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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remembering Benjamin Linder



Benjamin Linder Lives in the Hearts of Those Who Follow.

Ben Linder died 24 years ago this week, victim of a senseless act of war. He was killed in a targetted, terrorist attack, along with two Nicaraguan co-workers, while building a small hydroelectric dam project to provide electricity to San Jose de Bocay, in northeastern Nicaragua. The arms, training, and motivation behind his death were provided by members of the US security apparatus. Did Ben Linder threaten the US government or people with his actions? The following editorial was published on the twentieth anniversary of his death (El Nuevo Diario 28 April, 2007).


Spanish School Nicaragua


El Nuevo Diario

Recordando a Benjamín Linder


Desde el primer momento, hace veinte años atrás, que tuve conocimiento de Nicaragua, ésta ocupó mi conciencia, aunque no me di cuenta del momento y de sus repercusiones hasta mucho depués, gradualmente. Ese día en que Benjamín Linder, un joven norteamericano, ingeniero, payaso completo con su narizón rojo, maquillaje y uniciclo, murió asesinado en San José de Bocay, un 28 de abril de 1987.

No supe que este maravilloso hombre existía hasta unas semanas después de su muerte, cuando sus padres visitaron mi entonces ciudad de habitación, Houston, Texas. Sus padres me narraron en términos sencillos y directos la breve historia de Ben en Nicaragua como voluntario en la construcción de proyectos de generación de energía sostenible para brindar electricidad a pueblos remotos por primera vez. El pueblo de El Cua recibió electricidad y estuvo en camino un segundo proyecto hidroeléctrico en San José de Bocay. Aún recuerdo sentirme conmovido cuando me relataron sobre sus esfuerzos para ayudar a gente opromida por inmensas escalas de pobreza, ignorancia e injustia, y cómo su vida se acortó cuando se hizo blanco de un lado que luchaba contra otro en una guerra salvaje que consumió a ese inocente y pecoso con igual ferocidad. Perdió su vida con una bala tirada a poca distancia después de caer herido al ser impactado por un morterazo, dejando así en camino su segundo proyecto de generación hidroeléctrica para que otras almas valientes lo terminaran.

Para muchos ciudadanos estadounidenses como yo, Nicaragua se hizo un caldo de ideas e ideologías, de estrategias de resistencia y de combate, y de protestas pacíficas rotas por chorros de sangre. Ben Linder y muchos otros, en ambos lados de esa década terrible, se hicieron héroes de algún tipo, y sus imágenes fueron muchas veces utilizadas para hacer llamados a favor de su causa política sagrada. Pero la historia de Ben, quien nunca deseaba ser mártir y héroe, hizo llamado a algún sentido privado mío. Como Jesús siglos atrás convirtió el agua en vino, Ben hizo electricidad de ella para pueblos de los cerros remotos. Me fascinó el concepto de que uno puede usar sus talentos al servicio de otros, tanto como me decepcionó y confundió la agridulzura de sus esmeros.

Estos veinte años me han regalado muchas experiencias y conocimientos sobre los cuales me pongo a reflexionar. De los muchos elementos del ser nicaragüense que aprendí a admirar y respetar, uno es su enorme capacidad para perdonar. Es increíble concebir que tantos de los mismos hombres y mujeres que yo conozco y respeto hoy en día, pueden haber ordenado, ejecutado, apoyado o caído como víctimas en tantos actos bárbaros en tantos lados de ese conflicto, tan sólo dos décadas atrás. Me deja atónito cuando aprecio la capacidad de curar las viejas heridas entre gente que ha sufrido enormes pérdidas, más aún cuando veo viejos enemigos juntarse las manos en causas compartidas. El sufrimiento del campesinado ya es una bandera bajo la cual los nicaragüenses se unen más que nunca. También, las conflictivas connotaciones partidarias del trabajo de Linder se han desteñido con los años y con los avances en una agenda más común que nunca. Una vez, Linder fue considerado un enemigo por algunos aquí; ahora, la gran mayoría de los nicaragüenses coinciden con su misión.

