A True Conservation Story PDF Print E-mail
Written by ABOFOA   
Tuesday, 07 September 2010 01:53

The Character of Conservation

By William Rodriguez Trigoso

Roy Vail, is a retired high school biology teacher, now living in Mena,  Arkansas, USA. He first visited the tropical dry forest of San Martin, Peru, in late December of 1995 as a member of group of tropical plant hobbyists being led by Mr. Lee Moore of Miami Florida.  Roy Vail is the author of the fern book, “Platycerium Hobbyists Handbook.”  That genus of ferns has been his hobby for over 30 years.

Only one of the 18 species of Platycerium is found in the Americas, Platycerium andinum. Platycerium andinum was lost to cultivation and hobbyists for decades until it was rediscovered in the 1960’s by Lee Moore. Tarapoto, San Martin, is location assigned in scientific writings as the locality for Platycerium andinum.

Lee Moore’s 1995 group first spent time in Moyobamba, then Tarapoto. Roy Vail was the only member interested in just Platycerium andinum. Tarapoto is in very cultivated area. Finding a forest with Platycerium andinum
was so difficult that Roy Vail and Lee Moore had to go out alone, early one morning, with a guide, Eulogio Galvez, and walk an hour past the end of a dirt road, to see such a forest. They later named that forest, “The Donut Hole Forest” because it was being cleared from the center.

Both Roy Vail and Lee Moore became concerned about the future of Platycerium andinum. They even considered trying to buy “The Donut Hole Forest.”  Roy Vail made many trips back to Peru, talking with mayors, travel agents, hotel owners, newspapers, radio stations, -anyone who would listen. He gave away thousands of color post cards of Platycerium andinum. He wrote and gave out a booklet in Spanish about the fern. In May of 1997 he was given a “Distinguished Visitor” award by Rolando Reategui Flores, who was then mayor of Tarapoto.

Roy took a engineer Jorge A. Rengifo  R. from INRENA to see “The Donut Hole Forest.” Later Jorge A. Rengifo  R.  found that “The Donut Hole Forest” was on private land, but he set aside a reserve across the Rio Huallaga and south from Picota.  When Roy returned to Peru, Jorge A. Rengifo  R. had quit INRENA, but Al Twiss of Tarapoto managed to locate him and find the location of the reserve.

In 1999 Roy returned, with his wife Mary. He rented a bus, and took a large group to see the reserve. After seeing the reserve, (and discovering a group of farmers growing corn inside it), they had lunch at the hotel in Picota and discussed the potential of the reserve. The trip was covered by a television station in Tarapoto.

Later Roy Vail located Marco Leon, who was then in the Biology Department of the University of San Martin, in Tarapoto. Marco Leon helped improve the Spanish booklet about Platycerium andinum. A environmental student group, the Chullachaqui, led by Gustavo Carcamo, formed in Picota. Roy returned in 2000. Due to the ground work of Marco Leon and the Chullachaqui, a 32 square mile “Municipal” reserve of the cities of Picota and Bellavista, “El Quinillal” (named by the Chullachaqui), was dedicated June 8, 2001. Roy returned in August of 2001.

In 2006 Roy sponsored a full page ad in the Picota magazine, “El Sol Del Huallaga,” pleading for the future of El Quinillal and Platycerium andinum. By 2009 Roy was receiving conflicting e-mails about the status of El Quinillal, and the habitat of Platycerium andinum. He sponsored Peruvian biologist Ricardo Fernandez to go to Picota and report back the truth.

Ricardo Fernandez was doubtful about the safety of El Quinillal, but very enthusiastic about the “Asociacion el Bosque del Futuro Ojos De Agua” (ABOFOA) a group  formed by local farmers in March of 2003, in Pucacaca, about 8 miles north of Picota. They were protecting a large piece of tropical dry forest where they lived, and, due to assistance from Marco Leon, were being sponsored by the Embassy of Finland. When Roy Vail learned that Ricardo Fernandez would be in Moyobamba in November of 2009, he arranged for the two visit the new group. Their reserve, the Ojos De Agua, was Federal, rather than Municipal like El Quinillal.

Roy Vail made enough donations to the ABOFOA that they, with their own hands, built the “Roy Vail Auditorium,” an office, and a research cabin in their forest, that Roy Vail asked be in memory of his parents, Richard C. and Marianna Vail.

Their dedication ceremony was held August Saturday, August 7, 2010 in the new auditorium in Pucacaca. Roy Vail, his only sister, Carol Gardner, and Ricardo Fernandez, attended, were honored, and spent the night in the cabin in the Ojos De Agua Forest. The ceremony resulted in two trips to forests on the other side of the Rio Huallaga. With the guidance of ABOFOA, an association is forming to save a forest there. Recent word is a group may form across the Rio Huallaga from Bellavista.

The ABOFOA describes themselves as Ecoguerreros (Ecological Warriors). They realized that San Martin is a Region of Peru with contrasts and paradoxes: next to an unstoppable deforestation rate, which is causing serious environmental imbalances, there is a unique and also unstoppable conservation movement that seeks to protect what remains of their forests.

What is working in Rio Huallaga Valley of Peru is an example to the world. The true hope for saving the natural heritage we have, for our children and their children, is the common, ordinary, not necessarily rich, people living today, who see what is happening, and realize what it means. One member of ABOFA stated, “We turned from lumber to conservation.” Another member operates the only facility in Peru that processes coconuts in a way that not only uses the meat, but also turns the shell into charcoal briquettes rather than trash. Another member stopped being a farmer and became a MOTOTAXI driver because he no longer wanted to be part of a profession that destroyed forests. Five of the group have volunteered to truly study Platycerium andinum. The number of members that formed ABOFA; sixteen.

A strange unity has developed in the Rio Huallaga Valley of Peru. A retired biology teacher from the United States, trying his best to save the habitat of a unique giant fern, has united with a group of poor farmers who have the vision of saving part of a rare type of forest where they live. Together, each is doing what it can, from where each lives, simply because they all hope to make a difference for the future.

“Go ye and do likewise.”

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Last Updated on Monday, 25 April 2011 18:40