Azuero spider monkey school initiative: the future in small steps

The Azuero Spider Monkey School Initiative is an initiative that collaborates with the primary schools closest to the remaining habitat of the Azuero Spider Monkey as well as surrounding communities. The primary goal with this initiative is to communicate the importance of Spider Monkeys in its local environment, the dangers that these animals face related to hunting, development and deforestation, and finally, the uniqueness of the dry forest ecosystem, and how reforestation can be as good for the environment as for agricultural productivity. This year the program benefits more than 430 people and works with 8 schools in the province of Los Santos, more specifically in Bayano, Bajo Corral, Los Asientos, ColĂĄn, Nuario, Vallerriquito, La Miel and Oria Arriba.

Fig. 1. The image shows the children of the School of ColĂĄn working.

The program was initially imagined in order to support the biological corridor that is of special interest for the Azuero Ecological Project. For several years, the Azuero Earth Project has been working in order to protect this corridor, as well as its unique species, spme of them being critically endangered of extinction, such as the Azuero Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis). This corridor begins in the bay of Achotines, and extends itself to the village of Oria Arriba, passing through the town of La Miel and finally reaching with the La Tronosa Forest Reserve (see Fig. 2). For this reason, these schools cover a large part of this corridor, and the vision of this program aims to promote the role of its children, together with their parents and communities, become the conservators of this important environment in the future.

Before carrying out any activities related to reforestation or habitat restoration in the area, the first step is for the members to get to know each other better through community conversations that arise during the course of the Azuero Spider Monkey Initiative. In this way, the Initiative resembles a forum to the restoration actions in the field along the corridor.

Fig. 2. The image shows the ecological corridor of interest for the Azuero Ecological Project, which extends from the coasts of Achotines to connect with the forest reserve La Tronasa.

Through this initiative, and with these communities, we contribute to sustainable development objectives such as quality education (ODS # 4), clean water and sanitation (ODS # 6), responsible production and consumption (ODS # 12), action by the climate (ODS # 13) and life of terrestrial ecosystems (ODS # 15). A focal objective, is to expose students to their environment and the surrounding natural areas, teach them the meaning of conservation under a scientific and practical scope, communicate the importance of reforestation in the classroom and in the field, and involve the local communities and parents in activities and field trips with students, in order to create a connection with the children, teachers, and ultimately, community members involved in the project.

 

 

 

At the end of this school initiative, students will be able to: Describe what deforestation is in their own words, name the causes and effects of deforestation, name trees on which the Spider Monkey depends, identify the three most common monkeys in Azuero, describe how the forests help human beings, describe what is understood by “equilibrium” with regards to nature and the environment, describe erosion, as well as the causes and effects of pollution, differentiate between climate and time, and name at least three causes of climate change in the world and locally amongst others.

If you are interested in participating in this initiative, follow our pages on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, call us at 995-2995 / 6717-3331, write to us at info@proecoazuero.org / edward@proecoazuero.org or visit our office located in Pedasi.

Fig. 3. The image shows a group photo with the children of the School of Nuario after completing the day of learning.

Celebrating Earth Day in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge

Fig. 1. Image taking by: http://noticiasmicrojuris.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/shutterstock_96211094.jpg?w=1000

Since 2012, the Azuero Earth Project has been working with the community of PedasĂ­ to promote a better management of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge and its natural resources, mangroves, dunes, and vegetation. Besides being a very important protected area in PedasĂ­, the touristic and natural value of this area is even more valuable due to its role as a buffer zone for the R.V.S. Isla Iguana. A community committee from PedasĂ­ in addition to several organizations, including the PedasĂ­ organisation Tortugas PedasĂ­, MiAmbiente, ATP, Minsacapsi PedasĂ­, the municipality, Cima PedasĂ­, PedasĂ­ Tourism Chamber, the Azuero Earth Project and the Barrios family, planned an annual event for Earth Day to commemorate the RVS Pablo Barrios. This committee submitted an application to achieve shared management of the R.V.S. Pablo Barrios. A final answer in this regards will be taken by MiAmbiente.

