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  News from the Jungle
From: "Eduardo Goncalves" edggon at hotmail.com> on 2001.05.11 at 18:43:54(6424)
Dear aroiders,

Since my last (and dark) message about the situation in the rainforests
of southern contries of Latin America, I have heard a lot of disagreement.
Sorry guys... I know I was too hard, mainly for those that only had traveled
recently the tropics behind the eco-tour guides and the powerfull dollars.
Costa Rica is not a good sample of Latin America. It seems it was the only
country that could find an interesting way to preserve its diversity without
closing all doors. However, I think I may apologise myself for my though
view of the (third) world sharing with you my impressions of my last
Botanical tour in Amazonia. Here we go:

We left S?o Paulo to Manaus on May, 1st, and from the windows of the
plane it was already possible to note when we were approaching the jungle.
Still in Para state (southern portion of Amazonia) we could see the small
hills covered with the transition vegetation (Cerrado - Amazonia), then only
higher-elevation portions of the forest (with enourmous patches of
deflorestation), and then the lowland forest. Wow, it is huge! Manaus is a
big (and chaotic) city deeply imersed in the jungle. We visited the INPA,
the main research institution in Amazonia, and also the home of
Bio-Paranoia! For them, ALL biologists are potential Bio-pirates! Anyway, we
could find lots of Aroids growing aroid the main buildings, including
flowering plants of Xanthosoma blandum and many other species (Philodendron
solimoesense, P. barrosoanum, Alloschemone occidentalis, many Dracontium,
etc). I also took a look in the herbarium, with lots of interesting aroids.
At the same day we left Manaus to Tabatinga, a small village sister to
the Colombian city of Leticia. It is the geographic corner among Brazil,
Colombia (Amazonas) and Peru (Loreto). Once again, many aroids around. One
of the main houseplants is Dieffenbachia cannifolia and large clumps of the
naturalized Alocasia macrorrhizos. We took a small boat to Cauxi lake, the
first place we entered the jungle. In the way to Cauxi lake, I could observe
many hemiepiphytic and epiphytic aroids growing at trees in the innundated
portion of the jungle. Very huge individuals of Anthurium clavigerum,
Philodendron pulchrum, P. megalophyllum, P. uleanum, as well as large clumps
of Anthurium trinerve. When we arrived at the "terra firme" portion near the
Cauxi lake, the first plant we could see was Bognera recondita. This is a
incospicuous aroid at a first glance, spreading its rhizomatous stem under
the Sellaginela covering. The Marantaceae-like leaves are erect. The most
exciting discover was that the plants were fertile, many of them with
inflorescences at anthesis. Wow! We could even observe the probable
pollinators, for the first time. We could also collect another possibly
underscribed Philodendron. Many other aroids were observed around there,
including the delicate Philodendron grazielae. Most epiphytic aroids were
found growing in ant-gardens, that made our observations somewhat painful. I
wont cite the many interesting palms and Heliconias we could observe around
there. I also won?t comment the Marantaceae and the many orchids that I will
never know the names... Wow! Life is everywhere (including trying to suck
our blood)!

From: Lewandjim at aol.com on 2001.05.11 at 20:51:28(6427)
In a message dated 05/11/2001 2:44:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
edggon@hotmail.com writes:

<< Ron... In some places (including Brazil), sending living plants without

From: Durightmm at aol.com on 2001.05.11 at 23:57:52(6429)
Very interesting Eduardo. This surely is worthy of being in the Newsletter
and I am sure Ron Isles would approve . Joe

From: Phil Bunch pbunch at cts.com> on 2001.05.12 at 02:30:04(6430)
This is true! And if you think that at least some USFWS agents will not at least threaten you with the Lacey Act think again.

