Brazilian Amazon

Shueyi at Shueyi at
Fri Jul 17 15:12:40 EDT 1998

<< My suggestion, from one lover of the Amazon to another:  How about
 trying to  organize a butterfly watching/photographing triip?  For a start -
 could try  putting an add in American Butterflies, Natural History, or maybe
 on the net.
 Let's ask that question now:  How many of you at this site would be
 interested in  a non-collecting butterfly study trip to the Amazon ?>>

This is a very serious question that I too would like to know the answer to.
Last winter I helped lead a TNC (The Nature Conservancy) trip to the cloud
forests of El Triunfo, Chiapas Mexico.  As is almost everything we do, the
trip is viewed as a conservation tool to protect biodiversity.  El Triunfo is
a series of cloud forests on the Pacific side of Chiapas - about 175,000
hectares fall within the primary reserve core.  Part of the "conservation
strategy" for the area is to generate income for the both the in-country
organization that manages the reserve, as well as generate economic activities
for communities near the reserve.  

Staying in the reserve is about as "Indiana Jones"-like an adventure as most
tourists get today.  You have to hire pack animals and their handlers to carry
you tent and gear up the mountains, you camp in a series of small clearings
that may or may not have facilities at all the camp sites, your meals are
cooked over open fires, and you get as close to wilderness as is possible.
The wildlife is spectacular, and the butterflies are as specialized as you can
get (look at the butterflies of Costa Rica and look at the cloud forest-
restricted species for a taste - this was my sixth trip to Chiapas, and once
we were in cloud forest almost every species I saw was new to me).  You see
monkeys, quetzals, tapir, and maybe big cats if you are very lucky.  Much of
your money goes directly to the local communities (for your guides, animal
handlers, cooks, food purchase, etc) and demonstrates to the locals that the
reserve can have a positive economic impact (and that there are alternate uses
to converting the entire system to coffee plantations).  

Economic analysis shows that six expeditions  (15 tourists each) per year
would have a significant impact on the local communities.  Ecological analysis
indicates that six trips per year are about all that the campsites can sustain
with becoming damaged.

The catch is that there isn't enough interest out there to sustain six trips
per year!!!  In part, this is because you have to be in pretty good shape to
get up to base camp (a four hour minimum hike up the mountains). We have been
pondering if a "butterfly watching trip" into the area could be developed  to
add an annual expedition to the reserve.  But we don't know if the interest is
out there.

Are people interested in this type of wilderness butterfly watching
opportunity (getting collecting permits for Mexico is very difficult, and
getting permission to collect in the reserve would likely be impossible).  The
cost from Mexico City is about $1,800 US for a 7-8 day excursion.  

I should point out that I have no financial interest in this proposal
(although there is a good chance that I would be the TNC representative on the
trip, but just as likely it would be someone else).  These trips really are
tools to help us protect biodiversity.

John Shuey
Director of Conservation Biology
Indiana Office of The Nature Conservancy

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