Fig. 2. The image shows the planting of mangroves

To highlight the importance of the refuge and to share with this important date with the community of PedasĂ­, Earth Day was celebrated this Saturday, April 21st of 2018 at the Arenal beach and the refuge, with the support of the aforementioned entities and FundaciĂłn Natura.

That morning began with a walk and cleaning from the center of Pedasi to the Arenal beach, where the Azuero Earth Project received the public with open arms and a variety of exciting and interesting activities. Among these activities were a relaxing kayak tour within the confines of the wildlife refuge “Pablo Arturo Barrios”, in which families and friends had the opportunity to observe the natural beauty of the mangroves and the diversity of birds that inhabit them. Additionally, an important task was carried out for the conservation of this refuge, planting more than 100 mangroves. Another important event taken place that day was the distribution of bird guide and informational triptychs from the shelter “Pablo Arturo Barrios” from a study carried out by two students from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. A photography contest was organized with anticipation to the event to highlight the beauty of the refuge and the local nature of PedasĂ­. The winner of this contest where also revealed during the event. Finally, to mark the end of this eventful day, a beach cleaning was organized followed by several games of beach soccer!

Fig. 3. Celebrating in Playa El Arenal with the families and friends of the national and international community of Pedasi

The Azuero Earth Project would therefore like to say: “Thank you to all those who accompanied us to celebrate Earth Day! We are proud to know that many people celebrated this great day, which symbolizes the day of our mother Earth, or in other words, our home. However, we must remember that this must be an everyday matter and state of mind, because protecting the planet means, after all protecting our own home. We have a great responsibility over it! “

Fig. 4. Enjoying a kayaking trip between the mangroves of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge

You can find more information about our work at the Azuero Earth Project by following us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @proecoazuero , or by browsing on our official website: http://proecoazuero.org/

For any additional questions, we can be reached by phone with the following number: 995-2995 or via e-mail at:  info@proecoazuero.org

If you would like to support our reforestation programs you can also follow us on this page: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-riparian-reforestation-with-azuero-farmers/

“Thank you to the LATA Foundation for their support of this activity”

 

Mangroves in innocent hands

Fig .1 .The group ProEcoPelaos planting mangroves

This Friday, April 13, 2018, the children of Pedasí were committed to the profound task of conserving the mangroves. They are part of the Pro Eco Pelaos group of the Azuero Earth Project, and are an indispensable resource, not only for the support in the reforestation task, but also because they are our next generation because of the importance of leaving this ecological message that produces positive changes in their environmental education. “We want you to love nature as much as we love it!”

Fig. 2. Red mangrove

Mangroves are essential ecosystems. Starting by having 2 characteristics that no other plant in the world has. They can resist the combination of saline and fresh water, as well as having the ability of retaining 25% more carbon than any other plant in the world. Mangroves function as ecosystems for diverse species, both aerial and aquatic, including the “Pargo” or Red Snapper, which give mangroves an importance at the commercial level, with these fish that are so commercialized. They are of vital significance to conserve our land, since they play a function as wave barriers (protecting us even from Tsunamis) and regulate sedimentation in the water. Additionally, they clean the water by recycling the organic matter.

 

 

So, with all of this, I would dare to say that these little guys are heroes! With the simple task of taking a few hours to plant mangroves, they are helping the fauna and flora of our community, where we also inhabit, so they even do it for us. DonÂŽt you think that they should be our role models instead of the other way around?