Otro elemento del ser nicaragüense que me ha atraído es el sentido de causa que impulsó la revolución y continúa motivando a muchos hacia vocaciones que compensan el espíritu mucho más que el bolsillo. Un entero estilo de vida se puede hallar en nicaragüenses que laboran en instituciones sin fines de lucro, enseñan en aulas y sirven el sistema médico en medio de condiciones abismales; pasan horas incontables en la lucha constante para hacer de Nicaragua un lugar decente para todos, y de muchas otras maneras manifiestan la dignidad del hombre y la mujer en su vida cotidiana. La compasión hacia los oprimidos y sufridos es tan invariablemente manifestada por el ser nicaragüense en tantas dimensiones de su vida, desde sus preferencias en el empleo hasta su trato a los niños en los semáforos. Benjamín Linder no fue el primero ni será el último que trabaje al servicio de otros menos afortunados, pero él fue quien me despertó la idea de que yo podría hacer algo, aunque fuera minísculo, para otros en Nicaragua. Tal vez yo nunca podría hacer a los niños reír con mi humor, sin embargo, aprecio mucho el viaje que he seguido estos años al lado de este país y su gente. Aunque nunca me conociste, me trajiste aquí. Gracias, Ben.

* Biólogo



Comentarios de nuestros lectores

Mike
Sr. Jefry : Gracias por recordarnos las cualidades de Ben Linder! Algunos nicaraguenses podríamos tratar de imitar la generosidad y el internacionalismo de Ben!

LENIN FISHER
Homenaje a quien homenaje merece.

Yasser Cohen
A Benjamin lo mataron los enemigos de la paz y del progreso en Nicaragua.

El Nuevo Diario - Managua, Nicaragua - 28 de abril de 2007
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua

Read more about the life and death of Benjamin Linder here. This quote from the biography of Ben Linder by Joan Kruckewitt:

On April 30, 1987, under a fierce afternoon sun, a funeral procession wound its way through the cobbled streets of Matagalpa, a small city in Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega, the country's president, and his wife, Rosario Murillo, followed the casket, slowly walking arm in arm with two Americans, David and Elisabeth Linder from Portland, Oregon. The Linders' son and daughter, John and Miriam, walked beside them. Oscar Blandón, a hydroplant operator and electrician from the remote village of El Cuá, walked alone, head hidden underneath a baseball cap, a sentinel that never strayed from the casket. Clowns from the Nicaraguan National Circus followed behind, their painted mouths turned downwards. Behind them walked thousands of Nicaraguans and foreigners. The funeral procession stretched for more than seven blocks. 

If you would like to volunteer in Nicaragua, follow in Ben's footsteps and make life better for poor Nicaraguans. FUNDECI/GAIA can arrange volunteer projects for you in Nicaragua. 
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nesting Amphilophus globosus photographed





The round-bellied cichlid (Amphilophus globosus) was discovered only last year. Almost no information exists about this species, whose range is limited to Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. Our monitoring activity in the lake is dedicated in part to generating ecological information to facilitate an analysis of its conservation status and to recommend and evaluate conservation actions. Our Nicaragua SCUBA diving volunteer Garey Knop accompanied us on a SCUBA dive recently, where a nesting pair were observed. Garey photographed the female, although the male had escaped his view. She is the fish in the foreground in the bottom left of the photograph below. The male was much larger than the female, probably weighing about twice as much as her. The pair occupy the small cave in the background of the photo as a nesting site. Although considerable amounts of stirred-up sediment reduced the photograph quality, you can observe the light yellow color on the female, and the rounded abdomen in lateral view. Instead of the two dark lateral spots that are typical of nonbreeding A. globosus, this fish demonstrated a row of seven square spots. She was very busy chasing away juvenile fish trying to use the same cave as a refuge. There were no free-swimming fry in the nest yet, although the pair had already occupied this site at least four days at the time of the photograph. 
Although the photograph is not the highest quality, we found it important enough to post, because it presents the first photographic documentation of a breeding pair of this species.
Midas cichlid speciation

Would you like to work with us on discovering new fish species in Nicaragua? We need volunteers, both as certified divers and non-divers. We also need used dive equipment, underwater video equipment, and old computers. We can also provide thesis topics for interested students. Would you like to volunteer with us or make a donation? Please contact us.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Animal Rescue III: Short-tailed Hawk





The Short-tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus) breeds in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. One of the park guards rescued a chick from some boys who had stolen it from a nest high in a large ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) tree. By the time the bird reached us, he had diarrhea and was not happy. We are often not so fortunate, but this one survived, and became a wild, adult bird in the forests within several weeks.

