Saturday, November 14, 2009

Message of Merida -- saving wild places will save the planet

Environment News Service: For the first time in decades, the eggs of endangered sea turtles buried on a small strip of Nicaraguan beach will not be collected and sold in local food markets. A program developed by nonprofit Paso Pacífico pays residents up to $2.50 for each turtle hatchling that reaches the surf — almost 10 times what they would have brought from the market.

While only one resident participated in the program last year, this year brought in scores. “The problem was no one believed we would actually pay for a baby turtle and everyone knew they were going to get cash from the sea-turtle egg trader,” said Paso Pacífico founder and executive director Sarah Otterstrom.

Otterstrom’s aims, however, extend beyond sea turtles. Through the organization she hopes to one day establish a chain of protected areas linked by ecologically protected corridors along the entire Pacific Coast of Central America.

The same concept first informed a Central American jaguar protection effort, Paseo Pantera, in the 1990s, and the dream that followed of a Mesoamerican Biological Corridor that would protect undeveloped wilderness from Panama to Mexico. It reflects the deepening conviction that isolated parks are not enough to allow wilderness to thrive. Connectivity is what matters.

Connectivity is a message reverberating in multiple work sessions as the week-long 9th World Wilderness Congress in Mérida comes to a close. Conservation biologists have long understood that preserves and parks surrounded by developed land are essentially biological islands and so are more prone to species extinction and vulnerable to the invasion of destructive non-native species….

An obscured jaguar, shot by a US Fish and Wildlife employee

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