The ProEcoPelaos sail off into the blue for International oceans month

Fig. 1. The Pro Eco Pelaos say goodbye after a productive day of whale-watching.

The ProEcoPelaos children’s group enjoyed a wonderful blue whale-watching adventure in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge in September, international oceans month.

Fig. 2. The Pro Eco Pelaos waiting to set sail for the open sea.

THE ADVENTURE

It all started on a sunny and pleasant afternoon, under a radiant sun that made the small sand particles shine, when the Pro Eco Pelaos gathered at Arenal Beach, prepared to go out on the wide blue open sea awaiting them. Four boats carrying a total of 27 people embarked into the waves of the Refuge, getting closer and closer to their whale-watching destination. The magnificent Iguana Island seemed to greet them, exposing all of its natural beauty full of flora and fauna that are part of an interconnected ecosystem shared with its neighbor, the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge. As they set sail, the Pro Eco Pelaos were able to observe interesting species.

Fig. 3. Edward Garcia, AEP program leader, with the Pro Eco Pelaos.

The hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) passed by the boat and seemed sad because humans threw garbage into their homes; dolphins (Delphinus delphis) were jumping, trying to watch the sun; flying fish (Exocoetus volitans) wanted to reach the sky; sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) hurried by; seabirds were searching for food; and humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) joyfully showed off their large size. The children’s eyes were shining in wonder as they explored how beautiful nature is and that how taking care of it is our human responsibility, taking this message with them once their feet touched the ground again and they headed home. Despite having lived their whole lives close to the sea, for some of the Pro Eco Pelaos, this was the first time they had set out to see their neighbors, the whales.

Fig. 4. Pro Eco Pelaos smile despite the wind and the foam as they sail in search for whales.

“This experience with the Pro Eco Pelaos was very beautiful and different, and I saw a lot of animals like dolphins, whales and turtles. Although I was in the open sea I was not scared. I have been participating in this initiative for 7 years now and I still love it” – Michell Pérez (member of the Pro Eco Pelaos).

 

 

PARTICIPANTS

Twenty-one children and six accompanying adults participated in this activity which is supported by the LATA Foundation as a part of their collaboration with us to support the Pablo Barrios Refuge, Tortugas Pedasí, the SINAPROC office in Pedasí, La Maestra restaurant, and the Peace Corps.

Celebrating Earth Day in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge

Fig. 1. Image taking by: https://noticiasmicrojuris.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/shutterstock_96211094.jpg?w=1000

Since 2012, the Azuero Earth Project has been working with the community of Pedasí to promote a better management of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge and its natural resources, mangroves, dunes, and vegetation. Besides being a very important protected area in Pedasí, the touristic and natural value of this area is even more valuable due to its role as a buffer zone for the R.V.S. Isla Iguana. A community committee from Pedasí in addition to several organizations, including the Pedasí organisation Tortugas Pedasí, MiAmbiente, ATP, Minsacapsi Pedasí, the municipality, Cima Pedasí, Pedasí Tourism Chamber, the Azuero Earth Project and the Barrios family, planned an annual event for Earth Day to commemorate the RVS Pablo Barrios. This committee submitted an application to achieve shared management of the R.V.S. Pablo Barrios. A final answer in this regards will be taken by MiAmbiente.

Fig. 2. The image shows the planting of mangroves

To highlight the importance of the refuge and to share with this important date with the community of Pedasí, Earth Day was celebrated this Saturday, April 21st of 2018 at the Arenal beach and the refuge, with the support of the aforementioned entities and Fundación Natura.

That morning began with a walk and cleaning from the center of Pedasi to the Arenal beach, where the Azuero Earth Project received the public with open arms and a variety of exciting and interesting activities. Among these activities were a relaxing kayak tour within the confines of the wildlife refuge “Pablo Arturo Barrios”, in which families and friends had the opportunity to observe the natural beauty of the mangroves and the diversity of birds that inhabit them. Additionally, an important task was carried out for the conservation of this refuge, planting more than 100 mangroves. Another important event taken place that day was the distribution of bird guide and informational triptychs from the shelter “Pablo Arturo Barrios” from a study carried out by two students from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. A photography contest was organized with anticipation to the event to highlight the beauty of the refuge and the local nature of Pedasí. The winner of this contest where also revealed during the event. Finally, to mark the end of this eventful day, a beach cleaning was organized followed by several games of beach soccer!

