This two-part series chronicles the efforts of Osa Conservation and Amazon Conservation Team to learn from one another’s conservation strategies through staff visits to each other’s field sites and the ensuing exchange of knowledge and experience.
My first time in the Amazon
by Agustín Mendoza, Land Stewardship and Maintenance, Osa Conservation
I arrived on the Osa Peninsula well over 39 years ago; since I was young I worked the land with my father, through him learning the best techniques to do so. Although I was very young, I had always expressed an interest as to how little by little the forest around me was disappearing, and along with it all the wildlife. Back in those days, there were no laws to prevent the indiscriminate lumber trade in the Osa.
At the age of 23 I left the Osa Peninsula for the first time for three of the longest years of my life. I had to return because I could never acclimate myself to living in a world so different to that which I had grown up in. I also returned with my young children in hopes of giving them the experience of growing up in nature that I myself had received as a small child. It was during my return to the Osa that I met Manuel Ramirez and Adrian Forsyth who contracted me to begin working with them: they were looking for someone to help them protect the Osa wildlife and to work on reforestation projects on the peninsula. With this job I took advantage of the opportunity to bring my children into the forest and educate them about the importance of the animals and wildlife around them, much as I had learned as a small child. It was a learning experience for my children as much as it was for me; as I continued working on these projects, I also begun learning about native trees and about their seeds, about reforestation, and about general conservation issues. Later Osa Conservation would contract me where my wildlife experience would be of much value to the organization. I also was given the chance to learn a lot by working with Osa Conservation; for example, about the importance of relationships with scientist, students, and volunteers, and how important their impact and work with the forest is. This opportunity helped me to grow as a person, and also opened many doors for me that I would not have had otherwise.
Thanks to one of these encounters through Osa, I recently had the luxury of traveling to Colombia to give a presentation about reforestation and native tree seed collection. I was greeted by Wilmar and Jairo, collaborators with our organization Amazon Conservation Team. With them I traveled down an Amazon river to the indigenous community of Guitara. In truth, I was originally rather scared of making the journey; the boat ride, the river; all of these things were completely unknown to me, and outside of my native Osa made me nervous. In the end I cannot complain, I was greeted by the indigenous community with an incredible response – they were truly special and humble humans with whom I was able to share unique experiences, stories, history, and culture. At the end of my journey I came to the realization that although I had traveled to Colombia with the idea of teaching the community of Guitara a bit of what I knew, I came out learning so much more than I could have hoped to teach them.