The Amazon:Botany, Birds, and Bats

Joint Natural History Tour Offered by
The New York Botanical Garden & Bat Conservation International
September 3-13, 2001

Leaders: Scott Mori, Carol Gracie & John D. Mitchell (NYBG)
Merlin Tuttle & Steve Walker (BCI)
Mario Cohn-Haft (Ornithologist) & Wilson Uieda (Brazilian Mammalogist)

The botany boat will be the Harpy Eagle (right) and the bat boat 
will be the Victoria Amazonica (left). © S. A. Mori, 2001. 
Since 1987, the New York Botanical Garden has been leading small, natural history tours to the Brazilian Amazon. Our knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area, combined with our love of the rain forest and appreciation for the culture of the caboclo people who live along the river, permit us to offer a trip unlike any other. Our trips combine informal natural history instruction with a myriad of other activities - swimming in the tea-colored waters of the Rio Negro, hiking in the forest, fishing, early morning birding, nocturnal trips for alligator spotting, visiting with the local people, occasional cookouts, and a visit to the famed Opera House and colorful markets in Manaus. We will spend time on both the Amazon and the Rio Negro and learn about the differences between the two ecosystems. Our 2001 trip is planned to take advantage of the good weather of the dry season as the river levels are falling, thus allowing us to explore some of the rain forest by foot as well as by boat.

As always, we will live and travel aboard small, but comfortable, Amazonian river boats, both built within the last five years. The boats, while not luxurious, are air-conditioned and have private bathrooms in each cabin. In addition, the food is delicious and well-prepared. The owner/captain of the boats is a legendary Amazon guide who is fluent in several languages. He enjoys sharing the fascinating, and often humorous, legends and lore of the Amazon region in which he grew up.
We will make excursions in small, motorized boats.
© C. Gracie, 1991.

Dr. Scott Mori and his wife, Carol Gracie, have extensive research and guiding experience in the tropics and have led 27 previous tours for The New York Botanical Garden. They are the authors of the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana, among other publications. Carol and Scott are happy to have their friend and professional ornithologist, Dr. Mario Cohn-Haft, with them again this year on the botany/bird boat. Mario recently completed his Ph.D. research in the evolutionary ecology of Amazonian birds at Louisiana State University. He now lives in Brazil and is highly skilled in identifying the birds of the region by sight and sound. Mario has served as an ecotour leader and lecturer for groups visiting the Brazilian Amazon as well as a guest professor on the Passport to Knowledge television program, "Live from the Rainforest." Mario's extensive experience in the Brazilian Amazon has provided him with an intimate knowledge of the interesting life histories of many of the birds that we will see. He is associated with Louisiana State University and INPA, the Brazilian research institution.

This year's trip will be particularly special because of our collaboration with Bat Conservation International. Bats play an important role in tropical forests as pollinators of flowers and dispersers of seeds. These relationships will be discussed as we observe and capture bats in the evenings. Dr. Merlin Tuttle, Executive Director of Bat Conservation International in Houston, TX, will head up the "bat boat." Merlin is the author of several books on bats, an award-winning wildlife photographer, and a leading conservationist who has studied bats and championed their preservation for nearly 40 years. A video of his CBS film, The Secret World of Bats, will be shown on board. Merlin will be accompanied by Steve Walker from BCI and Brazilian bat scientist, Dr. Wilson Uleda. John Mitchell, NYBG specialist in the Anacardiaceae (the poison ivy and mango family) will also travel on the bat boat. John's broad interest in and knowledge about natural history allows him to speak with authority on the plants, birds, and bats of the region. He has served as a co-leader with Scott and Carol on several NYBG tours.
Parkia discolor, a bat-pollinated member of the mimosoid legume family.
© S. A. Mori, 2001

The Brazilian Amazon near Manaus is home to more than 50 species of bats from eight families ranging in size from the tiny (3 gram) white-lined bat (Saccopteryx bilineata) to the spectral false vampire (Vampyrum spectrum) which has a wing span of three feet! Since bats are nocturnal, few people ever have the chance to see them at work as they pollinate plants, spread seeds by eating ripe fruit, or consume up to their body weight in insects each night. By joining NYBG and BCI on this river adventure, you will have the rare opportunity to mist net and trap bats with renowned biologist and photographer, Merlin Tuttle. Most evenings, we will sample the bat fauna hoping to intercept some of the Amazon wonders such as fisherman bats (Noctilio leporinus), moustached bats (Pteronotus parnellii), and many of the charismatic leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae). Dr. Tuttle will point out the special features of each species, explaining their adaptations and relationships to other animals and plants of the rain forest.

For additional information, call (718) 817-8647 or email to Carol Gracie at

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