Camera Traps
Thoughts on joining kaminando and our jaguar study in Panama. Embark on exciting adventures, get to know yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and make unforgettable memories. We asked our interns/volunteers about their experience with us and here’s what they had to say.
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Experiencing Kaminando

My Kaminando experience helped me to regain balance in life, I found a sense a purpose while setting up camera traps to assist scientists in studying and protecting the endangered jaguar.  Kimberly and Milton’s passion in synergy with nature can have a therapeutic effect on anybody that goes through hard times.  Their devotion to save the jaguar was exhilarating and intoxicating.  This experience slowly began to reawaken my life force.

Earth’s biosphere is in serious need of unselfish people to serve as environmental stewards who are devoted to the protection of natural resources. The Kaminando staff are hardworking, dedicated scientists, who set aside their own interests, while challenging their personal comfort zones to protect the jaguar and its habitat in Panamá. I will always cherish my time in the enchanted cloud forest.  I left Panamá rebooted, feeling a strong connection to the local flora and fauna.  I also forged a strong spiritual connection with my dear friends at Kaminando.

Following my experiences with this organization, I am proud to say that I played a small role in the preservation of the jaguar.  I suspect you would also achieve great satisfaction from volunteering with Kaminando, as it is rewarding to fight for our fellow occupants on this planet who have no voices. I urge you to visit the Mamoní Valley Preserve and to work with Kaminando during this invigorating environmental justice movement.

Brandon Vidrio
Wildlife Biologist (California)

Hello future Kaminantes (that’s hikers/walkers in Spanish!)
In February 2017, I journeyed to the beautiful jungles of Panamá to volunteer with Kaminando, an organization working to protect threatened tropical and subtropical native biodiversity in Central America.  I joined Kimberly Craighead and Milton Yacelga of Kaminando in the Mamoní Valley Preserve to study the effects of forest fragmentation upon the critical habitat of the threatened jaguar.
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My experience in Mamoni Valley and in the Guna Yala territory of the study area left me in awe of all the people, especially Kimberley and Milton, who have dedicated themselves to the study of this unique region of Panama.  As a field biologist, I have worked in inclement conditions and hiked in very difficult terrain, so to say Kaminando was some of the more difficult hiking I have experienced is a strong testament to the level of physical and emotional endurance needed to accomplish the work.  It was a great challenge and one that left me slightly bruised, bloodied and depleted of energy but wanting to do it again. The jungle had this effect on me where I entered a state of childlike wonderment when observing new species of birds, frogs, plants and scenic landscapes for the first time. It was especially surreal to be walking along the shores of the Cangandi River in the footprints of jaguars and tapirs. This area of Panama is remarkable for the diversity of life and the relatively untouched and unstudied areas that still remain; experiencing this region as I did, even for a few days, I left with a greater cognizant understanding for the importance of Kaminando and their research.

By Lidia DAmico
Wildlife Biologist (California)

When I first heard about the work of Kaminando, I was standing with Milton at a site on the Bay Area Peninsula monitoring a construction crew tearing through coastal oak woodland habitat and re-thinking my choice of career in environmental consulting. Wildlife conservation and research are my life’s passion, and I was incredibly thrilled to be invited by Kimberley and Milton to participate in the camera trapping efforts for the dry season.
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  2. Evan & Natali
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I helped collect data from camera traps set up along the Continental Divide and adjacent watersheds to identify critical areas for conservation, specifically focused on large cats such as jaguars and pumas as well as their prey.
The wildlife within this area ranges from unbelievably beautiful birds and butterflies to cryptically camouflaged snakes and vociferous troops of monkeys. It is one of the few areas of the world to have not just avoided the destructive fate of expansive agriculture and logging, but also to remain a thriving sanctuary of rare species. Along with the frequent signs of the big cats we sought, including tracks, scrapes, and droppings, we were lucky enough to see elusive animals like the red-throated caracara, which has been extripated from most of Panama. The work Kaminando is just beginning has the potential to not just protect the areas we know to be critical habitat, but to expand our understanding of the rainforest and its inhabitants.
By Evan Shanbrom
Wildlife Biologist (California)

Wildlife and habitat conservation has never been more important than it is today. Permanent conservation of habitat is the only hope many species have in surviving impending extinction. I recently had the privilege of visiting the Mamoni Valley Preserve as a intern biologist for the Kaminando Habitat Connectivity Initiative. Kaminando is working to identify and permanently protect critical habitat within the Mamoni Valley and beyond.
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Uriel Hernandez
Community Forestry Coordinator

 willingly ventured deep into the forest together!