Once he was strong enough, we began giving him flight practice. At first, he anxiously eyed other birds and all nearby movement. He soon lost his fear of the other birds, however, and he even would give them an evil stare, as if they would someday be his. In these photos, he was tethered, learning to fly and deal with the wild environment.

birdwatching ecotour Nicaragua
Short-tailed Hawk fledgling getting some sun at Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary
Before he was set free, he was given several days of "supervised" freedom, during which he practiced flapping while held, flew short distances while tethered, and spent afternoons perched in a nearby tree. The bird absorbed the experiences of passerines that harrassed it, and gained body strength and mobility.
birdwatching nature tours Nicaragua
Fledgling Short-tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus) at Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
His flight feathers came quickly with good nutrition, and he became confident. While he enjoyed the attention of people, he demonstrated a marked preference for the wild immediately. He never became too domesticated.
birdwatching Nicaragua
The Short-tailed Hawk chick looks suspiciously as a Tropical Mockingbird taunts him. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
He enjoyed watching all around him, especially the nearby birds which were none too happy about his obvious presence. Nonetheless, with just a piercing glare, no bird dared to approach him.
birdwatching Nicaragua
Short-tailed Hawk chick preening in the afternoon sun at Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary
When he first arrived, he was weak and sick with diarrhea. Thanks to the care of our staff and veterinary treatment, he improved and grew. Once his first-year plumage began to come in, our volunteer Joe Taylor analyzed him and diagnosed him as a Short-tailed Hawk, dark color phase. Soon his feathers grew and we all agreed!
animal rescue in Nicaragua
The Short-tailed Hawk chick enjoys its limited freedom perched in a fig tree at Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary
Shortly after these photos were taken, we released him to the wild. He never again permitted a human to touch him. He returned daily to Estacion Biologica, however, and begged our cooks for food, perching on a rail just outside the kitchen and crying. He was given raw chicken or beef daily in this manner for another three weeks, after which he began to return less frequently. We sighted him more distantly from Estacion Biologica as time passed. After about two months, he no longer returned. We often have seen a dark-phase Short-tailed Hawk in the forest since then, and we like to think it is "ours".

This majestic bird came from and returned to the forests of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, and can be seen by nature tourists. Although other hawks are more common, this bird is an example of the quality birdwatching that can be done in these forests. The FUNDECI/GAIA bird list for the area has 225 species, and our birding guides can help you find and identify them. Contact us if you would like to arrange a birdwatching or nature lovers tour in Nicaragua.

birdwatching ecotour Nicaragua
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spanish study in small groups in Nicaragua





Although most of our Spanish language instruction is performed one-on-one at Apoyo Spanish School, we often handle groups for Spanish classes, volunteer work, and environmental and cultural training at Estacion Biologica. The Laguna de Apoyo Spanish Language School is the oldest in Nicaragua. Here are some images from a recent group from a school in San Francisco, California. This group studied Spanish with our local teachers, participated in reforestation activities, and participated with our volunteers in mist netting of birds, a practice we use to monitor bird populations in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. They also went tarantula-watching one evening-although many were deathly afraid of them beforehand, afterward, they all felt better about them! And they participated in some discussions about the environment and social conditions in Nicaragua with members of our staff at FUNDECI/GAIA.

Apoyo Cultural Center Spanish School Nicaragua
The shade of tall trees makes the best stting for Spanish study. Miss Mariposa, Aura is a language professor and also an expert at birds and moths and butterflies. She will gladly take you birdwatching. She participates in several research projects at Estacion Biologica. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
The young people enjoyed a swim at the beach in front of Estacion Biologica after Spanish classes. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
A mango provides refreshing shade from the midday sun for these students, who are practicing diction. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.  
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
Our ample yard at Estacion Biologica is in front of the lake for a fast entry once classes are over! Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
As can be seen on the left in this picture, we often have campers at Estacion Biologica. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
Our volunteer, Soren, is explaining how we use mist nets to study birds to the group of Spanish students in an after-class activity.  Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
Soren is responding to questions about bird study and conservation. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
A Spanish student learns to hold a captured bird during a mist-netting demonstration for the group. This individual is a female Great-tailed Grackle. This species is present where human activity is intense, such as yards of homes. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
Spanish students and their teachers are enjoying a relaxing moment before dinner at Estacion Biologica. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
After Spanish class, students joke around with Lorenzo. Photo by Stephan Beekhuis.
We are happy to provide experiences in Spanish language instruction, culture, and nature by sharing our own experiences with others. We can handle groups of up to a few dozen in size, and we can provide ecology exercises, discussions on culture, society and politics in Nicaragua, Spanish courses, and lots of fun. Please contact us if you would like more information.

Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Porcupine in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua





The Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Sphiggurus mexicanus) is not a commonly seen animal. Although it is slow and not very small, it is retiring and blends in well. And some of its hairs transform into sharp spines as they age, providing them with a passive defense mechanism. Here we show photos taken of this animal in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua, some 100 meters from Estacion Biologica.

nature photography
Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Sphiggurus mexicanus) in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Pablo Somarriba.
 Although they are supposedly strictly nocturnal, this individual has ventured out in broad daylight on a tree on the main road in the reserve. We informed a park guard who remained near him for a few hours until the animal retreated into the forest. This species is nocturnal, solitary, and is thought to be strictly vegetarian. However, when we looked at these photos, we wondered whether this individual was feasting upon termites which are seen in a tunnel on the tree trunk, or perhaps on the tunnel itself which is made of semidigested plant matter.

nature tour Nicaragua
Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Sphiggurus mexicanus) in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Pablo Somarriba.
 It has a long prehensile tail which is evident in these pictures. Once somewhat common in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, a sighting today is remarkable. The porcupines are often killed by locals because dogs may bite them and be affected by their spines.

Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua
Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Sphiggurus mexicanus) in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Pablo Somarriba.
 It was a special treat to see this animal, because they are not common and not out during the daytime Several students from the Laguna de Apoyo Spanish School got to see the animal, too!
wildlife photography
Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Sphiggurus mexicanus) in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Pablo Somarriba.
Please let us know if you see any special wildlife in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We are always interested.

Apoyo Spanish School Nicaragua


 
 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bird population monitoring in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua




This week, our team of Marlene Kroner, Lucas Betthausen, Soren Kraack, and Lorenzo Lopez conducted bird population monitoring by mist netting in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Every month, we use mist netting to capture birds for a population monitoring longitudinal study. Here is a selection of the birds they caught in photos, followed by a list of all species captured during this period.


Grey-headed Tanager
Grey-headed Tanager (Eucometes penicillata). Photo by Soren Kraack.
This gorgeous bird escaped our view for years in the reserve, particularly because it is only found in the southwestern section of the crater. We have never documented the Grey-headed Tanager on the northern side of the crater, where Estacion Biologica is situated. In spite of its bright yellow plumage, it is not easily seen, either! It is a resident species, present year-round.

Painted Bunting
Male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) having its plumage reviewed and noted in our data bank. Photo by Soren Kraack.
The Painted Bunting is among the most colorful birds in Nicaragua and also in North America, where it nests. The males are exuberantly colored, whereas the females are drab yellow. Our population will be heading northward before the next time we monitor birds by mist netting, next month. This species is of particular concern because of diminishing populations and is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss by the intensification of agriculture in the southern and midwestern US is thought to be the principal cause of its recent population drop, but we know little of birds like this one in their southern habitat. Our captures may contribute to better conservation of this species. We have made another blog entry on this gorgeous bird, where you can read more about it.

Stripe-throated Hermit Hummingbird
Stripe-throated Hermit (Phaethornis striigularis). Photo by Soren Kraack.
There are at least ten species of hummingbirds found in the Tropical Dry Forest habitat of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. The Stripe-throated Hermit prefers more dense forest cover than others such as the Cinnamon Hummingbird which is more common at Estacion Biologica. This little bird may have co-evolved with specific flowers from which it feeds, hence the decurved bill. This species has recently been named as distinct from the Little Hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus) which now is limited to South America.

Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Lesser Greenlet (Hylophylus decurtatus). Photo by Soren Kraack.
The Tropical Dry Forest habitat abounds in flycatchers (Tyrannidae). Among the less flycatcher-like in behavior of this family is the smallish and retiring Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens). It makes a small pyriform nest with an entrance near the bottom. We often have nests in the yard at Estacion Biologica. The feathers at the top of this bird's head have been wettened by the handler to examine ossification of the cranium-a test for the bird's age.