Fig. 3. Celebrating in Playa El Arenal with the families and friends of the national and international community of Pedasi

The Azuero Earth Project would therefore like to say: “Thank you to all those who accompanied us to celebrate Earth Day! We are proud to know that many people celebrated this great day, which symbolizes the day of our mother Earth, or in other words, our home. However, we must remember that this must be an everyday matter and state of mind, because protecting the planet means, after all protecting our own home. We have a great responsibility over it! “

Fig. 4. Enjoying a kayaking trip between the mangroves of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge

You can find more information about our work at the Azuero Earth Project by following us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @proecoazuero , or by browsing on our official website: https://proecoazuero.org/

For any additional questions, we can be reached by phone with the following number: 995-2995 or via e-mail at:  info@proecoazuero.org

If you would like to support our reforestation programs you can also follow us on this page: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-riparian-reforestation-with-azuero-farmers/

“Thank you to the LATA Foundation for their support of this activity”

 

Long live the Primates: an actualization of the population study to support their conservation

 

Azuero spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis)

 

In mid-September of 2017, a group of researchers made up of students from different regional centers of the University of Panama, accompanied by Danilo Chiari, Cristóbal Pérez, and Miguel Montenegro, started an interesting journey to the forested lands of the village of Rio Oria, in the District of Pedasí, Province of Los Santos, in the Azuero Peninsula, with the aim of monitoring primates under the supervision of the Azuero Earth Project. This organisation is dedicated to protecting and restoring Azuero’s forested lands. One of the objectives is to establish if the primates’ population has diminished or increased based on a study realized by Natalia Reagan in 2009, called “The effects of forest fragmentation on the distribution of the Azuero Spider Monkey”. Other aims are to update the list of trees considered as primates’ principal diet choices, to observe changes in the forested lands through time, and to determine strategic areas for forest conservation.

Howler monkey (Alouatta palliata)

These enthusiastic researchers had the opportunity of learning about three species of primates from our country: The White Faced Capuchin Monkey (Cebus capucinus), the Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), and the principal actor of the study, the Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis). This last one has a diet principally based on fruits, leading their feces to play an important role in seed dispersal and fertilization, reason for which they are considered excellent actors in forest restoration. In addition, the researches learned to differentiate individuals by their sex and age, as well as recognizing with the common names and scientific names the trees in which these primates were found. The challenges they faced were of great importance for their personal and professional growth, and it was mentioned as well with a slight touch of humor, that these challenges were also of a physical nature, since regardless of the reward that the finished study brought to the researchers, there were difficult moments in the field such as crossing rivers, walking for long hours, climbing steep hills, and bug bights.

The image shows the scientists and students, Danilo Chiari (right) and Cristóbal Pérez (left) taking the data of the observed monkeys

One of the unforgettable adventures that we went through, was interacting with the community to raise awareness on these primates and their importance within the forests they inhabit, as well as the way in which we can differentiate them and how the community can get involved with the different reforestation projects amongst other topics. Between the 22nd and the 26th of January of 2018, the group visited the regions of Nuario, La Miel, Playa Venao, Los Asientos, Oria Arriba and Pedasí. In each of these regions, the communities seemed strongly interested with the topics presented, even sharing information with the researchers that would be relevant for the investigation and to implement more efficient conservation strategies. Some of the topics that were suggested were the importance of corridors between forests to allow the passage of primates, the possibility of the existence of the Gray-Bellied Night Monkey (Aotus lemurinus), and the benefit of commercializing tourism with “monkey watching”.

Students and scientists, Miguel Montenegro (left) and Danilo Chiari (right) observe in the canopy a group of spider monkeys moving on the branches

Presently, the team finished the field work and is starting to analyze their findings for publication. We would like to thank Primate Conservation Inc. (http://www.primate.org/) for their support in this study which will contribute to the wellbeing of this species and to the improvements of future academic investigations on wildlife through the help of student researchers in this region.

 

 

Jairo Batista, was the guide of the researchers during the study of the Spider Monkey, which had the opportunity to learn from the ecosystem of the place

You can also contribute by providing information on Spider Monkeys that inhabit your “fincas” or around your houses, by coming to visit our office in Pedasi, or contacting us via e-mail at: info@proecoazuero.org; cristobal@proecoazuero.org, or by telephone: 995-2995.

