Carnivorous Plants of the South American Sky Islands

 by Head Hunter Darren Cullen

Location details, where is it, how did you get there, how remote is this location? In January/February of 2009, I was invited to travel to Venezuela as part of an expedition to explore numerous of the local “tepuis”, or table mountains. We travelled to six mountains by foot, helicopter and light aircraft over three weeks.

What are the purposes / aims of your plant hunt? To document the local carnivorous plant populations

Is this a unique program, what’s so special about it? The remoteness of the Venezuelan tepuis, plus the political situation there, make travel to the smaller mountains by the casual explorer next to impossible. The other major issue is the fact that most of these mountains cannot be climbed, so helicopters are the only way to get to the top.

What do you need to take with you? We were limited by the amount we could carry in that there was a strict weight limit with the helicopters. The only “must have” item was insect netting and a raised bed such as a camp stretcher in case of heavy rain and flooded camp sites.

What limiting factors influence your ability to do this work? There were many limiting factors. Local guides were absolutely necessary to organise official sanction for the expedition. Helicopters are very expensive so we were limited with our flight time. Weather was extreme so we had to be prepared for anything.

How long are you there for? A bit over three weeks.

How many people do you take and why are they there? We had a group of 8 from all over the world.

Is it very expensive to go on a Plant Hunt? Yes. Flights to Venezuela are not cheap, plus we then had helicopters to organise, permits to obtain, porters to hire at certain points, etc etc. We had to pool our money and organise the best result with what we had.

What organisations are involved in your plant hunt? No organisations per se, just the help of experienced locals and veteran explorers of the region.

Keep hunting…