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus). Photo by Soren Kraack.
The Red-eyed Vireo migrates long distances between its nesting areas in the US and wintering ranges in Central and South America. Migratory birds are especially vulnerable to the many dangers of a long trip and need to re-establish territories in potentially crowded and hostile areas twice each year. This species is common in season throughout the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve forests.

Here is a list of the birds captured during the April mist netting. Notice how different this list is from the birdwatching list of the same date. It gives you an idea, too, of what you can see when birdwatching in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.

Catharus ustulatus
Thryothorus rufalbus
Hylocharis eliciae
Chiroxiphia linearis
Eucometis penicillata
Passerina ciris
Xiphorhynchus flavigaster
Turdus grayi
Vireo olivaceus
Chlorostilbon canivetii
Seiurus noveboracensis
Arremonops rufivirgatus
Vermivora peregrina
Basileuterus rufifrons
Myiarchus crinitus
Seiurus aurocapillus
Tolmomyias sulphurescens
Hylocichla mustelina
Thryothorus pleurostictus
Hylophilus decurtatus
Phaethornis striigularis
Dendroica pennsylvanica
Amazilia cyanura

birdwatching Nicaragua
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Birdwatching at Estacion Biologica I





The aquatic habitat of the lake combines with the tropical dry forest habitat of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve to give a wide variety of birds to be seen in a birdwatching activity. Here is a list of birds we saw on a morning birdwatching walk around Estacion Biologica this week:

Osprey                                  Pandion heliaetus
Turkey Vulture                      Cathartus aura
Black Vulture                        Coragyps atratrus
Orange-chinned Parakeet      Brotogeris jugularis
Orange-fronted Parakeet       Aratinga canicularis
Turquoise-browed Motmot    Eumomota superciliosa
Northern Oriole                     Icterus galbula
Swainson's Thrush                 Turdus swainsonii
Clay-colored Thrush              Turdus grayi
Hoffmann's Woodpecker       Melanerpes hoffmannii
Yellow Warbler                     Dendroica petechia
Salvin's Emerald                    Chlorostylbon salvini
White-throated Magpie-Jay   Calocitta formosa
Dusky-capped Flycatcher      Myiarchus tuberculifer
Social Flycatcher                   Myiozetetes similis
Inca Dove                              Columbina inca
Red-billed Pigeon                   Patagioenas flavirostris
Tropical Kingbird                   Tyrannus melancholicus
Chestnut-capped Warbler      Basileuterus delattrii 
Melodious Blackbird              Dives dives
Great-tailed Grackle              Quiscalus mexicanus
Black-headed Trogon            Trogon melanocephalus
Banded Wren                        Thryothorus pleurostictus
Montezuma Oropendola        Psaracolius montezuma
Rufous-naped Wren              Campylorhynchus rufinucha
Yellow-bellied Elenia             Elenia flavogaster
Yellow-olive Flycatcher         Tolmomyias sulphurescens
Blue-gray Tanager                 Thraupis episcopus
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher        Tyrannus forficatus

birdwatching Nicaragua
Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
Twenty-nine species in 90 minutes, all within 100 meters of Estacion Biologica. Not bad! And we didn't go into the forest, nor did we look near the water. Be watching for a coming posting on our mist netting results, for comparison.

We regularly make birdwatching walks at Estacion Biologica, in addition to the research studies, and we are able to see a similar number of birds without going far and returning in time for breakfast. This list was made with the participation of David Santillo who was studying Spanish with us.

Jeffrey McCrary birdwatching Nicaragua
Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
Nicaragua has plenty of great places for birdwatching, among them is our wonderful Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Come and bring your binoculars. Estacion Biologica can arrange a professional guide who knows his or her birds. Four members of our staff are published authors in the scientific literature about birds in Nicaragua. 


Nicaragua birdwatching
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Duo Guardabarranco: CORAZON DE NINO

salvador cardenal
Salvador and Katia Cardenal made a memorable anthology of music as Duo Guardabarranco. Their music carried messages of social justice, the environment, spirituality, love and solidarity. The identity of Nicaragua can be read in their music, a country punished by oppression and violence, full of nature, and love for one's fellow man. Among their songs was a tribute to their uncle Juan, who inspired them to immortalize his Heart of a Child.

