Month away from Lapa Release Program!
After much research and lots of support from Alejandra Monge, director of the Corcovado Foundation, and Tey Arce, her counterpart from Titi Alliance, we are about ready to launch our pilot program for the re-introduction of three pairs of Scarlet Macaws (Lapas) in Santa Juana. The community has created its own committee to care for the lapas, including Allan Jimenez who will be in charge of preparing the “Jaula”, their temporary cage located next door to where he and his family live, who will look after the six new members to the community. Jimmy Mata, our staff biologist from Si Como No’s Wildlife Refuge and Nature Park in Manuel Antonio, will be responsible for the lab reports of blood samples and general behavior patterns as the Lapas become adapted to their new environment. They were raised as chicks at the facilities of Don Alesandro Puma, near the capital of San Jose. If this pilot program works, and the Lapas adapt to what was originally their natural habitat, before they were hunted for their feathers, meat, and value for collectors, Sr. Palma will have several more young pairs ready by next Spring! Based upon the study done by the National University of San Jose’s Biology department, the area has at least 17 species of native trees that the Lapas include in their natural diet. If the pilot is successful, and the reintroduction, over a 90-day period succeeds with the birds choosing to stay in the area, this will generate more natural attractions besides restoring these colorful Lapas, or Scarlet Macaws, to their natural habitat. Also the employment of two members of the village, who will have the responsibility, as well as employment, for caring and sharing their knowledge about these magnificent animals who live, paired for life, for up to 80 years!
Santa Juana Community is nestled on the luscious jungle terraces of Fila Chonta, overlooking the Central Pacific Coastline of Costa Rica.
Although the Costa Rican educational system has reached 95% of its population, the truth is that this remote community, as with so many other rural communities in the country, faces enormous budget limitations. The scarcity of their resources, the seclusion to provide qualified teachers, and the fact that there are only 5 students in total in the elementary school in Santa Juana, make the situation even more challenging.
Our project has included two initiatives to supply the many needs that these students have. One example was this last April when we hosted a pilot Yoga Program of North Americans to Santa Juana to enjoy both the tranquil village atmosphere and hospitality, as well the Spa and Yoga meditation platforms beside the Rio Rodeo, surrounded by the Oasis Gardens that are cared for by members of the community employed by Greentique Hotel’s rural tourism programs.
Our allies at Greentique Hotels had asked the tour operator of Leaning Journeys, by Perillo Travel in New Jersey, to invite the tour participants to bring along school supplies for the primary school of Santa Juana. Andres, whose the head of the school committee, provided a list of art supplies needed, along with new dictionaries and other items, and what evolved was a connection between the school, our tour package programs with travel agents and their clients, and the students, their teacher and entire community of Santa Juana who enjoy sharing their school initiatives with visitors from North America and beyond who will now continue to bring valuable donations for education and in turn take back valuable memories of their experiences with the local community and natural attractions shared in the guided tour program offerings.
It’s quite encouraging to see how, by just fulfilling part of the list of school supplies that possibly can fit in each visitor’s suitcase, how much is gained in both public relations as well as for the young students who benefit from the art supplies, dictionaries and other items on the school’s “Wish List”.
The donated supplies have been great teaching tools; focusing on environmental themes where students learn from their teacher, share their artwork with their parents, and where visitors receive a unique travel experience that is priceless. Members of Greentique Hotels, explained how happy the children were to get all these new supplies. One of them was Ariel Jimenez, age 7, who was so proud to show everyone his artwork, depicting various birds flying over the landscape of Santa Juana, that he displayed his work in front of his house for all the neighbors to see.
The Santa Juana Rural Mountain Project; creating awareness among local communities about their natural heritage.
“Trees looked more red than green” that is what Don Efraen recalled, one of the first settlers in Santa Juana, about the macaws population in this area. Approximately 50 years ago this same corridor, Fila Chonta, had a healthy population of Macaws that completely disappeared primarily caused by hunters and smugglers of tropical birds.
The community of Santa Juana recently hosted representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MINAE) to a meeting with their own members from the School, Water and Church committees interested in pursuing permission to release and care of several pairs of young Scarlet Macaws. The program will be managed by volunteers from the village itself and is a program under review by the Ara Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protect the Macaw populations in Costa Rica.
According to Jim Damalas, General Manager of Greentique Hotels, “Because of the continued revenues generated by the tours to Santa Juana, as well as the guest donations from Si Como No Resort in Manuel Antonio and additional donations received through the Corcovado Foundation and Globalgiving, the community has become very aware of the importance of protecting the many natural attractions that generate tourist revenues and donations for the community’s development.”
With an amazing 75% attendance of the community to this meeting with MINAE, it was one more example of the prevalent importance in conserving and enhancing the biodiversity of this part of the mountain corridor of Talamanca, and in return creating more benefits for their village, their families, and preserving also the heritage of Costa Rica.
The Village of Santa Juana is a sleepy little town in the midst of the mountains of Aguirre overlooking the famous national park and beaches of Manuel Antonio, 30 km from the mountain ridge of Fila Chonta. A beautiful area, however Allan Jimenez started to contemplate the need of moving away to find a job. He needed to provide for his family and there was no work to be found in Santa Juana, he was only 19, living with his mother and brother. His father left to seek employment elsewhere when he was young.
The Rural Tourism Project started by Greentique Hotel was a life savior! This project has been the only source of employment in this area for a really long time. This was a great opportunity for Allan and other people in the community to avoid migrating in search of income to sustain their families. Unfortunately work is not the only need of this community: Water supply is limited, until a few years ago there was no electricity, roads are in bad condition, health treatments are scarce and the school has very limited supplies.
Having a job is a great motivation for Allan, his opportunity to stay with his family. Over the last 7 years Allan has become a local inspiration by his level of productivity and his positive spirit and comradeship with his fellow workers and the rest of his community. Allan recently became the proud father of healthy baby girl. He has been able to convey that growing pride of his new family, of his community, and the mission of the conservation program to hundreds of visitors.
Allan as the rest of his community dream with opportunities to improve their lives. They don’t want to leave theirfamilies. They don’t want to add to the thousands of Costarricans that have had to migrate in order to support theirfamilies. They don’t want their families disintegrated.
Funding for this project will impact their community in a great way. More supplies and desks for the school, a better more hygienic examination room for the doctors to treat patients, better tubing for the water system and more opportunities for their children. They dream to attract new families to their community, more population means new micro businesses, more government support and better schools. By donating through Globalgiving you will be helping this community to stay alive, unlike other nearby towns that have disappeared.
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