If you would like to provide a contribution of another kind, you can also donate through the following link: https://proecoazuero.org/donate-aep/

 

Dissemination day of primate monitoring in Los Asientos

“Let’s protect the Spider Monkey and they will conserve the forests”

 – Cristóbal Pérez

 

 

Earth Day 2017 Celebration in Pablo A. Barrios Refuge

The Azuero Earth Project celebrated Earth Day this year in collaboration with other local organizations with a series of events in late April. The activities included:

  • A mangrove reforestation near the Pedasi port, in the Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, with the Pro Eco Pelaos on Friday April 21st
The Pro Eco Kids hike to the mangrove reforestation site.
  • An Earth Day Celebration on April 22 on Arenal/Bajadero Beach with the local Hospital, Tourism Authority (ATP), Pedasi Municipal Government, CiMA Pedasi, OPC Panama, Tortugas Pedasi, the Barrios-Velasco family, Ministry of the Environment, Hablas Tortuga? and community members;
  • A Sunday Brunch in Las Tablas to benefit the Azuero Earth Project and its programs

The celebration on April 22 started off with a walk to the beach, followed by a beach cleanup that collected more than 49 bags full of plastic, cans and other recyclables, foam, and even some articles like a toilet seat, tires and pieces of scrap metal. Cleanup volunteers documented the quantities and types of beach trash to send this data to a national network organized by PROMAR. It is so important to remember not to leave our trash on the beach!

The winners of the annual Pablo A. Barrios photography contest were also announced on Earth Day. There were 11 entrants and 30 submissions in 3 categories: the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, Nature, and Ecotourism.  The event also included a sand sculpture building contest organized by Tortugas Pedasi y Hablas Tortuga?, traditional music, games for youth, and more.

c. Edith Díaz, Winner of the RVSPAB category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest
c. Santino Sirtoli, Winner of the Nature category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest
c. Santino Sirtoli, Winner of the Ecotourism category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest

We thank everyone who participated in these Earth Day weekend events and we hope to repeat them in future years! Meanwhile, we invite community members to get involved with our Pro Eco Kids youth group and Refuge Shared Management Committee initiatives. For more information please call (507) 995-2995 or write to gricel@proecoazuero.org

AEP attends Agroforestry conference in Darién

Carmela and Rebecca at the entrance to Nicholas Bravo's Agrotourism farm
Carmela and Rebecca at the entrance to Nicholas Bravo’s Agrotourism farm

Cattle farming is the principle cause of deforestation in Panama, and as you may well know, the word “ganadería” comes from ganar.  The idea of agroforestry is to find an ecologically based natural resource management system, in which both the farmer and the Earth can benefit. Saturday, November 22, members of Azuero Earth Project staff attended the first symposium on Agroforestry, hosted by the University of Panama Darien Campus.  Although far from our home base of Azuero, many of the experiences shared and lessons learned are valuable across the country. The international group of expositors included Fernando Uribe from Cipav in Colombia, Diego Tobar from CATIE in Costa Rica, as well as NGOS working in Darién. With over 100 participants, the energy of the symposium was high, with many questions asked after each presentation. After the day’s events, we were invited to the farm of Nicolas Bravo, a farmer with agroforestry farm in Sazoncito. His farm is truly a labor of love, and from just 5ha, he harvests of 200 different products. Walking through the managed forest, we were impressed to learn how well thought out each planting was, and hearing the lessons of what work and what didn’t.  Bravo told us that each day he is learning from the soil, and that if you listen, the earth itself will tell you what you need to know.

Captain Wiljem Zitman: How to Identify Marine Mammals in Their Environment

Last Tuesday, January 21st, a crowd of local fishermen, boat captains, and amateur nature enthusiasts gathered on the terrace of Casa Pasa to listen to former sea captain and naturalist Wiljelm Zitman deliver a captivating presentation on the identification of marine mammals in their environment. Capt. Zitman’s talk introduced the wide diversity of cetaceans that can be found frequenting the waters off the Azuero peninsula and the techniques that can be used to recognize them.

A group of spinner dolphins c. Wikimedia Commons
A group of spinner dolphins c. Wikimedia Commons

Identifying a fleeting whale or dolphin from the rocking helm of a boat can be a real challenge, even for experts. Capt. Zitman explained that there are techniques that are used to lump groups of closely related cetaceans together, giving the casual observer an accurate way to classify what he or she has briefly seen. Observing an animal’s behavior is one of the most important keys to identification. The Common Dolphin, like the Spinner Dolphin, is highly gregarious and often associates with pods that number in the thousands. Bottlenose dolphins and spotted dolphins, on the other hand, form smaller groups. Physical characteristics such as color, size, beak and melon shape, dorsal fin placement, and the shape and size of the blowhole all help classify these mysterious creatures.

