Collecting Permit Ideas

Mark Walker mwalker at
Sun Aug 16 09:33:02 EDT 1998

What can I say, it's like Disney's ping pong ball chain reaction.  I'm
sitting here, peaceful-like, but coiled and ready to jump.

Good to hear from Jim Hanlon, I was wondering if he hadn't permanently
relocated to the Amazon.  Too bad that he's struggling with the same issues
that I'm struggling with - even if I'm only struggling with them
philosophically (I haven't made a trip to South America yet).  He wrote:

>I am extremely disappointed at the difficult and complex process of
>a permit to collect butterflies in Brazil. I have invested so much time in
>learning about the country's flora and fauna, studying the language,
>geography, etc., only to find out that it is nearly impossible for an
>collector to obtain a permit. Note: I only use Brazil as an example here
>because Brazil is my Country of choice, so keep in mind that the following
>concept can be applied almost anywhere.

First of all, I don't think the problem has anything to do with a concern
for wildlife.  It sure appears to be an issue of economics to me.  With
sufficient pressure from the scientific and academic communities, permits
are for sale.  Otherwise, no resources are permitted to leave the country -
not because of conservation - but because something valuable that has not
been appropriately recognized by the government might slip away into someone
else's hands.  An eccentric collector is considered to know something that
the officials don't know, and obviously can't be trusted.  Meanwhile, both
butterfly and habitat continue to be destroyed internally.  If it were
conservation that provided the motivation, then I suspect that anyone
interested in coming down to perform species counts and help assess the
damage would be welcomed - even encouraged.

For the moment, insects just don't represent a large enough economic
interest.  There really aren't enough people interested in going to the
Amazon to chase butterflies.  I don't think the tourist dollars Jim is
referring to really amount to that much.  I'm selfishly glad about this, but
simultaneously frustrated by the permitting problems.

What is needed is a stronger lobby, and one that is supported by the
scientific and academic communities.  With this in place, we can begin to
educate and assist in studying and protecting the environment.  I suspect
that the final set of rules would be somewhat similar to what Jim has
proposed - some permitting fee along with the surrendering of data and the
prohibition of collecting any protected species (the information on which
would be greatly improved by this process).  Government officials really
aren't (always) the trolls we make them out to be.  They are simply
operating on too little information, and a large priority queue that is
constantly being reshuffled.  I'm afraid that while amatuer and hobbyist
collecters have much to offer, they alone are not respected enough to be the
source of that information.  We need the support of scientists and
researchers, along with their institutions!

This is precisely why I am so adamant about carrying on this debate within
this forum.  For whatever it's worth, I really think we are making progress.
Meanwhile, we dream of the equatorial species that fly but whose days are
numbered.  Oh, to be a naturalist in the 19th century!

Mark Walker
Baking in Vermont.

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