Where anteaters and anacondas roam, and ranchers are now gamekeepers


However, the rangers had already made a difference. They had established a government presence in a region that was previously permitted. Thanks to their outreach work in San Martín, in November they were invited to march in the annual parade celebrating the cuadrillas. Zorro thought the invitation was a turning point for the park, a moment of acceptance. And on their motorcycle patrols through Manacacías, rangers had recorded some important wildlife sightings.

Gustavo Castro, one of the rangers who stayed at the ranch that week, had been keeping watch a few months earlier when he noticed something brown and furry wandering through the tall grass. “I got closer to him, maybe five or six meters, and he carried on normally,” Castro said. “I was able to get some good videos and photographs.” The animal was a bush dog, a wild canine that was believed to be extinct in the area.

For Dr. Walschburger, the verified sighting of a bush dog was exciting. Bush dogs were more common in the Amazon, suggesting that the wildlife corridor between Manacacías and the Amazon basin was active. The bush dog's documented use of the area could potentially result in stronger protection for that corridor, which looked, on a satellite map, like a curved green finger extending to the southeast. The more data that comes from the park, Dr. Walschburger said, the greater the chances for conservation in and around it.

The plains can be disorienting (German explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who explored the Orinoco region in 1800, complained of their “infinite monotony”), but after months of patrols, the new rangers navigated the terrain with ease. Their phones were now filled with oncillas, tapirs, great horned owls and the glistening tops of Mauritius palm trees at sunset.

Oscar Rey joined his companions when they stopped at a bend in the Manacacías River. Rangers frequently visited this sandy coast, as people routinely placed fishing nets along it. Mr. Rey knew this since he was a child, when his grandfather taught him to drag his feet while he walked barefoot in the water to avoid being stung by the stingrays.

Around them were tracks of tapirs, peccaries, capybaras and lizards. It was almost the time of year when freshwater turtles dug nests on the river banks, he said. Mr. King's grandparents ate his eggs, of course, but future generations did not.

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