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Followup: Jess Morton’s Panama show & Adopta

February 6, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

For those who enjoyed Jess Morton’s program on Panama and would like to help the in-Panama environmental charity he talked about, here’s the information.

The following is an article originally published in Hummin’, the newsletter of the Palos Verdes / South Bay Audubon Society.

A Chucantí Update
By Paul Blieden

In late 2019, Guido Berguido, gave a highly entertaining program for Audubon. He told his story: how a young birder became a passionate conservationist. All he had wanted to do was see all the birds of his native Panama. Then, fifteen years ago, he began taking birders to a remote mountain top in which he had been finding birds never before reported from that part of the country. Each time he went, there was less and less forest to explore. Guido realized that unless something was done, the cloud forest of that sky island, Cerro Chucantí, would disappear—and that it would be up to him to save it.

Chucantí became his life’s work. With no money, but youthful energy and passion, and the will to succeed, Guido has managed to bring funders and conservation-minded people to his side, including Rainforest Trust and our Audubon chapter. Through Adopta, the Panamanian non-profit he created for Chucantí, he acquired the first 1500 acres of what he hopes will become a 50,000-acre national park. He has built a research field station at the edge of his preserve and brought scientists of many disciplines to study the flora and fauna. To date, more than 40 new species [50 as of January 2021] have been found, among them snakes and coffee plants. Many await the funds to describe them formally. And because of the constant threat of illegal logging and burning, Guido has hired rangers to protect the preserve.

Two years ago, Guido led a group of birders on an adventure in Panama that was organized by our treasurer and long term board member Jess Morton. A highlight of the trip was an unforgettable visit to the field station on Chucantí. As a result, our chapter became a strong supporter of Guido’s efforts.

Recently Guido brought us up to date via Zoom from his home, in Gamboa, Panama. He said that to thank us for our critically needed financial help, we would have the honor of naming one of the many new species discovered on Chucantí, a calla lily in the genus Dieffenbachia. The lucky person to name it was drawn by Guido from among the donors to Adopta through PV Audubon. In the drawing, held via Zoom on Saturday, October 3rd, he picked Evi Meyer, a long-time chapter member.

When asked about winning the drawing, Evi said, “Sure. I was happy to hear that I was the winner, but really, the person who is the winner is Jess Morton. Without him we never would have gone to Panama to meet and bird with Guido. Jess was also instrumental in setting up Guido’s visit to Southern California and several of its Audubon chapters to report and inform on Chucanti and Adopta. For all those reasons it was a no-brainer for me to have the flower named after Jess and not myself. It represents a big thank you to Jess for all he does for conservation and our natural environment.”

Publication of this new species will establish its scientific name, a highly important designation. Its known range is limited to the Chucantí Preserve. Thus it is extremely vulnerable, but once named, it will be eligible for the “Critically Endangered” status Guido will be seeking for it. The naming could save a species from extinction!

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