 

Fig. 3. The picture shows a member of the ProEcoPelaos planting mangroves in the “Refugio de vida silvestre Pablo Arturo Barrios”

We are interested in expanding our efforts to support these children and integrate them with us. It is a wonderful experience for both of us! If you are interested in having your children participating in this initiative or to provide some kind of additional support, such as transportation or other resources, do not hesitate to approach our offices or to contact us by writing at: cristobal@proecoazuero.org, info@proecoazuero.org ; or by calling us at: 995-2995, 6729-8542. We also accept donations at this link: http://proecoazuero.org/donate-aep/

 

 

Long live the Primates: an actualization of the population study to support their conservation

 

Azuero spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis)

 

In mid-September of 2017, a group of researchers made up of students from different regional centers of the University of Panama, accompanied by Danilo Chiari, CristĂłbal PĂ©rez, and Miguel Montenegro, started an interesting journey to the forested lands of the village of Rio Oria, in the District of PedasĂ­, Province of Los Santos, in the Azuero Peninsula, with the aim of monitoring primates under the supervision of the Azuero Earth Project. This organisation is dedicated to protecting and restoring Azuero’s forested lands. One of the objectives is to establish if the primates’ population has diminished or increased based on a study realized by Natalia Reagan in 2009, called “The effects of forest fragmentation on the distribution of the Azuero Spider Monkey”. Other aims are to update the list of trees considered as primates’ principal diet choices, to observe changes in the forested lands through time, and to determine strategic areas for forest conservation.

Howler monkey (Alouatta palliata)

These enthusiastic researchers had the opportunity of learning about three species of primates from our country: The White Faced Capuchin Monkey (Cebus capucinus), the Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), and the principal actor of the study, the Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis). This last one has a diet principally based on fruits, leading their feces to play an important role in seed dispersal and fertilization, reason for which they are considered excellent actors in forest restoration. In addition, the researches learned to differentiate individuals by their sex and age, as well as recognizing with the common names and scientific names the trees in which these primates were found. The challenges they faced were of great importance for their personal and professional growth, and it was mentioned as well with a slight touch of humor, that these challenges were also of a physical nature, since regardless of the reward that the finished study brought to the researchers, there were difficult moments in the field such as crossing rivers, walking for long hours, climbing steep hills, and bug bights.

The image shows the scientists and students, Danilo Chiari (right) and CristĂłbal PĂ©rez (left) taking the data of the observed monkeys

One of the unforgettable adventures that we went through, was interacting with the community to raise awareness on these primates and their importance within the forests they inhabit, as well as the way in which we can differentiate them and how the community can get involved with the different reforestation projects amongst other topics. Between the 22nd and the 26th of January of 2018, the group visited the regions of Nuario, La Miel, Playa Venao, Los Asientos, Oria Arriba and Pedasí. In each of these regions, the communities seemed strongly interested with the topics presented, even sharing information with the researchers that would be relevant for the investigation and to implement more efficient conservation strategies. Some of the topics that were suggested were the importance of corridors between forests to allow the passage of primates, the possibility of the existence of the Gray-Bellied Night Monkey (Aotus lemurinus), and the benefit of commercializing tourism with “monkey watching”.

Students and scientists, Miguel Montenegro (left) and Danilo Chiari (right) observe in the canopy a group of spider monkeys moving on the branches

Presently, the team finished the field work and is starting to analyze their findings for publication. We would like to thank Primate Conservation Inc. (http://www.primate.org/) for their support in this study which will contribute to the wellbeing of this species and to the improvements of future academic investigations on wildlife through the help of student researchers in this region.

 

 

Jairo Batista, was the guide of the researchers during the study of the Spider Monkey, which had the opportunity to learn from the ecosystem of the place

You can also contribute by providing information on Spider Monkeys that inhabit your “fincas” or around your houses, by coming to visit our office in Pedasi, or contacting us via e-mail at: info@proecoazuero.org; cristobal@proecoazuero.org, or by telephone: 995-2995.

If you would like to provide a contribution of another kind, you can also donate through the following link: http://proecoazuero.org/donate-aep/

 

Dissemination day of primate monitoring in Los Asientos

“Let’s protect the Spider Monkey and they will conserve the forests”

 – CristĂłbal PĂ©rez

 

 

The young generations of las Minas and TonosĂ­ get ready for the future of their watersheds

Youth group “Manada De Capitanes Adolescentes Para La ConservaciĂłn De La Flora Y Fauna de Las Minas”

Beige attires and brawn boots is what the energetic I.P.T.A. high school students of TonosĂ­ and Las Minas were wearing on the third and fourth of April of 2018, when the Azuero Earth Project took the initiative of visiting them.

