How has your attitude towards nature changed since you’ve been at Mashpi?
When we were kids we would kill birds for fun. The best ones were the big ones! They were the prize. That taught me about the behavior of birds, like which ones eat bananas, what time of day they come out. But now I use that knowledge to observe birds, to find the most unusual ones and help with their conservation.
Our parents were hunters. There were no roads. It would take four hours to get to the most basic shops. And their parents were “pioneers” in the area. They came originally to make a new life for themselves, they would just claim their own land. They had to cut down the trees there to prove it was theirs.
The first pioneers would come alone, without their families. It was easy to get food: there was plenty of fish. With one net you could get five pounds of fish. It was easy to survive.
Then after 10 or 15 years, logging companies came and offered to make a highway, in return for their lands. And then there was 40 or 50 years of that deforestation, and the flora and fauna disappeared. There was such a lack of knowledge about wildlife: they’d call the big cats “tigers”!
Spider monkeys used to live here, now they’re gone. And the best trees around here, guayacan and copal, they were all cut down.