Phil Bunch
Lemon Grove, California

From: "Ron Iles" roniles at eircom.net> on 2001.05.17 at 15:37:54(6490)
Dear Jim,

Your thoughtful advice is highly appreciated. Smuggling breaks national
and international law and rightfully invites re-tribution and deserves
punishment. "Ornamental" fish and other fauna are ravished for export greed
and profit in astronomic quantities to "westernised" countries for peanuts
for the usual profit and greed. If I was a poor and exploited native who
was paid peanuts to survive a sub-subsistence life in an origin country, I
would be EXTREMELY hostile to "collectors" in my back yard, to those who
clear and burn it for meats for the rich, and to ALL those who exploit me
without humanity. I might even be one of those who grow drugs in
retaliation and resentment as well as for a little money from my leaders.
For the sake of global stability and survival of ALL Nature, the collection
of small SAMPLES of flora and fauna needs to be WELCOMED because it does
backyard owners GOOD. Until that perception is justified, "THEY" are often
right to veto everything and extract the highest reciprocal price from the
white devils. When WE make it BETTER for them to keep their Jungle and use
it for benign sustainable purposes then we might expect to be welcomed
provided we BUY from them at fair market (at this desperate stage, very
high) price. We cannot expect to take thousands of rare plants worth
hundreds of thousands of dollars, for little or nothing, or even ONE plant
if it is worth multi-millions to the International pharmaceuticals or for
the fossil energy exhausting billion acre greenhouse industry. Costa Rica
allows export of millions of farmed butterflies and sometimes maybe
unendangered collected
species because their history has been far more benign and civilised and
their country has not been quite as ravished by heartless gringos. One has
with cause to pay premium price to compensate for our own mean uncaring
greed for EVERYTHING from THEIR back yard. No, its time for the privileged
to get real and look at global ENVIRONMENTAL and poor countries economic
balance sheets. Stop expecting to TAKE after "giving" with the hidden
agendas of massively taking. Maybe a few people of widest vision and
highest integrity WILL be able to get permission for Ark material to be
BOUGHT and taken out of their countries. Far from getting a free meal,
Gringos will rightly have to pay through their justly bloodied noses for
their privileges and lusts. But ever increasing hordes of nominal
"ecotourist" rampaging the backyards and taking FREE what they want. No way
and rightly so. I am beginning to wonder if I should ask expert native
BOTANISTS to collect and supply tiny samples for this Ark at FULL PRICE and
when I visit their Countries to do so to observe, support THEM and help
WITHOUT collecting. Having listened to so many people who have first hand
experience, I believe "eco-travellers" need most sensitively just to visit,
watch, shut up and listen, or pack up ang go away.

You gringos may not like this but if you want other Countries not to do to
their Countries what you do to yours, then its time for your re-education,
a traumatic change of heart and tiny mindset. Poor (and I mean POOR in the
money sense only people deserve a happy life too and rightly couldn't care a
damn now about how you poor little rich people who want what they've got for
their playpens. You gotta PAY and PAY WELL as you always should have done
so that they feel good about YOU. The days of subserviant and compliant
slaves existing for the First World are going. If WE don't get this into
our thick heads, then all of us gringos and our manic commercial mentors
will go down in the sinking ship. If you want to save the Natural Planet,
without any more pussy footing, start REALLY caring, REALLY sharing, else
everybody will very nastily and very soon go down fighting each other to
swim in the sinking ship. The richer you are the less you'll like this.
Sorry, but sometimes things have to be said. The collecting of treasures is
rightly the responsibility of genuine experts, here professional Botanists,
not profit motivated looters and speculative art lovers. If you want
treasures for yourselves, pay the proper price and make the contracts
legitimate, truthful and open. When I go to a Host Country I pay for the
privilege as generously as I can and above that try to give of myself. I am
always welcomed back and my hosts and I like each other!



From: "Ron Iles" roniles at eircom.net> on 2001.05.17 at 15:39:28(6491)
Thank you, Joe! All
encouragement greatly appreciated. Have YOU anything earth moving or
jungle burning to write about also, please?


