Presentation "Avian Conservation in Guatemala: The Intersection of veterinary medicine, biology, and human rights." (San Carlos University Master program in Conservation and Wildlife Management)
For nearly as long as I have been a veterinarian, I have been coming to Guatemala. Over a span of 24 years I can tell a story of parrot conservation here in this land whose beauty, and the loss of it, hurts. But it also a beauty that sustains. So I told a group of biologists and veterinarians studying for their Masters in Conservation and Wildlife Management at the University of San Carlos this past weekend.
Being with them was part of my conservation efforts in Guatemala, first in the north in El Peten with the Scarlet Macaw, and now in the South Coast with the threatened Yellow-naped Amazon . My plan has been to hold discussions with various groups in the hopes of building a coalition that would plan concrete steps to salvage what we may before we lose any more beauty from the world, resulting in only beauty behind us and not before us.
Yellow-naped Amazon at Los Tarrales (ecotourist reserve)
So that I could share more of the story I went with faculty and students of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry to visit fincas that could serve as nuclei for avitourism, research, and conservation. On the way into these isolated spots of flora and fauna, we could not avoid seeing the destruction of sugar cane. One finca owner, Andy of Los Tarrales, reported to us that one sugar cane factory is not just burning cane, but also approximately 200 truckfulls of mature wood a day (felled trees). He fears for what we might actually be able to accomplish here given the extensive infiltration of sugar cane economy in so many industries within Guatemala.
Sugar cane factory smoke stacks in background, with sugar cane crops lining the highways.
We have to try, try hard, and try now – so goes the sentiment that I am hearing across the groups I am have worked with this past month in Central America. We cannot cease from the work before us, for we know not what may yet flower.
Field workers in Finca San Julien
So we work, for what else can we do? Until 11 p.m. at night the students and professors catch bats in mist nests upon star graced hillsides, identifying the species amongst squeals and laughter.
Bat caught in mist nets in Los Tarrales
We get up early the next morning to walk the hillsides searching ever more diligently for parrot activity. The next day begins early too, my final day here which starts at 4 a.m. I journey to Guatemala City to catch my flight back to the United States, grateful for those that are willing to meet me at the airport to squeeze in one more meeting so that we might ponder the way forward, the way of beauty.
Los Tarrales Nature Reserve