Youth group “Unidad para la protecciĂłn del medio ambiente”

 

We travelled to these locations in order to support these young students that are pursuing agricultural studies, to create a work team that will propel the concept of sustainability in the agricultural field in their watershed. This initiative arose from a collaboration between Panama’s Ministry of Environment (Mi Ambiente), the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (F.A.O.) and the Azuero Earth Project, with the objectives of: Consolidating groups in the Parita and Tonosí schools to bring about change with regards to the attitude towards the environment, and supporting groups of students to enhance local and communal participation in actions directed to environmental care. This will lead the young leaders to prepare themselves pedagogically in topics related to their watershed’s management, and at the same time, will empower them to be capable of raising awareness within different audiences and promote the knowledge, research and conservation of the environment.

Youth group “Unidad para la conservaciĂłn del medio ambiente” Playing to choose between something beneficial and malicious for a Web page

The students from both groups started their activities with a presentation of the basic information of what they should know from the perspective of an organization, including an emotive video on the importance of raising awareness regarding the protection of the watershed and forests.

Who am I? Am I an animal? Yes! Do I have ears? Yes! Am I a thief? No! Do I have slit eyes? Yes! Oh, I know! I am a cat! That was one of the games we played as we were able to share laughters with the students to alleviate the afternoon’s tensions and the tiredness. They certainly had a great time, and we greatly enjoyed this experience.

 

Youth group “Manada de Capitanes” writting their own statute

Accompanied by the Azuero Earth Project, and through the organization’s sense of collaboration and friendship, the students had the opportunity of establishing the name for their group, as well as setting their own status, objectives, goals, visions, board of directors and, as if this was not enough, even designing their own logo! We are very enthusiastic with the idea of continuing working with them, since these are young students that will provide their legacy for their region’s nature wellbeing, and in other words, for their own and others wellbeing. The Azuero Earth Project will be visiting these two institutions on a weekly basis in 2018 to assist their formation and witness their growth towards many successful years. With this program, the Azuero Earth Project aims to expand and reinforce our activities in the region of Las Minas and Tonosí, and support the formation of groups that could enable us getting closer to our mission of conserving nature and reinforcing the agricultural activity in the Peninsula of Azuero.

 

Youth group “Manada De Capitanes” creating their own social red.

At the end of the afternoon, after taking some pictures of the group, which can be found at the top of our webpage, the young students parted with a great smile on their faces and a “See you soon!”

National Award for Environmental Excellence

Azuero Earth Project wins national environmental prize 2017 in the category of NGO environmental commitment

We face great challenges in environmental and social matters, that’s why it is important to cooperate and integrate all the components of Panamanian society. The Azuero Earth Project seeks to contribute to this issue through education in rural society, which is primarily the most affected by climate changes, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss.

The Panamanian Ministry of Environment (MiAmbiente) recognizes AEP’s effort and commitment through the award for environmental excellence in the NGO category given to people and organizations that perform good practices in environmental management and that have contributed to the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. To the Azuero Earth Project, his award means a lot, indicating that our methods of environmental education are becoming known and offers new possibilities for cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The Spider Monkey Education Initiative was awarded the excellence award in the NGO commitment category. This initiative is our first front of awareness creation in the communities closest to the remaining habitat of the Azuero spider monkey, a subspecies endemic to the Azuero region, and in critical danger of extinction according to the IUCN red list. Through the initiative, which is active in the communities closest to an ecological corridor that AEP hopes to create between the remaining tropical dry forest near Achotines laboratory and the elbow of La Tronosa Forest Reserve, the children learn about topics such as the importance of the different types of forests, the trees and fruits associated with monkey presence, and the role of the community in the conservation of biodiversity and watersheds.

The school initiative has been active since 2010 and every year the relationship with the 8 participating Los Santos communities is stronger. In these towns, the Azuero Earth Project is recognized as a close collaborator of the communities, the students, and the owners of local farms interested in reforestation. The environmental situation may become worse in the following years but surely there will be more people who will join in this national commitment to care for the environment.

