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An Unforgettable Experience in Darien
José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research    Share

The field experience below was written by Peter Montgomery (age 17), how was a volunteer in our Harpy Eagle Conservation project in Darien for a couple of weeks. Peter is now known in the communities that he visited by the name Imama Kundra (Young Jaguar in Embera language). In a few weeks, Peter earned the appreciation of local people, who are now wondering and asking frequently, When Imama Kundra comes back?

An Unforgettable Experience
By Peter Montgomery

"Peter using a platanillo leaf to cover himself

of the rain during a field expedition"

It was larger, more powerful, and more majestic then I ever could have imagined. When I first laid eyes on a Panamanian Harpy Eagle, I was shocked by its appearance. It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful bird that had ever graced my eyes. It sat one hundred feet directly above me and Calixto, one of the field technicians, snacking on a sloth in its behemoth nest. I saw my first Harpy Eagle outside of the village of Llano Bonito. This village is a grueling four-hour trek through hills, mud, and humidity from the nearest road. The village is home to about one hundred hospitable people. When we first arrived, we were immediately greeted with fresh fruit, hot coffee, and a relaxing hammock. Seeing the way that the locals took care of the workers of the Harpy Eagle project showed me that they care about the project’s ultimate goal, preserving the jungle.

One of the main goals of the Harpy Eagle project is dedicated to educating and informing the communities of the Darien about the calamities that face the jungle and how the wellbeing of the Harpy Eagle reflects the health of the jungle, as well for the local peoples that direct depend of the nature. As we demonstrated to the locals in the community of Arimae, a healthy Harpy Eagle population keeps the jungle healthy because is maintains the balance in the population of other species of animals (example monkeys, sloth, kinkajous, almost other), and therefore allow a healthy environment for all other living things therein coexist, including humans.

"Peter talking in the workshop about the Harpy Eagle in Arimae Community"

The crowd of twenty-five absorbed the knowledge enthusiastically. After the presentation, one of the three village chiefs in attendance led us into the jungle to show us what he thought might be a Harpy Eagle’s nest. Harpy Eagle nest in tall trees called Cuipos. The tree where the nest was in was not a Cuipo, it was much lower to the ground and had more leaf coverage than a Cuipo, and the name of this tree is Ceiba. It turned out to be the nest of a Black and White Hawk Eagle, but the passion that he displayed when leading us around the jungle was fun to watch. He is a true testament to how positive of an effect the Harpy Eagle has had on the Darien.

"Peter and Embera people designing a collage about Harpy Eagle and their environment"

During my two weeks spent in the jungle, I was exceedingly impressed with the Harpy Eagle project because it has been so successful in getting the people of the Darien involved in the cause. The project teaches them that without a healthy population of Harpy eagles, the jungle is doomed because the Harpy is an apex or top predator. The project does not only focus on getting locals involved. The field technicians work very hard to track the eagles and observe the behavior and their nesting habits. Knowing this information is crucial to the security of the Harpy Eagle because knowledge is power, and will making better environmental decisions by the local people as well as Panamanians authorities. My thinking at this time is “by giving seminars and training to the locals, involving children in the cause, and taking careful research, the Harpy Eagle project has guaranteed a long future for the Harpy Eagle and many other resources in Panama.”

"Girls from Arimae Community showing their artwork"

"Peter and children from Llano Bonito community showing their artwork"

"An Unforgettable Experience with the Embera People in the Harpy Eagle Project in Darien"

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