Black jaguar in Guatemala
Posted January 4, 2016, to start the New Year
For my birthday yesterday, I took Senaida to visit the La Aurora Zoo. The Zoo was packed with local visitors, plus several people from Europe and US who live and work in Guatemala. Senaida is the Q’eqchi’ Mayan speaking student intern who assists us to learn about the flora and fauna of Alta Verapaz, which is where she and her family live.
We focused on the animals which are native to Guatemala, but I will admit I enjoyed watching the mother hippopotamus instructing her baby hippo to follow her into the water. Since the water was over his depth, he tried to climb onto the slippery back of his mother.
Lots of construction going on, which means lots of new places to explore several months from now.
The Parque Zoológico Nacional La Aurora has excellent collection of owls: dozens of species are native to Guatemala. I was pleasantly surprised to see a melanistic black jaguar. Although named “black panther” in fact these are not panthers and not leopards (though melanistic black leopards also exist). The black jaguar is native to Mesoamerica and South America.
This trip to the zoo on January 3rd was to take notes for what animals we would like to photograph on our next visit. For example, we have never photographed coyotes or falcons here. Plus the collection of spider monkeys is zoologically interesting since there are many colors, from black with brown to pure brown with white.
The zoologists and staff at Parque Zoológico Nacional La Aurora are both knowledgeable and hospitable to research visits, which we appreciate.
How to find and photograph howler monkeys in Guatemala
Posted Dec 14, 2015
In 50 years of photographing animals of Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize, I do not have good photographs of howler monkeys. Spider monkeys are easier, especially since AutoSafari Chapin has over a dozen on islands, so they are totally free to wander around (they can even swim to move away from the island if they want to). No cage, so no ugly metal bars in the photograph! Plus I estimate monkeys are happier not being in a cage.
I have not yet seen any zoo with captive howler monkeys, nor yet met anyone who has a pet howler (though we do know people do keep them). It is best to have animals out in the forests, but for photographic research, it definitely helps if the habitat of the howler is accessible in a realistic manner. We have over a thousand utilitarian plants we need to find and photograph in Guatemala
(www.maya-ethnobotany.org) and hundreds of animals of the Mayan world. So it is not realistic to spend months in mosquito and snake heaven to photograph animals for study purposes.
So it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise to find a howler monkey 6 meters directly above me while I was checking in at the Hotel Ecológico Cabañas del Lago. Using a 200mm lens I was able to get a high-resolution photo (Nikon D810, 36 megapixel camera). So if you seek a howler monkey to photograph, check them out at www.ecoHotelCabanaDeLago.mex.tl
These howlers are not captive! They are in their native habitat (along the shores of Lake Izabal, Guatemala).
Out in the forests, if you are lucky, sometimes you can find a howler monkey close enough to use a telephoto lens. But if you really want good photos it helps to go to Tikal, Yaxha, or comparable places in Mexico (Calakmul perhaps), and Belize. But I lived and worked at Tikal for 12 months (in 1965) and at Yaxha over five years (1970’s) and have been at Calakmul in the 1990’s. Still no really good howler photos, though Las Guacamayas Biological reserve on the Rio San Pedro is a good place. So again, I recommend the Hotel Ecológico Cabañas del Lago.
There are two species: Guatemalan black howler, Alouatta pigra and the golden-mantled howler, Alouatta palliate. I estimate the one I photographed in Izabal is the black howler.
Creatures which inhabit the Mayan Underwaterworld Cosmos
Posted October 7, 2015
On Oct 30th Dr Hellmuth will lecture on the creatures associated with the Surface of the Underwaterworld (2:30pm). This is the key part of the Maya cosmos, between “heaven” and “hell” so to speak. Nicholas spent eight years researching this topic to produce his PhD dissertation (Karl-Franzens Universitaet, Graz, Austria). All this work is available in a coffee-table book with 727 illustrations, Monster und Menschen, ADEVA, Graz (ADEVA no longer exists but we have a copy available for substantial benefactors for our continued research).
To prepare for this lecture we went to the actual eco-system out in the tropical rain forests of Guatemala. And the local crocodile kindly cooperated to pose for a photograph directly in front of the place we were overnighting (Las Guacamayas Biological Station, Rio San Pedro Martyr, Peten, Guatemala).
The lecture will introduce all the creatures of the rivers and lakes, plus sea creatures of the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, which were the sources of inspiration for Mayan murals, sculptures, and painted ceramics (vases, bowls, and plates).
Lecture is at the Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Española en Antigua (Antiguo Colegio de la Compañía de Jesús), 6ª avenida Norte entre 3ra y 4ª calle Poniente, Antigua Guatemala.
Video of photogenic spider wrapping up a wasp, Guatemala City
Posted October, 2015
Our video team did a nice video of a spider capturing and wrapping up a wasp. We raise spiders, wasps, stingless (Meliponia) bees, butterflies, tailless whip scorpions and many other creatures at 1500 meters elevation in Central America.
These creatures live in our Mayan ethnobotanical research garden, where we study medicinal plants, plants for dye colorants, and other plants used by the Mayan and Xinca people of Guatemala for thousands of years.
3D Graphic Design of Birds & Reptiles: One of many Reasons we will attend SIGGRAPH 2015
Posted June 16, 2015
Our interest in 3D imagery and 3D animation is related to the birds, reptiles, felines, insects, scorpions, and other fauna of Mesoamerica in general and Guatemala in particular. We also do research in El Salvador and Honduras. In past decades Nicholas Hellmuth did research on flora and fauna in Mexico and Belize for decades.
But for the last ten years we work almost exclusively on rare and endangered plants and animals, especially use of advanced digital imaging technologies.
conferences, 9-13 August 2015
Exhibition, 11-13-August 2015
Assistant Editor Melanny Quiñonez has been researching and writing about Wacom pen tablets and how these can be used to work on graphic imaging about animals (especially jaguars), Andrea Mendoza has researched information related to 3D technologies.
Giant butterfly larva, associated with Plumeria
Posted June 1, 2015
While photographing a giant Plumeria tree on the west shores of Lake Atitlan, we noticed two huge butterfly larva.
Since there were many coffee trees enjoying the shade of this Plumeria, we do not know whether the butterfly larva were interested in the coffee leaves or the Plumeria leaves.
Plumeria, frangipani, flor de Mayo, arbol de la Cruz is native to dry areas of Guatemala so this was a garden tree, not out in its native habitat (Lake Atitlan is too high an altitude, and to moist, for wild Plumeria).
DEAL trade show in Dubai next week
Posted April 2015
We are attending DEAL for the second year in a row for several reasons. First, Dubai is gradually replacing Orlando as the family-oriented theme-park capital of the world. In effect, DEAL is the premier amusement park expo for this growing part of the world.
Second, we at FLAAR are developing children's books and cartoon characters based on our 50 years experience in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Dr Hellmuth lived in the remote jungles for years and so knows the remarkable Neotropical plants and fascinating animals.
A third reason we will attend DEAL is because it is organized by IEC, a company whose CEO and managers we know and respect.
Fourth, we are interested in Neotropical plants and animals of Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is the part of the Americas which was settled by or influenced by the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Toltec, or Aztec civilizations. Many amusement parks have zoos and many botanical gardens have festivals and rides and events comparable to full-scale amusement parks. FLAAR is a non-profit research institute focused on the flora and fauna of Mesoamerica, especially of the Maya area of Mesoamerica.
We also attend IAAPA in Orlando, but Dubai is a special place that makes the trip worthwhile.
We hope to see you at DEAL in Dubai.
Their web site is www.dealmiddleeastshow.com/newdeal2015/index.php