For more information about the national Environmental Excellence Prize 2017, please see MiAmbiente’s webpage: http://www.miambiente.gob.pa/index.php/2013-02-20-08-59-23/noticias/noticias-de-portada/1383-miambiente-reconoce-excelencias-ambientales-2017

Vicente Álexander Vasquez Velasquez

Local landowners explore visions of a reforested future for Azuero

On the morning of Friday June 2, the Azuero Earth Project kicked off their 2017 Watershed Restoration Program with a pre-reforestation event. Five of the seven participating landowners in the Los Santos region attended the event. The day’s agenda provided helpful information regarding plant and animal biodiversity, physical evidence of reforestation success, results of past programs, conversation space for program participants to talk with each other about their budding reforestation efforts, and Q&A about maintaining reforestation parcels in Azuero.

The program participants met the AEP staff for morning coffee and pastries at the Pedasi office, where they viewed a presentation on past reforestation efforts on the Azuero Peninsula, current national reforestation efforts, and toured AEP’s tree nursery. Before driving to an area of reforested land to witness the results in-person, this presentation established a solid foundation of understanding. Participants asked questions about topics ranging from the national Alliance for a Million Hectares, of which the Azuero Earth Project is a member, to specific tree species they found in the nursery, adjusting their reforestation plans to incorporate new and interesting species discovered at AEP.

 

After meeting at the office, the group reconvened at the nearby property of Vernon Scholey to tour his reforested lands. The tour was led through two distinct areas of land with different growth patterns. First, the group trekked up hills where horses grazed between young trees. Next, the program participants ventured down into an older plantation area, now thick with undergrowth, where the loud cries of monkeys could be heard from the trees.

Jairo Batista, AEP’s Organic Garden and Tree Nursery Coordinator, expertly outlined the changes resulting from reforestation and the accompanying regeneration of various plant species. The participants observed how native species can develop over time, witnessing how biodiversity adds to the value of a property. For the landowners, the tour of the planned land development kindled ideas and questions about the viability of implementation on their own properties.

 

Participants were able to voice their ideas, questions, and concerns in a meeting with Scholey, the landowner. Scholey has been dedicated to reforesting his land for many years, and was able to field questions and clarify processes for the interested participants. This question-and-answer session provided both a personal connection and informative resource for the prospective reforesters.

At the same meeting, participants shared their personal plans, reasons, and hopes for reforesting their land. Showing their commitment to the program and their engaged participation, these local landowners explained the species they hope to plant, the usefulness of new tree species on their farm, and their logistical concerns. Trees bearing edible fruit were particular favorites among the participants, and many expressed their wish to protect the environment and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity by reforesting their land.

The event concluded with a lunch and permaculture tour at the nearby Eco Venao. The permaculture tour provided a look into the use of land to compost organic material and regrow native species for their productive capacity. Having observed the diverse benefits of reforestation and sustainable land management, the participants had much to consider as they returned home.

 

Friday’s event was a precursor to AEP’s exciting season of reforestation and regrowth that will plant around 5000 trees across Los Santos this rainy season. Hand in hand with collaborators such as current allies Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests, AEP continues to partner with community members who are interested in reforesting their land. If you would like to see more native fruit trees outside your window, are interested in sustainable land management, or are simply curious about compost, come visit AEP. Only you can make the decision to change the way we manage land on the peninsula. But never feel that you have to make that decision alone — AEP will help you take your next steps on your journey toward sustainable living!

 

 

Article and photos by Sarah Metzel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join us to Reforest Azuero Watersheds!

