reach a large
sloping ridge, we will follow the ridge until early afternoon, ascending to the Abarca
Tambo encampment, just west of Carniceria. It was along this Ridge that Ilusion and
Dolores, two female mountain tapirs, were captured and radio-
Day spent in the vicinity of La Playa encampment seeking to quietly observe the mountain
tapirs. This should be an excellent photographic opportunity both for the mountain
tapirs and their highland habitat as well as the spectacular Sangay Volcano. It is
in this area where I have successfully guided film crews as well as photographed
the tapirs in the wild for my own articles and presentations. I will explain ecological
points of interest and those tied in with the evolutionary history of the area, giving
During this day we will climb to the base of the Sangay volcano. We will observe
many of the transitional ecological communities which will provide an insight into
the millions of years of evolutionary formation that has occurred in these fascinating
Andean highlands. I have climbed to the top of Sangay volcano with Puruhaes Indian
guides and can name many of the common as well as the rare plants and animals encountered
as well as explain their special adaptations and contributions to the life community
here. In a sense, this will be like going back through thousands and even millions
of years to re-
We will strike east with an early morning start. We will visit the traditional hunting
area known as Carniceria, known for the wanton slaughter of animals in earlier times.
We will also strike further east to visit a mineral site frequently visited by the
mountain tapirs in the La Victoria area. This day there will also be an excellent
chance for observing and photographing the mountain tapir and many unique plants
and animal species of the high Andes. Additionally, our group will be enthralled
by magnificent vistas over the vast Amazonian rain forests. From these ancient evolutionary
cradles, the clouds which water Sangay National Park arise. One is advised to carry
plenty of film as well as well-
We will hike over a very high pass, ascending to a height of 4,300 meters elevation. Here we will enter into the primitive zone of Sangay National Park. This is another area where I have had considerable success in closely observing and photographing the endangered mountain tapir. It presents pristine ecological conditions. The fact that it is frequently obliterated by volcanic activity yet still maintains its exuberance testifies to the magnificent adaptation to harsh conditions by the life forms here. The colors of the mosses are exquisite! A British botanist who did pioneering botanical work in this area during the 19th century, Dr. Richard Spruce raved about the great moss species diversity he encountered here. Whitetail Deer, Brocket Deer, Spectacle Bear, Pacarana, Rabbit, Sierra Finch's, Tapaculos, Caracaras, as well as the Mountain Tapirs are more friendly in this isolated region since they are less persecuted by humans. This means we should have an excellent chance of observing them. However we will take great care not to in any way harass these animals, and will keep our disturbances to a minimum. (This we will have promised to do when receiving the permit for our entrance into this zone from park authorities.) Our goal will be to atone for the thoughtless persecution and plunder these gentle botanists have experienced in the past at the hands of humans. Our goal will be to appreciate them for their uniqueness and ecological contribution. We will not regard them as mere objects for our use or abuse, as has too often been the case in the past. This area provides very spectacular views of Sangay Volcano and a very large natural amphitheater covered with a variety of colorful herbs, shrubs, grasses, mosses, and lichens. The snow fields on the volcano and its fumeroles are beautiful to behold! We well allow a few hours for our return on this tricky route. Our native guide will assure our safety during this most rewarding part of our tour. A special exhilarating experience of the high Andes and the Amazon Basin as inextricably tied together will be ours during this day.
This will be the beginning of our return. Passing over many ashy labyrinths created
over centuries of eruptions, we will re-
This day we will return to the Culebrillas river valley where we will camp in the straw huts. Again we will note human disturbances and document these both in our notebooks and with our cameras and video recorders. Before we leave, we will compose a scientific evaluation of our findings. If everyone is so agreed, we will all sign this and present our documents to Park authorities before leaving Ecuador.
We will return to the Aloa park ranger station. On our way out, we will again experience a transit from more pristine conditions to those increasingly impacted by humans. So we will further evaluate human invasion into the park this day. I will entertain any questions from the tour participants answering them in considerable detail. This will be a day for final wrap up of tour objectives: equipment will be accounted for and our native guides will be paid for their services. In the community of Alao, we will visit the native homes of some Puruhaes friends of mine. We will plan a Fiesta as a final going away party and token of our appreciation. We will invite park rangers, tour guides and porters, and natives of the community, young and old. Hardy native dishes will be sampled. This will be a day of special satisfaction and celebration! We will plan for our early return to Riobamba on the following morning.
Departing very early, we well arrive at Riobamba by mid-
I certainly urge you to join in this tour of a lifetime. You will be one of the exceptional
few living in the world today who can say "I have seen the dramatic Al Jolson of
the Animal Kingdom", or, if you prefer, the "Gentle Botanist" of the northern Andes,
whose presence is so important for Andean ecological integrity. Participation in
the tour will also make you an active part of mountain tapir preservation and restoration.
If interested, please contact me directly to make arrangements.