Earth Day 2017 Celebration in Pablo A. Barrios Refuge

The Azuero Earth Project celebrated Earth Day this year in collaboration with other local organizations with a series of events in late April. The activities included:

  • A mangrove reforestation near the Pedasi port, in the Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, with the Pro Eco Pelaos on Friday April 21st
The Pro Eco Kids hike to the mangrove reforestation site.
  • An Earth Day Celebration on April 22 on Arenal/Bajadero Beach with the local Hospital, Tourism Authority (ATP), Pedasi Municipal Government, CiMA Pedasi, OPC Panama, Tortugas Pedasi, the Barrios-Velasco family, Ministry of the Environment, Hablas Tortuga? and community members;
  • A Sunday Brunch in Las Tablas to benefit the Azuero Earth Project and its programs

The celebration on April 22 started off with a walk to the beach, followed by a beach cleanup that collected more than 49 bags full of plastic, cans and other recyclables, foam, and even some articles like a toilet seat, tires and pieces of scrap metal. Cleanup volunteers documented the quantities and types of beach trash to send this data to a national network organized by PROMAR. It is so important to remember not to leave our trash on the beach!

The winners of the annual Pablo A. Barrios photography contest were also announced on Earth Day. There were 11 entrants and 30 submissions in 3 categories: the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, Nature, and Ecotourism.  The event also included a sand sculpture building contest organized by Tortugas Pedasi y Hablas Tortuga?, traditional music, games for youth, and more.

c. Edith Díaz, Winner of the RVSPAB category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest
c. Santino Sirtoli, Winner of the Nature category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest
c. Santino Sirtoli, Winner of the Ecotourism category of the 2017 R.V.S.P.A.B. photography contest

We thank everyone who participated in these Earth Day weekend events and we hope to repeat them in future years! Meanwhile, we invite community members to get involved with our Pro Eco Kids youth group and Refuge Shared Management Committee initiatives. For more information please call (507) 995-2995 or write to

Photo-storm Contest reveals reasons to treasure trees

In June, the Azuero Earth Project launched our PHOTO-storm, a contest of native trees of Azuero and their stories. In addition to the contest winners, we would like to thank ALL of our contest participants. Selected stories and pictures are below:

Manuel Pérez, with Michael Bauman, El Lluvito farm, Los Pozos: This old Calabazo was planted near the house of Manuel’s parents shortly after they first settled in Los Pozos. Although its fruits are today used mostly in decorative carvings, traditionally they were cut and dried to be used as cups and bowls. Growing up, he and brothers often played in its low, easy-to-climb branches.




Gary Densford: This avocado is my favorite food/fruit and this tree in the front yard of my house near Cerro Canajagua produces the biggest, tastiest ones I’ve ever had for about 2 months (March/April). When I retired here in 2008 and saw the house for the first time, the tree helped seal the deal to buy.

Margaret von Saenger: Calabazo tree at Los Destiladeros beach, Pedasi.

I particularly like this kind of tree because it’s green and nice all year round without any special care (no trimming, no watering). I really don’t like seeing those poor plants suffering for 4 full months during the dry season! It’s also very useful and things tend to be nicer when useful.

Euclides Vergara, with Michael Bauman, Los Asientos: Sitting right on the edge of Gusano Creek, this jabillo is one of only a handful of forest trees left on this property. That Euclides has decided to leave it is a testament to the conflict a farmer faces in deciding to remove trees from their pasture lands. The species is commonly known to absorb more water than other trees and its leaves leave a bitter taste in the water that will keep cows from drinking there. However, its dense shade and dry season fruits provide equally needed resources for his cattle.


Ricardo Cerezo: This photo was taken in Feb, 2010 in Parita, close to the Town of Potuga, province of Herrera. Although I am not sure about the name of this tree, branches resemble arms of an agonizing being, begging for water.


Omar Bultron, Grade 6*:

The Triplets: There are 3 mango (NOT native species) trees in Esquiguita de Pese that were planted by Mr. Esteban Gomez around the year 1930. Today they are watched over by the Gomez Rodriguez family. These trees, in addition to producing tasty mangos, support orchids…This tree has been standing in Esquiguita de Pese for 80 years. In September, they hold “comilones” during the rice harvest, and when I am lonely and sad I go in front of my house and find 3 mangos de papayo. My cousins and I even put a hammock there to play like any kid can do, or when I have to study I sit on its roots. Many birds like macaws, parakeets, and cascochos come to eat the sweet mangos and even sleep on its branches. Kids, I hope you save the trees!