Here at the Azuero Earth Project, we have been preparing for the planting season in June-July 2017. This year, we have the goal of planting 4500 native and fruit tree species to expand habitat for the Azuero spider monkey and many other local wildlife species. At the same time, reforesting our watersheds provides concrete benefits to local ranchers like avoiding erosion, improving soil and water quality, providing fruits, providing fodder and shade for cattle and complying with national environmental laws. This year, we have 7 program participants who will reforest more than 4 hectares, and we hope to expand this program in future years. As a member of Panama’s Alliance for the Million Hectares since December 2016, an initiative of Panama’s Environmental Ministry and group of allies to plant 1 million hectares in the coming 20 years, we hope to show how strategic reforestation of gallery forests with native and fruit species can serve to improve the lives of communities and wildlife on the peninsula. We thank Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests for their support of this project.

This initiative needs your help! Throughout the year, this program is supported by a host of corporate volunteer, student, association and individual volunteers, with the same of interest of making an environmental difference in Azuero. If you are interested in participating, whether it is as a participating landowners, donor or organizing a group of volunteers, please reach out to us at 995-2995 or info@proecoazuero.org for more information.

 

Por: Gricel Garcia

Azuero After Hours – Join us on Jan. 6th!

Want to relax after the first work week of 2017, win wonderful D.C. and Panama themed prizes, and save the environment at the same time? Join us for Azuero After Hours, a 6-8 pm Happy Hour on Jan. 6 with Panamanian food, music, drinks, and dance, and an ecological bingo with prizes from the Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre, Teatro de la Luna and more! All guests will be entered to win a Panama vacation for 2 from COPA Airlines and RIU Hotels.

Can’t make the event but still want to contribute? Want to increase your odds of winning the Panama vacation? Support the Azuero Earth Project by entering to win an extra vacation raffle ticket.

For event and raffle tickets please see: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/azuero-after-hours-tickets-29561784092

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/1439533582753300/

azuero-after-hours

 

Growing your Soil

Bruno Borsari, visiting Fulbright scholar from Winona University offered a series of in the field lectures at the USMA farm in Las Minas, Panama. Azuero Earth Project has been fortunate to have an extended connection with the bright and vibrant Dr. Borsari. As part of continued education, our staff attended several of the lectures. Below, we’ll share a little of what we learned.

Creating your own Organic Fertilizer

We seem to have forgotten the wisdom of our grandparents. At one point, we recognized the ridiculousness of waste, and each item we possessed was used to the fullest. As prices have dropped, divorced from the environmental impact, it has become easier to throw things “away” and to forget the necessity of using all parts of what we have. Borsari emphasized the basic principle, “There is no waste in nature.”
The livelihood of human beings is based on the thin and skinny layers and the decomposers in the topsoil. Soil quality is being so rapidly depleted that many consider the soil a non-renewable resource. However, if we take care of the soil, it will repay us with abundance.

Producing BioChar from corncobs
Producing BioChar from corncobs

Dr. Borsari went into detail about three different types of soil amendments, including compost, worm compost, and Biochar. As with anything, each type has pros and cons, but the key to deciding which organic fertilizer is best for you depends on your materials, time, and how much labor you want to invest. Biochar, a pyrolized carbon amendment, takes less than an hour to make, but requires the effort of building the tank and fire to create BioChar. Compost piles can be made with little effort, taking care to get the mix of carbon and nitrogen correct. Turning the pile with more frequency speeds decomposition and produces usable compost more quickly. Worm compost is arguably the easiest, as once you establish your colony, you just have to feed the worms once a week, and they do all the work for you! For more details, see the presentation here.

Reused barrels, cut in half, serve as happy homes for the worms.
Reused barrels, cut in half, serve as happy homes for the worms.

In an important message, especially given traditional agricultural practices of Panama, Borsari explained the effects of burning land to clear weeds. By burning the land, not only do you liberate into the air all that essential carbon which had been stored in the soil, but burning creates an ashy layer that acts as if it were wax or grease, coating the ground and preventing water from penetrating the soil.
So remember, don’t just focus on the plants, Grow your soil!

This is our third post in the series, “Caring for the Soil”!  If you missed them, check out the posts on Simple Methods for Evaluating Soil Quality and on Soil Benefits of Raising Chickens in Mobile Cages. 

A huge thank you to Dr. Bruno Borsari and his wife Julie Chiasson!