From: Betsy Feuerstein ecuador at midsouth.rr.com> on 2001.05.18 at 14:35:23(6506)
My blood pressure just rose about a thousand points. I feel like I have just
been told what I should do and that the collecting should be left to botanists.
If there were enough botanists in the world to collect what is left that would
be fine, but there are not. Many botanists refuse to share what they collect and
grow and many don't collect living material. Then the question of paying is a
legitimate question, but when Big Brother, The World Bank, and others
promulagate that all must be left in country, one who knows, who has been der
done dat, is aware that slash and burn, cut and farm for a short time, clean the
side of the roads, leaves a terrain with nothing that resembles a rain forest.
Little is left of what was, little has been collected by botanists AND
collectors, of what was, and even less is in living form of what plants there
were. Now, commerical or greed, strip collecting is another thing. I totally
agree that such be stopped and made unprofitable. I have seen this done in
orchids and cycads, but not in aroids. Remember downed tree areas do not remain.
If not collected at that very time, within six months almost nothing of what
was, will remain. Is there harm in harvesting such material or is there
potentially great benefit in taking that material, sharing with the botanists
with appropriate honest collecting data and with other plant collectors? Now if
money passes hands to make that possible, so be it. I have had many say to me
that plants did not cost me anything because I just took them from the ground
and I have learned to control my anger and just walk away. Anyone that stupid,
needs a head check. My time, my travel expenses, my efforts to re-establish a
collected plant, my money spent to get appropriate help in the process, and then
my efforts to keep records for the botanists ALL require great effort and a LOT
of money. Say anything about the great cost of maintaining the home front while
one is gone by paying others to love your collection as you do. Now mention the
medical expenses of recouperating from the collected body ailments that accrue
from international travel from the runs to ameobic dysentary and worse. And what
about the cost of maintaining a greenhouse, a shade house, a plant collection in
general, from potting soils, to insecticides, to snail and slug deterrant, and
so on. You get the message, you could not pay me enough on the scale that I do,
to make this a truly break even endeavor.

Would I prefer to do collecting with permits from the country of origin? YOU bet
I would!!!!! Would I pay dearly for the privilege? YES! If all was being left in
situ just as pristine as nature provided, there would be no reason to collect
because it would potentially be there forever. Taking my head from the sand for
just a moment, it all is disappearing at some gross rate beyond human
perception. Look at a space photo of what is left today and then look again
tomorrow and six months down the road.

The little guy in country is generally not deprived by anything I take. Now, the
drug companies certainly would be more than willing to get the information from
the shaman and bring home the plant material, refine so patentable, and leave
the little guy sitting high and dry. No question, these people have by tradition
preserved their observable information. When great money and power are in the
equation, the little guy is nothing. Do I agree with that one? Absolutely not!
If, as a society, we were smart enough to use the natural products, not
patentable, with its few or no side affects, the source could be the little guy
and his jungle, but no, the drug companies want a patentable product so it must
be altered and refined into a poison, with major side affects. When we, the
little people of the home front, find the way to insist that we honor nature in
its raw form, which we have started to do, we will begin to unlock the little
guy who lives from the jungle as his resource. Society often says, slash and
burn, grow grass for cattle and in a very limited time, very little but sedge
grows and the little guy moves on to new and usable territory. In the process,
all or most of the unknown botanical material is LOST.

Now, give me permits to collect and charge me for that permit, gives each
country ever so needed income for their debt ridden coffers. Put limitations on
that permit to a time limit, to a number of plants, to make herbarium specimen
and deposit such at designated repositories. Whatever, but accept the reality,
it won't be long and it won't be there for historical heritage or the world. I
am not talking tomorrow, but I am talking TODAY. Why not take advantage of an
asset with whatever limitations seen fit and allow what can be preserved and
maintained for future generations. And let it be done with integrity instead of
bribe. Now, I just put my head back into the sand, I realize. Bribery, is a
cultural reality in many if not most of the rest of the world and perhaps
here/USA also. The old expression, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans,' may just
have to be part of the equation for anything to work in much of the world.