Guardabarranco

Here is the song, with its lyrics in Spanish below. Click on song title for video!


Juan decía que tenia un plan
de viejo ir a vivir al mar,
pero nunca fue viejo,
porque el mar vino a traerlo.
Y en las costas de San Juan del Sur,
pintando esta Juan de la Cruz,
un cielo para los que amó
y un ángel cruza el tragaluz
y me besa un labio herido.
Hoy Reymundo y todo el mundo
vamos a ir a ver el cine de los cielos,
hoy sabremos el teléfono de Dios
esta desocupado, esta desocupado.
Juan contanos como hacer
para tener amor y corazón de niño,
Juan sabremos el teléfono de Dios,
el corazón lo sabe, el corazón de niño
el corazón de niño.
Ser un ave del amanecer,
cantando de amor y placer
al ver la madrugada
y sumarse a la batalla
de la luz contra la oscuridad,
del bosque contra la ciudad,
del arte por la libertad
del hombre que nació a vivir
y morir en paz con todos.

Heart of a Child

Juan would say he had a plan
To go to live at the sea when old,
But he was never old
Because the sea came to take him.
And on the shore of San Juan del Sur,
Was painting Juan de la Cruz
Skies for those he loved
An angel enters through the window
And kisses my wounded lips
Now the whole world
Goes to see the cinema in the skies,
Now we know God's telephone
Is waiting for us, is waiting for us to call.
Juan, tell us how to act
To have love and the heart of a child.
To be a bird of the dawn,
Singing of love and joy
To see the sun rise
And join the battle of light against darkness,
Of forest against city,
Of art for the freedom
Of man who was born to live
And die at peace with everyone.

music

katia cardenal

guardabarranco

guardabarranco

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

SCUBA diving in Laguna de Apoyo





We dive to study fish. We study fish to save them. Doubtless the fish of Laguna de Apoyo are facing a race against time as man continues to encroach on their habitat. Each day, the shores of the crater lake have fewer trees. Houses are built, forests are cut, pesticides are applied, all slowly drying and poisoning the only home for six known species of fish and countless others which have not been "discovered" officially. Dozens of fish species remain undiscovered in the waters of Nicaragua.


Here are the endemic species which have been named to date:
Amphilophus chancho
Amphilophus globosus
Amphilophus supercilius
Amphilophus flaveolus
Amphilophus astorquii
Amphilophus zaliosus

The last listed species, the arrow cichlid, was discovered by George Barlow in 1976, while the other five were discovered between 2008 and 2010 by a multinational research team in collaboration between FUNDECI/GAIA, Jay Stauffer's group at Pennsylvania State University and Matthias Geiger at Maximillian Ludwig University (Munich). They are all very closely related species, evolved since an introduction into the volcanic crater lake 10,000-20,000 years ago. All the fish are descendants of a parent Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) stock.

In the photo below, taken while SCUBA diving on one of our monitoring sites in Laguna de Apoyo, several of the above-mentioned species are present.
Dive Nicaragua
A multispecies Amphilophus school in our monitoring site. Photo by Balasz Lerner.
We count fish numbers at fixed depths in specific locations monthly, as well as fish nests. The counting methods have permitted us to gain the extensive experience necessary to begin to decipher the differences between the fish species-distinctions that the fish themselves "see" but we do not nearly as easily.
Dive Lake Apoyo
Lorenzo Lopez is taking notes on fish populations in our fish monitoring activity in Laguna de Apoyo.
This study is important because it permits us to detect changes in the lake habitat and fish populations, hopefully giving us time to respond in the event of a potential fish kill or extinction event. We are still trying to understand just how many of each fish species are in the lake in order to interpret our results better. We have recently published a baseline of fish populations and breeding rates at three sites in Laguna de Apoyo, which you can find here.

Not only fish are observed in our monitoring work. We count the crabs seen as well:

SCUBA dive Laguna de Apoyo
Potamocarcinus nicaraguensis in Laguna de Apoyo.
Little is known about the crabs that inhabit the Nicaraguan Great Lakes system. We occasionally see them eating a dead fish, or more often, hiding in a hole or beneath an object. We usually see two or three each dive. We have begun counting them systematically, to look for trends in their population over time.