Lisbeth Rodriguez, Grade 6*:

Story of the Pine Mango (NOT native species) Tree – About 199 years ago, there was a Panamanian sir and citizen of this town, Esquiguita de Pese, my great, great, grandfather, Jose Esteban Gomez, who planted a mango seed. As the days passed, a small, fragile and beautiful tree was born, that with the years transformed into a strong and beautiful tree. The years passed and the tree grew more and more until one day my great-grandfather Anastacio Gomez saw the first fruit of that beautiful tree. The tree had flowers and many more things like orchids and “gualacos.” Today this tree is 199 years old and even now it is still a beautiful and strong tree where they celebraete birthdays and rice harvests. My family also goes to eat its sweet fruits and when there are activities we make sweet mango desserts and drinks. This is a tree much loved by my family, since it is planted on my grandfather Demetrio Gomez’s farm. I hope that you have liked my Pine Mango story! Remember to not cut trees because are good because they give us sweet fruit and beautiful shade.

Mitzelys Osorio, Grade 6*:

The Tamarind (NOT native species) Tree: This tree is located in Esquiguita de Pese near my house. It is approximately 20 years old; we planted it in 1991 and since then it has been a part of our family since it helps us remember past times. Many uncles grew up beneath this tree, since they played bingo, cards, marbles, “trompos,” also for Holy Week they held “comilos,” and played “ching.”…Also in those days, grandparents would hit their kids with branches from this tree to better educate them.

Monica del Carmen, Grade 6*:

The Nance Tree: This tree in Esquiguita de Pese was planted in 2006 by my grandfather Elfrain Moreno. We played under and climbed up this tree and made juices from the nances that it produces. We have a hammock beneath this tree where I can study and relax, and each day before leaving for school I always lie down in the hammock beneath this tree and study. I put decorations on it so that it looks more beautiful. So there, kids do care for trees!


Sofia Barba Moreno, Grade 6*:

A Tree for History: I will tell you the story of a leafy and ancient pork mango (NOT native species) tree. My grandfather, 92-year old Mr. Santos Barba, tells me that when he was 8 this mango tree already existed and produced fruit, so he estimates that this tree must be around 120 years old. My grandfather tells us that as this was known as the plain of the Barba of San Lorenzo they held bull races without fences and the tree served as a shield. My father and aunts say that at sunrise they would run to see who could collect the most mangos to eat. They also played ball and took shelter from the sun below this tree’s shade. Now, this tree is very curious as it has two fruiting seasons a year. My grandfather wants to cut it but my brothers and I have begged him not to, and as it concerns me a lot he hasn’t cut it.

Moral: The trees and their years, in addition to showing us history, show us the responsibilities of human beings to conserve nature.

Ricardo Gomez, Grade 5*:

According to what my grandfather Jose has told me, the pork mango (NOT native species) tree that is behind his house is more than 300 years old. This tree had already reached adulthood when the 1000 Day War began. My ancestors lived close to this pork mango tree, and every evening they played dice, “bolos,” which were made of wood, and made “raspadura.” There was a trapiche beneath this mango tree 200 hundred years ago, which remains there to this day. Where I live now there was a forest that was felled in 1904 to make the highway; only this tree has survived and as time goes on it continues to give sweet mangos that my family and our visitors savor. It is because of this that my family and I feel proud to have this mango tree in our farm, as we pass great times beneath its summer shade.

Anayelis Elezabeth Gomez Pimentel, Grade 4*:

The Guavito Tree: Years ago, my mom and dad planted a guavita tree. When they planted it, it hadn’t been born yet. They planted it in the part in front of my house but as they built a new house the tree is now behind it. These days the tree gives us a lot of shade and also helps so that our planet is not so hot. Some years ago it began to have fruit, guavitas, which I like a lot and also serve as food for a lot of little birds that come to the tree. Today the tree is 10 years old. We should keep planting more trees because they help us to eat their fruit and allow for more oxygen on our planet and so that we can breathe purer air.

Emily Valentina Escobar Marciaga, Grade 4*:

The Cereza (NOT native species) Tree Story: There are two cereza trees in my house. Every year we harvest cerezas where my mom makes a tasty juice; we also give these red and sweet cerezas as gifts to our neighbors. My grandmother planted it when she was little and she says that she planted those trees so that her children and grandchildren could enjoy them now that she is not with us, and with each living moment the tree reminds us of her and of what she said.

