José de Jesús Vargas González— 17 November 2001 — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research Share
The next morning we arrange to meet with the traditional and elected leaders of the Emberá-Wounaan Region. We need the consent of both groups of indigenous leaders and community members in order to continue our trip. The hierarchical system of the Emberá-Wounaan is quite strict, and without their approval it is difficult to access these areas and further our expedition. Dedicating many hours and omitting little detail, we explain our plans and objectives to the leaders, and, after answering all questions, we are finally granted permission to continue our journey.
We arrive at the nest site, and, atop a 50 m tall Cuipo tree, towering above the forest’s canopy, we spot the construction of marvelous design. Covering branches of various diameters, consisting of a variety of leaves solidly arranged, is a nest on which a small Harpy juvenile rests. Its plumage is almost white. It sees us, and begins to call for his parents who are to provide him with food and safety. Surrounding the Cuipo tree, a witness to the births of other Harpy Eagles, we find the remains of the many animals they have generously fed upon. After we gather all the necessary information that will give us a better understanding of the ecology and habitat preferences of this bird, which will later help establish protection and conservancy measures, we leave the nest site and withdraw from the area.
We depart in the early hours of the following morning, on our way to LaPalma from where we will take a plane back to Panama City. Flying over the Darien, I revel in the idea of returning again to these communities and waking to the sights of children smiling, sounds of the forest, of a child crying as a mother leaves in early dawn to prepare a humble breakfast, and begin yet another day in a forgotten paradise.
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