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Volunteer Experience in Darien
Philippe Potvin-Simon — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research    Share
During my summer vacation I had the chance and privilege of working with the “Fondo Peregrino-Panama” in their Harpy Eagle Research and Conservation Program in Darien, which is Panama’s southernmost and jungle covered province.

I went to two Emberá communities, both at 2h 30min from the Darien Province capital, La Palma. We spent about a week in “La Marea,” during our first expedition. In the second community, “Mogué,” we spent another week during our second expedition.

We were working in the collection of quantitative data of the vegetation of areas where Harpy Eagle nests are located. This was arduous work, mainly because we had to collect data in industrial quantities in difficult and hilly terrain.

The second trip was more interesting for me. I really enjoyed learning how to identify plants and, also, the terrain was far less steep and the forest was beautiful. I was working with six Emberá people and one Wounaan. Working with them gave me the opportunity to learn many things. I saw how they used medicinal plants, and I listened to their traditional stories. I also had the opportunity to learn something about their culture and society. I taught them how to cook “crepes” and roasted chicken on campfire, and a bit of geography.

Simply walking in the Darien jungle was an enriching experience. I saw more snakes than ever before, had the opportunity of seeing army ants, and I saw two Jaguars fighting, a sight that not many experienced jungle expeditioners can brag about. Of course, something that I must mention is the unbelievable and majestic Harpy Eagles that we saw at each nest that we visited.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end: I have to go back to Montreal and resume my high school student life, but not without having experienced what awaits me later on. . .

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