Friday, November 2, 2012

The sacred forest

In a recent blog post I mentioned the Agüil forest preserve in the city of Aguachica, Cesar in Colombia.  It reminded me of the sacred forests on the edge of many African towns  Here are some photos from the remaining 6 hectares or so of intact forest (something like a hundred hectares have been invaded over the years by desperate illegal settlers).

A really cool aspect of the forest is its center to rehabilitate wild animals that have been confiscated or donated by people who kept them as pets.  There is a wide variety of turtles, most of whom live in a semi-empty pool.

Here you can see the tail of a baby alligator next to some turtles in the pool.

There are birds and monkeys

ocelots or civets (I think that's the English name)

And even this adorable two-toed sloth.

The project was started by five students in the agronomy and animal science program at the local university.  They wanted to take care of injured wild animals and turn them back to the wild.  Eventually the cops started bringing them animals that had been hit by cars, or confiscated from traffickers.  Other people voluntarily donated animals they'd been keeping as pets.  The students hooked up with the city government, and are now doing work that should probably be the responsibility of the local environmental office, but which this agency isn't carrying out.  The goal for most of the animals is to release them back to the wild, and in fact a number of felines have been released onto the farm of a gentleman who doesn't care if they kill the occasional chicken.  The animals I've taken photos of tend to be long-term residents of the complex.  They are too tame or too gravely injured to be rehabilitated and released to the wild.  One of the ocelots goes up to get pet by people, and the sloth needs to be in a region rich in fruit trees, which doesn't describe the Agüil forest.  The group's eventual goal is to fence the limits of the forest well to prevent more human incursions and poaching, and then convert the reserve into a sort of open-air zoo for those animals that are too tame to let out in the real wild.

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