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Jack Swift

Nov 11, 2002, 10:09 AM

Post #1 of 1 (2733 views)


For the Birds

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Nov 16-24

Why put on a bird festival in a region of the world where birding doesn´t play a major role in the local culture? Even if it is the state of Yucatan, Mexico with 412 bird species on the checklist, loscals observing birds has yet to become part of the dailiy scenery. But things are changing... fast! And visiting international travelers have been the driving force behind this transformation.

The growing presence of dedicated birders and their desire to experience the sight and sounds of new species in different habitats has already ahd substancial impact in liocations such as Celestún and Río Lagartos on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Local boatmen have traditionally taken visitors out to view the flamingos, here, but nowadays, these guides have learned that if they can also identify the birds en route, using their English names, tips increase accordingly. The economic benefit translates immediately into a concern for the resource responsible the tips: that is, teh birds! To take advantage of this eminently practical train of thought, local conservationist have made education and the promotion of local interest in birding an important component of their consevation strategy.

Conservación de las Aves en la Península de Yucatán (CAPY), the regional bird consevation program sponsored by Amigos de Sian Ka´an, and Pronatura Península de Yucatán (PPY) have carried out 23 workshops for 140 participants fron six communities since 2000. They have also put on migratory bird workshop for primary-school children in the same communities. Among the many donors that have supported this initiative ABA´s Birder´s Exchange program, by providing gifts of binoculars and field guides, has been especually critical.

But the conservation strategy does not stop here. What good is the training if there are no visitors to solicit local guide services? In creating a local market of birdwatchers and instilling a "bird culture" an educational program must be initiated that builds on what CAPY has done to date. It involves the creation ofexhibits, workshops, conferences, videos, publications, end even the sale of "birdy" handicrafts made in rural communities. But the process can be accelerated if international participants are involved.

This thinking by local conservationists coincided with the recent decision of the state goverment of Yucatan to adopt ecotourism as a major focus of its tourism program to increase visitation to the state. The result is a wonderful "marriage" between NGO´s, the private commercial sector and government in bringing about the First Annual Yucatan Bird Festival, to take place the week of November 16- 24, 2002. And if that´s too soon to plan for, the second festival will be held November 15-23, 2003. The festival is known as the "toh", Maya for Turquoside- browed Motmot, and the event´s slogan is "united for the birds"... which says it all!

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