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NEEP reaches out to Belize, southern Mexico, and Guatemala
Sean Davis — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program    ShareThe Neotropical Environmental Education Program (NEEP) for Latin America and the Caribbean is based in Panama. The majority of our work is within Panama, however, on occasion our services are needed in other parts of Latin America, and such was the case in early January 2007. As many of you already know, the Harpy Eagle Propagation Program has been releasing captive bred Harpy Eagles back into the wild in a remote area in northwestern Belize. All of the birds that are released are equipped with satellite transmitters so we can monitor their movements and dispersal patterns. The birds are released in a heavily forested area that connects with the Peten Forest that extends into Guatemala and southern Mexico. A few of these birds have covered distances much greater than expected while exploring their new home. With the hope of ensuring a safer future for these birds through community education, NEEP embarked on a journey to Belize, Guatemala, and southern Mexico.

We arrived in Belize early enough to visit with Sharon Matola the director of the Belize Zoo. The Belize Zoo is our counterpart in Belize for Raptor Environmental Education. They have two Harpy Eagles on display at the zoo as well as a community outreach program that works with schools all over the country. We exchanged environmental education (EE) materials and ideas on projects we are both currently working on. It was a beneficial meeting for both parties as it’s always good to share ideas with organizations that have similar interests and goals.

The Peregrine Fund with CONAP and PRONATURA
The Peregrine Fund with CONAP and PRONATURA
After a few days in Belize, it was time to move on to Mexico. One of the Harpy Eagles that was originally released in Belize had made its way into the Calakmul Forest Reserve in southern Mexico. The forest reserve is a very large tract of forest that is surrounded by many small communities. As in many parts of rural Latin America, many of the community members are subsistence hunters. We knew that we had to get information out into the communities quickly to promote a safer future for Calakmul Forest Reserve’s newest resident. We were received by local and national members of CONAP, Mexico’s equivalent of the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as members of PRONATURA, a NGO that works for wildlife conservation.

Over the next three days we gave presentations in seven communities to a total of 312 adults and 129 children. We worked closely with CONAP and PRONATURA and left them a lot of materials and Power Point presentations to continue working in the communities in the area. We also set up an interview with the local radio station where we discussed The Peregrine Fund, Harpy Eagles, and why we were in the area. The radio program, that has a listening base of 10,000 people, was going to be translated into Chol and Mayan the two local indigenous languages.

With the success of the Mexico portion of the trip behind us, we were ready to move onto our next destination- Guatemala. The base of our operations would be Tikal National Park at the heart of the Peten Forest. Two of the released Harpy Eagles had been exploring the area, and we were concerned that they were getting a little close to some of the communities that border the park. One positive aspect of working in this area was the fact that many of the locals were already very familiar with The Peregrine Fund, due to the presence of our Maya Project in the Peten throughout most of the 90s; therefore, they received us with open arms. Another was that the park service has a well developed EE program that has a good working relationship with the communities bordering the park.

Over the next few days we gave presentations to the park personnel, as well as school and community presentations in some of the neighboring communities. We worked closely with the EE coordinator for the park and left a lot materials as well as Power Point presentations so that hopefully our work will continue after we have gone. We were also interviewed by a local television station about The Peregrine Fund, Harpy Eagles, and what we were doing in the area. This television program is broadcast throughout the region and has a viewing audience of around 7,500 people. We also met briefly with the local chapter of the Wildlife Conservation Fund and discussed how we could work together in the future.

The trip was a great success. Not only did we make important contacts, but we were able to get information out to people who might come in direct contact with one of our released Harpy Eagles. Information that will hopefully bring out positive actions to ensure a safer future for these large forest raptors in their new home.

Find more articles about Harpy Eagle, Neotropics

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