Sand dunes in southern coastal Peru (Photo courtesy Matt Allender)

Day 2

This will be the third time** that I’ve kept a blog while working at Punta San Juan. I always find the first couple entries to be the hardest to write. There is always so much information I want to share with people; it makes it a struggle to find a good place to start. It’s also hard to describe what a remarkably amazing place Punta San Juan (PSJ) is – from both a biological and historical standpoint. Then there’s also the breathtaking beauty of the reserve and its wildlife. See the problem – where to begin???

We arrived in Lima, Peru two days ago after a couple of long flights from Chicago. We always stay one day in Lima to get all of our supplies settled and organized. We bring a lot medical supplies and equipment with us from the US. Some of it is specialized field equipment, but a lot of it is the same equipment we use to test for illnesses in animals at the zoo. After getting everything organized yesterday, we quickly loaded up two trucks today and started the drive from Lima down to PSJ.

The drive from Lima to PSJ is a beautiful drive, but a long one. We left early this morning and didn’t arrive until after dark. There’s definitely an ‘art’ to driving in Peru and it has taken me a few trips to feel comfortable with it. The traffic in Lima can really make the Chicago expressways seem slow and organized. Once you get out of the city though, the trip south is very scenic. The southern coastal region of Peru is one of the most arid climates on earth. The Andes mountains along western South America create a sort of “cloud trap” that causes lots of rain in the highlands and a dry desert along the coast. Although it is winter in Peru this time of year and often somewhat overcast, the views are still stunning. Imagine beautiful tall mountains, enormous sand dunes, and breathtaking bluffs over the ocean.

PSJ itself is a peninsula and the view as you approach it is pretty amazing. The PSJ reserve was originally established to provide a safe nesting ground for guanay cormorants, pelicans, and other seabirds that produced large amounts of guano that could be harvested for fertilizer. Guano harvesting dates back to before the Incas and when done responsibly it represents a sustainable resource. The PSJ site and several other reserves have been protected in this capacity for decades. Just this last year, however, the reserves were officially incorporated into a system of national marine protected areas overseen by the Ministry of the Environment. This new status was a huge achievement and represents years of work by our Peruvian colleagues. This change will provide an even greater level of protection for the wildlife that inhabits the reserve.

Upon arriving at PSJ this evening we were greeted by several old friends and some new colleagues that will be working with us this year. The reserve is pitch black at night, so I’ll have to wait until morning to see the view. The other members of our team from the U.S. are probably even more anxious to see the reserve in the daylight tomorrow. Dr. Gwen Jankowski, a veterinary resident in the Chicago Zoo and Aquatic Animal Residency, has been with me to PSJ once before. The other two team members - Dr. Matt Allender, a veterinarian from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, and Melissa Miller, a bird/penguin zookeeper from the Saint Louis Zoo – will be seeing it for the first time tomorrow. We quickly settled in for the evening and will be getting up early tomorrow to start work.

Michael Adkesson, DVM, DACZM
Veterinarian - Chicago Zoological Society

June 8, 2010

**P.S. the other journals we have kept can be found at:

The southern coastal Peruvian desert (Photo courtesy Matt Allender)

Driving to Punta San Juan (Photo courtesy Matt Allender)

Punta San Juan

Day 1-June 7, 2010
Day 2-June 8, 2010
Day 3-June 9, 2010
Day 4-June 10 , 2010
Day 5-June 11 , 2010
Day 6-June 12, 2010
Day 7-June 13, 2010
Day 8-June 14, 2010