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Humpback whale c. Wikimedia Commons

Capt. Zitman left plenty of room for anecdotal discussion. Several fishermen realized that what they may have been calling pilot whales were in fact, false orcas. Others grew excited when they learned that humpback whales weren’t the only behemoths they might find: Fin and Sperm whales, as well as Orcas, have been spotted off the coasts near Pedasi.

The audience grew excited and left the presentation beaming with energy and enthusiasm. Capt. Zitman’s talk undoubtedly left a positive impression on locals, as most of the crowd hung around afterward, eager to ask questions. Knowing how to correctly identify an animal and its behavior is an important step in its conservation. Hopefully these skills will be transmitted through generations to come.

Field Guide to Marine Mammal Identification

Capt. Zitman’s Presentation here (in Spanish), complete with descriptions of different identifying traits

AEP Participates in SUELO Knowledge Exchange

Roman speaks about sustainable tourism c. Roman Yavich
Roman speaks about sustainable tourism. Photo: Rose Cromwell

AEP Director of Media and Development, Roman Yavich, joined a group of artists, scientists, and NGO leaders at a multidisciplinary residency in the Veraguas Province in Panama on the subject of soil. The event was organized by Estudio Nuboso, a project of Ela Spalding.

By bringing together Panamanian and international artists, scientists, NGO leaders, and residents of the Arrimadero fishing community, the residency aimed to break the institutional mold of knowledge-sharing to spark conversations and ideas on the broad topic of soil. Participants included Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientist, Tony Coates, who presented the 70 million year-old geo-history of Panama’s Pacific coast line and the “pillow lava” that punctuates the picturesque scenery of the Arrimadero beach. Other presenters shared knowledge and experience on topics ranging from soil biology to anthropology. Roman drew on eight years of experience in sustainable tourism to hold an open conversation and presentation on the pros and cons of tourism development and its impact on land rights of current residents of Arrimadero.

Roman’s participation in this event is part of AEP’s broader efforts to engage with the Panamanian nonprofit sector and develop relationships with organizations working on sustainable land use in Panama.

 

AEP Participates in Suelo Knowledge Share

Roman delivers a presentation on sustainable tourism to conference attendees c, Roman Yavich
Roman delivers a presentation on sustainable tourism to conference attendees c. Roman Yavich

AEP Director of Media and Development, Roman Yavich, joined a group of artists, scientists, and NGO leaders at a multidisciplinary residency in the Veraguas Province in Panama on the subject of soil. The event was organized by Estudio Nuboso, a project of Ela Spalding.

By bringing together Panamanian and international artists, scientists, NGO leaders, and residents of the Arrimadero fishing community, the residency aimed to break the institutional mold of knowledge-sharing to spark conversations and ideas on the broad topic of soil. Participants included Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientist, Tony Coates, who presented the 70 million year-old geo-history of Panama’s Pacific coast line and the “pillow lava” that punctuates the picturesque scenery of the Arrimadero beach. Other presenters shared knowledge and experience on topics ranging from soil biology to anthropology. Roman drew on eight years of experience in sustainable tourism to hold an open conversation and presentation on the pros and cons of tourism development and its impact on land rights of current residents of Arrimadero.

Roman’s participation in this event is part of AEP’s broader efforts to engage with the Panamanian nonprofit sector and develop relationships with organizations working on sustainable land use in Panama.

AEP and local environmental leaders attend environmental seminar

Community course group before the mangroves tour, c. Belgis Madrid

Members of the Pedasí and Los Asientos communities represented the province of Los Santos in a week-long environmental seminar sponsored by the City of Knowledge and INADEH. Belgis Madrid and Manuel Cedeño represented the Los Asientos silvopastoral cattle association APASPE, Katheryn Franco represented the ecotourism cooperative of Pedasí (Cooperativa de Ecoturismo y Servicios Múltiples de Pedasí, Pedasí Ecotourism Cooperative), and Euribiades Diaz represented the fishing cooperative of Pedasí (Cooperativa Virgen del Carmen, Fishing Cooperative Virgen del Carmen of Pedasí). This seminar in Divisa focused on training community leaders to understand environmental management and contribute to the solutions of environmental problems.

Belgis Madrid commented, “I learned to value environmental resources and to look for alternatives in businesses.” Belgis also commented that he enjoyed the course because it allowed him to connect with other environmental organizations.

Katheryn Franco particularly enjoyed a trip the seminar took to the mangroves along the Santamaria river where she learned about the importance of the mangrove ecosystem. “I liked the course because it was very interesting and I learned concepts that I did not know, such as the steps to create a good environmental business”, commented Katheryn Franco.