Anyone who has worked in conservation for some time will be able to relate to this story. After nearly 15 years of work at the Parque Machia wild animal refuge in Bolivia, where hundreds of species of monkey, parrot, turtle, puma and jaguar have been cared for, and many released, a completely illogical decision to build a road through the reserve has been taken by the local government, and will destroy much of the park which is home to so many of these creatures rescued from captivity.
The road is being built to create greater access for communities further into the forest, but there have been countless reasons shown why the road is not for anyone’s benefit. Apart from the fact that it will destroy an entire ecosystem for the animals and the forest they live in, the land is not stable enough to support the construction of a road, landslides after just one wet season will wash the entire project away. There are more appropriate routes for this road, but this happens to be the cheapest option in the short term.
Of course it may help secure votes for the next local government election, so we stand corrected, it may benefit the mayor.
Members of the forest community came into the park yesterday and started clearing the forest with machetes, without any authorisation from the government and without giving any prior warning to the park. The animals had not been moved yet and were forced to move as the trees they were sitting in were cut down. Volunteers in the park have posted more images of the destruction so far on Facebook, you can view them here
Inti Wara Yassi, the organisation which manages the park, has been aware of this threat for some time and has been doing all it can to prepare for this eventuality. They now have two privately owned reserves (Machia is a state owned park) in Bolivia where they are hoping to move as many of the animals as possible, and Quest Overseas has been working with them since 2002 to help develop these locations. Sadly, many of the animals released into Machia will not be able to be moved, and their future is extremely uncertain.
Staff and volunteers in Bolivia, as well as all of us over here, are doing as much as we can to reverse the local government’s decision to build the road, but the way local politics works in Bolivia suggests it will be difficult.
If you would like to help secure the future of these animals, you can join one of our Bolivia Teams in 2011, where you will help to build the infrastructure for the new parks, as well as care for the animals which live there.
These are very sad and frustrating times, but are also times when we need to offer our support more than ever.