You can join us! Please let us know if you would like to dive with us in Laguna de Apoyo. If you are a certified diver, and you would like to accompany us, you can learn about the rare and threatened fishes of the lake, see them up close, and help us collect data that ultimately will contribute to scholarly publications about these fish and their habitat. We know far too little about these fish, and your participation helps us learn more about how to protect these species. We are saving Nicaraguan wild nature, and you can help.

Whether you are a field biologist or a tourist, we there are ways you can participate in our work. A few of the ways are:

1. Participate in our diving research program as a diver. Any certified diver can contribute by "buddying" on a research dive.
2. Visit us at Estacion Biologica in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and meet us personally.
3. Tell others about us and the nature conservation activities in Nicaragua.
4. Patronize businesses with responsible management practices such as permits, pesticide use, waste management, etc.
5. Volunteer some time with us-we have a constant need for volunteers outside the water as much as inside, from computer data management, conservation professional support, to physical activities without technical expertise.
6. Collaborate with us as a visiting scientist. We have numerous projects and topics that could benefit from the involvement of more researchers. Our group publishes more than any research group in Nicaragua, and we would like to work with more international and local collaborators.
7. Donate-whether in cash or used dive equipment in good condition. We can get material transported from the US if necessary. We can receive financial donations via paypal, and provide tax information (we are a Nicaraguan registered not-for-profit).

Please contact us if you want to help. This project depends on individual, small-scale contributions, so your can make a difference.

dive Laguna de Apoyo
Click on the "escudo" to contact us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't eat turtle eggs!




Most species of sea turtles today are in grave risk of extinction. One important factor in their plight is the long-held, tasty tradition of eating sea turtle eggs. Poachers dig the eggs up on the beaches during the turtle reproduction season (June to December), or they are simply harvested as the turtle drops them into a hole on the beach. In Nicaragua, a campaign against the consumption of turtle eggs was very successful at raising the consciousness of the public and decision-makers. The drawing below is the logotype for the campaign.

NO COMO HUEVOS DE TORTUGA!
Olive Ridley Turtle
Click the hatching egg for video.

turtle eggs in Nicaragua

In spite of the publicity generated by this successful campaign, turtle eggs can still be found on menus in restaurants. In Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, one of our neighboring businesses, just short walk from Estacion Biologica, offers turtle eggs on its menu:

turtles Nicaragua
This restaurant in Laguna de Apoyo serves turtle eggs, in spite of the disapproval of a wide variety of people and the law against sale of turtle eggs. Photo Nathan Biondolino.

turtle eggs
Photo Nathan Biondolino.

sea turtle conservation
Photo Nathan Biondolino.
Here, the waiter at "Monteverde" Restaurant in Laguna de Apoyo is serving turtle eggs to a client.

Olive Ridley Turtle
Photo Nathan Biondolino.
Obviously, sea turtle conservation is completely incompatible with the disgusting practice of the traffic in turtle eggs. The sale of turtle eggs should be stopped at every level, including the boycott of restaurants that continue to offer turtle eggs. We recommend a boycott of this restaurant and any other that sells turtle eggs.

turtle eggs in Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua
Turtle eggs should be hatched on the beach, not placed on a plate to eat. Photo Nathan Biondolino.

sea turtle conservation
Photo Nathan Biondolino.

turtle eggs Nicaragua
Friends don't let friends eat turtle eggs. Photo Nathan Biondolino.

turtle eggs
Please do not patronize businesses that sell turtle eggs! Photo Nathan Biondolino.

Sea turtles found in Nicaragua and their IUCN classifications:
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)    Endangered
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)    Critically Endangered
Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)    Critically Endangered
Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)    Endangered
Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)   Endangered

What can you do to help to conserve sea turtles? Don't eat turtle eggs. Don't let your friends eat turtle eggs. Denounce all traffic in turtle eggs to the authorities. If you see any wild animal mistreatment or illegal commerce in wildlife or if you see turtle eggs on the menu in a restaurant, please contact us!

sea turtle conservation
Click on the "escudo" to contact us.

Click the "escudo" to contact http://www.gaianicaragua.org/.