One month ago.
We were finalizing the roster for our 2020 Educator Academy in the Amazon.
We were celebrating a fruitful collaboration with our conservation partners.
We were hatching plans for student research projects in the Amazon.
One month ago, we had no idea how much the world would change.
One month ago.
Multiple troops of titi monkeys called back and forth and we were there to hear it.
Scarlet macaws soared through the treetops and we were there to witness it.
One month ago, hope was made manifest.
A little background.
Around the world there are indications that we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. There are sharp declines in biodiversity levels being observed from local backyards to the most remote ecosystems in the world. Of particular concern is the loss of species in biodiversity ‘hotspots’ such as the Amazon.
The forests where we do our work are a prime example of this issue.
Over the years, the researchers who serve as faculty on our annual Educator Academy in the Amazon are often heard reminiscing about “the old days’ and the biodiversity they used to encounter. One field researcher, with decades of experience in tropical forests, even went so far to say our beloved forest was ‘ghost forest’ and all the large mammals (peccaries, jaguars, giant anteaters, woolly and titi monkeys, etc.) were gone and we should expect the remaining biodiversity to decline as a result.
A conservation success story is emerging that revitalizing this forest. The newly formed Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area (MKRCA), located adjacent to our study site at Explorama’s ACTS Field Station and Canopy Walkway, protects nearly a million acres of indigenous land. After decades of extractive logging and poaching, the Maijuna have taken back control and preliminary studies indicate that viable populations of large mammals and birds still exist deep in the forest.
And, and, and..
One month ago, as we stood on top of platform #6 of the ACTS canopy walkway, and we heard it. The loud, raucous, unmistakable call of scarlet macaws. And they were close. And then, a flash of red and blue. And then another. And there they were, perched on a tree just off of one of the walkway platforms. And they stayed.
One month ago, as we emerged from our mosquito nets each morning, and we heard it. Titi monkeys lending their voices to the dawn chorus of birds. And they were close. And then we saw them, a pair silhouetted against the dawn sky with their distinctive tails hanging low. And they stayed.
What a difference a month can make.
Today, the ACTS Field Station and Canopy Walkway are standing quietly in the forest, bearing witness to the return of biodiversity in our absence. The macaws are there and so are the titi monkeys, of that we are sure. The camera traps we deployed right before we left will tell us what other species are returning to our beloved forest while we shelter in our homes. And that gives us great hope.
Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.David Orr
During this time of distancing, perspectives shift, plans change, dreams are redefined. And we are rolling up our sleeves. We are putting the word hope into verb form. We are figuring out how to support our Amazon friends and partners in new ways. We are figuring out how to support our Amazon educator network with new resources. We are figuring out how to realize our goal of Amazon Conservation Through Education.
We are standing in the breach with hopeful hearts and our sleeves rolled up. Please join us.