Kerina Rodriguez Govea de Leon, Grade 5*:

A Century and a decade of 3 Mango (NOT native species) Trees: This is the story of three mango trees planted in 1901 on a plain by the side of the Esquiguita river that saw the birth of the Govea family and then the Rodriguez family. The trees provide a great amount of shade to fabricate “tejas” (traditional roof tiles) and bricks, and delicious fruits. There was a traditional horse drawn “trapiche” for honey-making, which provided subsistence to the family. Today, they give us a great amount of shade where every summer we meet in the shade of these mango trees to hang hammocks and share a variety of great moments as a family.

Magdelin, Grade 2, Esquiguita de Pese*:

Group of lazo trees; In the summer, we clean the ground beneath them, and there we spend the refreshing evening.





Angelica M Moreno Rodriguez, Grade 3*:

In 1989, my grandfather Paulino and my father went to MIDA of Los Pozos looking for a beautiful mandarin tree (NOT native species) and we planted it behind my grandparent’s house. This tree has seen the majority of my family grow up, and has shared good and bad moments with us. Throughout its life it has given us its rich harvest of delicious mandarin oranges. Today, in addition to its fruit it gives us its shade which we take advantage of to rest, eat, meet, and sleep in comfortable hammocks, and to play with my brothers and cousins. We also give it water so that it stays healthy and strong. It also serves as housing for my grandfather’s chickens.

Maykel, Grado 3, El Cocuyo, near Pese*:

The Old Tamarind (NOT native species) Tree: My grandmother told me that one day as usual she and her 4 year-old daughter Teresa were cleaning their yard. After a morning of arduous work, the girl found a little plant in between the weeds, and asked my grandmother; “What type of weed is this, mom?”

My grandmother responded, with a beautiful smile on her face, “That’s not a weed, that’s a beautiful tamarind plant.” With the help of my grandmother, Teresa returned home and found a tire which she filled with dirt and planted the little plant. After several years, the plant grew robust and strong.

Until, one day, my grandfather wanted to cut it, and the tree, with much sadness, says to him, “What harm have I done you that you would want to cut me?”

My grandfather responds, “You bother me!”

“You are unfair to me,” the tree said, “It is true that sometimes my leaves mess up your yard, and that my trunk bothers you or hinders your work, but that is not important, compared to the many benefits you receive from me.”

“And what benefits do I receive from you? Your mess?”

The tree responds, “Many, although you do not believe it, look in the summer I give you shade, when you are lying in a hammock that you hang from my branches, when you are talking with your family while enjoying the fruits that you enjoy and the oxygen that is vital so that you can breathe. Now, do you realize my importance?”

My grandfather responds, “It is true that I had not noticed that you benefited me so much. From that day onwards my grandfather has never wanted to cut it. And that is the story of the old tamarind tree.

Tedd Tennis:

By far my favorite tree here in Panama is the corotu.  They are beautiful to look at, great to climb, and offer lots of shade for those hot, sunny days.  This particular corotu is on my friend’s property in the Oria River valley.  Can a tree make you happy?  This one does.  Sitting beneath it, I can see the entire valley spread out before me with the river snaking through it.  In the distance I can see the ocean, and my favorite dive spot, Isla Frailes.  I can see no houses from this tree and no one lives within miles.  There is no traffic noise, no roosters crowing, no one to disturb the tranquility.  The only noise I sometimes hear is the distant sound of howler monkeys, which might be irritating if it was all the time, but that I consider a fun reminder that I’m not in Michigan anymore.  I was drawn to this tree from the first time I saw it. Today, two years later, I still stop by for a visit from time to time, especially when I need to remember why I love living here so much.

Note: Entries with * roughly translated from original spanish by AEP staff.

For winning entries please see our Photo-storm Contest Winners! post.




Photo-storm Contest Winners!