One day as I walked the trail along the San Francisco Bay watching construction crews expand a creek, an outgoing scientist named Kimberley struck up a conversation with me. We talked about travel and nature, conservation and big cats. She told me about her research working with jaguars in Panama, and how her project could always use volunteers; that’s how I ended up in Panama at the Mamoni Valley Preserve a few weeks later. My task was to replace the batteries and install fresh memory cards into 18 cameras hidden in the forest to film elusive big cats.

I arrived in Panama with my camping gear and a couple hundred AA batteries. After hitching a ride to Chepo, a town about an hour out of Panama City, I met up with Nico and together we bought some food for my trek into the jungle and some supplies for the Center at Mamoni Valley Preserve. I immediately understood that though many different people may pass through the Mamoni Valley Preserve partaking in many different projects, they were all working towards a common goal of understanding and cooperating with the natural world. As we drove from Chepo to the Mamoni Valley Preserve we crossed rivers and bumpy dirt roads as the last hints of civilization disappeared and were replaced with woodland.

I met my local guides in the nearby village of La Zaina, which was a 1.5 hour horse ride away from the Center. I consider myself a very competent camper, but without my two guides the work would have been impossible. It would be an understatement to say they knew the area; they saw game trails invisible to me and knew the easiest, zig-zagging paths up and down the hillsides when the GPS and maps were deceiving. Their eyes for the local
flora and fauna was an extra help, as they pointed out everything from
the beautiful Blue Morpho butterflies fluttering along the river to the
fearsome fer-de-lance hiding in the hills.

Upon arriving at the Mamoni Valley Preserve Center, the weather was the first thing I noticed and it would set the tone of my travels. Coming from urban, drought-stricken, temperate California, it was a wonder the amount of life some water and heat can produce. Water would be a constant during the trek through the jungle; rain would fall from the sky, the river would splash into our boots, and dew would coat our hammocks and camping gear each morning.

Fire was another constant. The thought of its warmth kept me going on the cold, muddy treks back to the campsite. The campfire provided warmth and comfort, and acted as a centerpiece to the many conversations the guides and I shared. Our biggest common bond was over our respect and love for nature, after all, we had all willingly ventured deep into the forest together!

Between the trees, water, and mud and all of the challenges and awe they presented, throughout my time in the jungle I was in a constant state of amazement and dampness.

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  4. Ruben camera trapped
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Myself and two other volunteers (Natalie and Evan) were greeted at the Panama airport by Kaminando staff and the next day we were off to the research area, The Mamoní Valley Preserve. The first day we had to retrieve “nearby camera traps”; trust me, it did not seem like nearby since it took long hours hiking steep hills! The big plan was yet to unfold; we would cover a larger area that will require bush camping, that’s when I realized if day one was hard, the next days would be even harder. Three days we spent walking and searching for those, sometimes, elusive trails and camera traps, I must admit, that at some point I was ready to give up, but my love and respect for the work that I was now part of, kept me going. I found that indeed the mind pushes the physical body to a higher level. Back to the main camp, I was very proud to have accomplished the goal of the group and also a sense of personal accomplishment, I was amazed and grateful for the experience.
Before my departure, I openly voiced my newly gained respect for Kaminando’s research work and promised to return. I will go back, because as I sit here now, I long for those beautiful sounds, colors and smells of the rain forest.

Note: One of the camera traps captured Ruben resting!
Ruben Palate
Nature Lover-Volunteer

I am like most people in the San Francisco Bay Area, someone who enjoys getting out hiking, camping, and from time to time supporting events about nature conservation. When the opportunity to join Kaminando’s jaguar project to retrieve camera traps presented itself, I was really excited! Once the details started to come in, the reality become apparent. I was going to camp in the rain forest, spending many hours walking under very humid conditions. Despite my concern, I wanted to go. To me, this would be the most tangible way to contribute to jaguar conservation in Panama while enjoying the natural beauty of the cloud forest.