When I am in country, I use as much help as I can get, use the products and
resources of the country and pay far more than is normally received in ordinary
commerce in the country. That has its good and its bad perspective. If I pay
more than is normally paid in country, then the workers come to expect more from
the in country trade and certainly, when I return they demand more and more.
Difficult to determine if it is better to stay within the norm or to be generous
by our standards. Perhaps it is even more important to respect what we see as
help. Appreciate their assistance and do not look down on what they do. Our
society often sees manual efforts as less than. Perhaps it is time to appreciate
all help not by looking down, but as equal. You see, there are still answers to
be worked out.

Okay, I just blew my top. I love to collect and grow plants. I love to think by
sharing I have helped in the process of botanical collecting and preservation
not only in dry form, but in living form. Perhaps a collaborative effort between
the sometimes very arrogant seclusive botanical world and the little guy who
loves to grow, see things in the wild, and who would love to be a part of making
what is now, be here down the road, might be very advantageous for all. We are
going to have to learn a mutual respect and to learn to work together. I am
fully aware that in the middle of the equation there is a greedy commercial
factor that wants control of the genetic material, especially in orchids. I have
not dealt with them, but for the picture to clarify, they too will have to get
into the collaborative mode. There are those whom, I have known, who would not
tell a botanist where they collected anything correctly. False information is a
control/power factor and one I would like to see avoided. Perhaps if we could
eliminate one upsmanship with I have what you do not or you can't get, and we
learn to work together for the good of all, we might take a step forward. Will
any of this happen in my lifetime? I hope so. I am not holding my breath.

Many may say she just has her head in the sand all the time. And maybe I do.


From: StellrJ at aol.com on 2001.05.20 at 03:53:35(6529)
In a message dated Fri, 18 May 2001 10:36:55 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Betsy Feuerstein writes:

<< There are those whom, I have known, who would not
tell a botanist where they collected anything correctly. False information is a
control/power factor and one I would like to see avoided.

The question is, why do they do this? I know that, when I see a rare species in an out-of-the-way spot, I usually just keep my mouth shut, unless I foresee that spot being destroyed in the near future. This is because I have been brought to the conclusion that "hiding out" is the only hope for many species. If it is a sought-after species, the grapevine will carry word of its whereabouts to poachers; if it is a legally-protected species, a landowner is likely to destroy it before the powers-that-be find out, to avoid restrictions on use of the land. That is human nature, and will not change.

An experience I had in Venezuela sums up the situation nicely. We in the Developed World often hear, or read, that "people will only protect what they understand and care about." But is this always true? I was with a group canoeing on a jungle river in Venezuela, when we pulled ashore on a sandbar. On this sandbar was a rookery of black skimmers. To me, they seemed dangerously vulnerable -- the "nests" were mere hollows in the sand, in plain sight, and the birds simply flew away at our approach, rather than attempt to defend their eggs. The local people were poor, and eggs are rich in protein, so when we returned to our field station, I asked the Venezuelan professor whether the birds weren't in danger from egg poachers. He said no, the local people are just not interested in black skimmer eggs, so they do not bother going to the sandbar. Sad to say, I think that may be the only hope for many species -- they will survive only if people are just not interested in distur!
bing them. So perhaps you will
forgive me for keeping mum about my rare-species sightings....

Jason Hernandez

From: Betsy Feuerstein ecuador at midsouth.rr.com> on 2001.05.20 at 15:55:11(6531)
I suppose there is that possibility. Hard to keep botanical information for a botanist if one does not have the capacity to say where it came from. Hard to ID something unless it is known where it came from. Perhaps general information like GPS and province information would be good. I somehow do not think you will agree with me and I can understand that one. Choices all the way around. In general, most collected stuff is not of that great an interest to be of any significance to anyone else much. I know in cycads such information is guarded with life and limb, but one can get killed seeking cycads for sure.


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