Forest Protection: One Last Walk in the Jungle

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photo credit: Jason Swartz

Before leaving, we, the Forest Protection Team, were beyond excited to hear about and see pictures of some of the amazing experiences we would get to have in the rainforest of Madre de Dios, Perú. As a group composed of three Environmental Studies majors, we were a little bit more than excited about our mission: deep in la selva (the rainforest), we would visit LPAC (the Las Piedras Amazon Center, run by ARCAmazon) where we were to experience the jungle from the perspective of a forest ranger and take a firsthand approach to learn more about what it takes to protect this wild and beautiful place.

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photo credit: Dr. Jason Scullion

During our time at LPAC, we learned so much and were able to experience conservation on the front line. During our stay, we went on night hikes where we saw sleeping butterflies, birds nestled in the ground, and insects of all varieties (most jungle critters like to come out at night when the heat of the sun isn’t beating down on them). During the day, we got to see an unimaginable number of trees and plants. Sometimes just closing our eyes – at night or during the daytime – and experiencing the sounds of the jungle was enough to make us appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the surrounding forest.

One of our greatest adventures was a hike and overnight camping trip with the forest ranger, Harry, who was very experienced at pitching tents (even ones that hang from trees!), starting a fire (which is rather difficult in a rainforest), and navigating the concession’s boundaries. Harry also took us to a corn field in the middle of the jungle, where we learned about the difficulty of protecting the concession from outsiders. It was saddening to learn of the reality of the situation – the people who are destroying the forest for agriculture are just trying to make a living and survive. We were, however, left with a note of hope when we visited the neighboring concession.  Here, a nonprofit called Hoja Nueva is experimenting with agroforestry and biochar as sustainable agricultural solutions and is working with the local community to demonstrate and teach these alternate methods.

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photo credit: Jason Swartz

We accomplished so much more than our original mission of learning about forest protection from the perspective of a ranger. We didn’t just experience the rainforest and all of its complexities – we became full-fledged participants in an environment so profoundly zoetic that we couldn’t help but feel a calling, stronger than any we have ever felt before, to ensure that this untamed paradise continues to thrive.

Check out our awesome video (edited by Cris!)

The Lookout.

Journal Entry #23

This is a creative nonfiction story inspired by events from our time at the jungle. The story was written shortly after our visit to the Lookout.

We begin another day in the jungle. The air is humid and the temperature’s high; there’s a morning breeze that dances around camp, reminding us of the rain from the night before, and the rain yet to come—if it comes. Everyone begins to wake up, some of them more easily than others. The early birds are already up and about with their day, meanwhile the night owls, like me, can barely lift the bug net to put a leg outside of bed. All around camp the noises of bugs and birds can be heard, echoing the whining and complaining of the few humans that have ventured—that have invaded—this not-so-virgin land; a land discovered but barely touched.

The kitchen.
The kitchen.

We make our way to the kitchen, where most of us immediately sit down and start fanning ourselves with old maps of the concession that lay around the table. We know our fanning is in vane, but those few seconds of cold air are so necessary to stay awake.

Josh and Scullion tell us the plans for the day; today, it seems, we will not be doing much. There will be a few hikes here and there, and at the end of the day we will go to this place call the Lookout to watch the sun set. Everyone pretends to be excited about another day of hikes and heat.

* * *

The day passes by between mindless walking and conversation about topics of no use; we talk about the experiences from days previous, we chat about the days to come, we create scenarios of life after the jungle, and, most importantly, we ask each other the questions we’re afraid of asking.

Continue reading “Journal Entry #23”

Ecotourism: A Final Post

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Photo: Elizabeth Mann

The purpose of the Ecotourism group was to work as mediators between the three other groups. We listened to their concerns and kept their respected objectives in mind as we assessed the situation at ARC Amazon.

We consider Ecotourism a viable solution for the diverse set of problems that each group faces. We understand the importance of protecting the jungle, but we also find it necessary to allow the native Peruvians to profit from their own land. We aspired to find the perfect balance between protecting the jungle, while serving the community by establishing a profitable ecotourist attraction at the ARCAmazon concession.