In June, the Azuero Earth Project launched our PHOTO-storm, a contest of native trees of Azuero and their stories. The winners are……  1st placeManuel Mancilla (with Michael Bauman)Los AsientosCorotú, Enterolobium cyclocarpum    Manuel’s tree has been on the property since his father came to the property over half a century ago. Although most of the original large timber species were long cleared from the property, this Corotu remains as a source of pride and a piece of living history to the family. The tree has 1.5 m (nearly 5 ft) diameter and is certainly over 150 years old!   2nd place*Irving VergaraPedasiRoble, Tabebuia roseaRoble is considered one of the most beautiful and noticeable tropical trees and its wood is precious for construction. Its precious pink flowers can be seen distinctively from a distance, allowing people to comment from a distance……The roble is one of my sources of childhood memories, and helped me decide on my university career. This tree brings me beautiful memories of my childhood. In those days my family had farms near where there are now large mansions on the Los Destiladeros coast. I remember that I used to pass by this very path with my father and my older brother when we went “hunting.” My brother and I would toss rocks and sticks at the birds that rested on the roble’s flowers. As we stood awed by the grandeur of the colorful flowers, our father began to tell us stories about his life as a kid when he lived in this place. At the end of our “hunting” day, despite not having found anything to bring home, I kept the image of that tree in my mind as if it were a photograph, along with my moments of adventure. What would I give to repeat those moments again (of course, this time without the hunting).This year, in the dry season, my cousins, some friends and I decided to go and see the large houses in the region to tour the area and remember how everything had changed since that moment. Coincidentally, we stopped by that very same path where I had once roamed as a child and I stopped to appreciate this beautiful roble that was flowering, and I began to hear the joyful song of some birds that I could not make out in the colorful flowers that shone in the sun, contrasting with the clear blue sky. Once below the shadow of the tree I could make out the precious intense orange and black of the feathers of the birds drinking from the nectar of the tree, and they were dancing around the flowers. They were the typical orioles that tend to visit us in this season. I could see two pairs of orioles dancing between the branches and on the flowers – can you imagine the show that was happening at the moment when these two species combined their vivid colors! Part pink of the roble flowers and part orange and black of the birds, accompanied by their melodic songs, not forgetting that part of the ground below the tree was covered with the flowers scattered by the birds.Who would think that these were the same birds that I attempted to bother in those days, today thanks to this experience I see them in a new way. Undoubtedly, this was one of my best moments that we most shared on our way back home and it is one of my best memories of this season, that surely I will never forget and it is what inspires me further to keep working for the good of the environment…..3rd placeDana DallavalleRincón de Santa María, HerreraFrijolillo, Albizia caribaeaThis is one of the first pictures I took when I arrived at my site one year ago.  I was running almost every day out on the farm roads and loved watching the sun rise behind this tree, it was the reason I got up every morning to run and still is.  I brought my camera with me one day to get a picture of this beautiful tree a few days after I arrived and wanted to share it with you.  It is on the road to La Ciénaga de Las Macanas en El Rincón de Santa María.Thanks to our judges panel:Professor Jacinto Escudero teaches visual arts at the National Institute of Culture in Las Tablas and is a photography lover.Guillermo Duran is the Azuero Earth Project’s GIS administrator; his passion for photography is revealed through his blog Cuenticos.Botanist Jose Deago has worked on flora studies y reforestation projects in protected areas and other forests throughout Panama for many years. He currently lives in Las Tablas with his family.We thank ALL of our contest participants; for more contest entries please see our Photo-storm Contest reveals reasons to treasure trees post.Note: Entries with * roughly translated from original spanish by AEP staff.


Huevo de gato, near El Arenal Beach, Pedasi c. Ruth Metzel


The wet season is here and so it is time to plant TREES!

Trees are essential to our lives. They provide income in the form of wood, fruit, nuts, medicines, and other products. They feed and shade us, our cattle, and the wildlife that surrounds us. They serve as a source of family and national pride for generations and generations. Do you have a favorite tree? What is its story? Is it the tree you escaped to with your first love? Is it in the place on your land where you see the most beautiful birds and monkeys? Or is it the tree that provides you shade to rest after every long day of work on your farm?


Share your tree story!


In honor of this coming tree-planting season, the Azuero Earth Project announces our PHOTO-storm tree photo contest! Submit a photo of your favorite tree (native species on the Azuero), its location (be as specific as possible) and its story to win a prize! Submit your picture and story by facebook (directions here) send an email to by August 1, 2011.


For more information on the contest and tree species please contact Ruth or stop by our office in Pedasi!


Our judges panel will name the following winners:

FIRST PRIZE: USB Flash drive, Azuero Earth Project T-shirt, and copy of Arboles y Arbustos de Panamá/Trees and Shrubs of Panama

SECOND PRIZE: Azuero Earth Project T-shirt and copy of Arboles y Arbustos de Panamá

THIRD PRIZE: Azuero Earth Project T-shirt