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Photo: Elizabeth Mann

When we arrived in the jungle, we participated in and evaluated the activities that a paying ecotourist would engage in. We reflected on this experience and came to the conclusion that ARCAmazon would have to be apprehensive and thoughtful when making future decisions to avoid overpopulation of tourists, which could disrupt the stasis of the environment. We interviewed volunteers, workers, and community members what their personal definition of ecotourism was, and what it could mean for the future of ARCAmazon. Because we questioned people of different backgrounds and dispositions, where their personal purpose at ARCAmazon ranged from being a cook to a volunteer forest ranger, we found a common consensus in their compassion for the future of the jungle and Peru. Their response was overwhelming yet insightful as it created clarity. It spoke to our initial goals of ARC Amazon and it provided direction for the future of the organization. The future is looking up and ARCAmazon has already laid the foundation upon which they will build a sustainable ecotourism destination for nature-lovers and travelers alike.

 

 

 

Read previous content from the Ecotourism Team below:

Ecotourism Team Field Update–Los lobos del agua, aka Adventure at Lake Soledad

Surprise Tree Canopy Walk

The Selfie-Stick Wars

The Tourist Gaze: Unrealistic Expectations

Final Thoughts: Community Team

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Casey translating for Don Jorge as he tells us about cacao farming. Photo by Danielle Fatzinger

During our time traveling in Peru and especially during the three days we spent with members of the Lucerna and Palma Real communities, we reflected a lot about the role of communities in conservation. We knew going into the trip that working with communities is essential for successful conservation, but we did not know many specifics. The complexity of the relationship between conservation and communities became clear very fast. It involves balancing the goals of everyone involved, education, job options, and the influence of both local and global economics. On top of that, the challenges of conservation are different in every community.

Despite these complexities, we left Peru with a large dose of hope to carry us through the rest of our class and to inspire us to continue to try to make a difference in the world. The people we met were well informed about the social, economic, and political problems relevant to them, and they wanted to improve their lives. They were open to new ways of agriculture, and some of them were actively trying to change their communities’ practices to be more sustainable. It wasn’t Westerners coming into their territory and telling them how to change; it was Peruvians acting on their own beliefs, passions, and abilities to instigate change, and to a large extent, ARCAmazon is a tool for them and their goals.

Members of the Lucerna and Palma Real communities (and the Peruvians who we met in general) taught us something important: conservation, just like most aspects of life, is most possible when people help each other. It requires selflessness, not just towards the environment but also towards the people that need the environment to survive.

Conservation, in a word, requires ayni.

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Photo by Danielle Fatzinger

PS- Here is the video that Luke made for our group starring some members of the Lucerna and Palma Real Communities.

Continue reading “Final Thoughts: Community Team”

Life on the Wild Side: A final thought from the Wildlife Team

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Coming back from the Amazon, some key take-aways would be just how diverse the biodiversity in the rainforest actually is. In the morning we would hear the sound of howler monkeys, and then during the day we would see lots of colorful insects and birds.  More than just insects and birds, we would also be exposed to a wide range of different organic life including trees, plants, and rainforest canopy. To think that our actions can have a direct impact on the wellbeing of the wild forest and fauna in the Peruvian rainforest is incredible. Staying hopeful about rainforest preservation is important. More specifically, the birds in the Amazon rainforest were what drew me in for closer examination. Aldo, who was one of our guides is a bird expert, and explained a lot about birds, such as the harpy eagle, one of the largest birds in Peru. Some of the sites we saw of flocks of Macaws gathered at the Macaw claylicks were beautiful, and as a result I did become interested in different species of birds. For what we couldn’t see with our own eyes, we would cross logs and rivers, and go on long treks and hikes through the forest to set up camera traps. This helped us to see life like jaguars and pumas, while at nighttime we could experience nocturnal wildlife. by: Ian Yoshioka

A Collaborative Story from Our Adventure

Health in the Jungle

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Our goal as the wildlife crew was to observe as much wildlife as possible. Seems simple, right? Well, in trying to do this, I learned to stop looking. The wildlife of the jungle taught me how to see and stop looking. While wading through swamps of oxbow lakes or sloshing through thick, jungle floor mud, I realized that wildlife has no obligation to perform for my camera. Despite wanting great shots to share back home, in fact, I didn’t want a performance after all. However, when I did take the time to genuinely see what was there, Mother nature blew me away with astounding beauty in moments of spontaneous awe. Those moments that stopped me in my tracks — capuchins and other monkey species frolicking through camp, the tracks of the animals unseen, sharing it with influential people — are among my most cherished memories. Even the minutes I spent simply standing still and feeling the energy of the forest, can give me the chills from thousands of miles away. When I really get down to it and try to synthesize my experience as a wildlife researcher, I am left with this thought: while I was learning to see differently, the rainforest helped me find deep tranquility. by: Christina DeJoseph

Fauna are Fun-a

En las colpas – In the claylicks

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Take a Look…