To help save Machia Park in Bolivia, you can support Inti Wara Yassi, the volunteer organization that manages this important animal refuge and nature preserve.
A few weeks ago I posted on my Message Board that Machía Animal Refuge in Villa Tunari was being ordered by local authorities to close and find new homes for the rescued animals because they want to build a road that runs right through the park. Aside from being completely illegal because in Bolivia it is against the law to damage national parks or nature preserves, which Machía is, it will make President Evo Morales look bad (because he’s been named the Defender of Mother Earth internationally).
The Chapare region is Bolivia’s main coca growing region, Morales is the head of the coca grower’s unions, and rumors are this road is being built in order to transport coca. I can’t say the road is being built for this reason. It’s actually a tiny road, just 8 kilometers long. And officially, it’s being built to join two towns that are currently not joined.
But it hardly seems fair, and really does raise suspicion to damage a beautiful national park, the animals’ homes, require Machía to find homes for dozens of rescued animals, and threaten the survival of hundred of native wildlife species and entire ecosystems - all for a tiny 8 kilometer road?
This is precisely what gets people to asking “just why exactly is this tiny 8-kilometer road soooo important that authorities and locals would insist upon it soooo much???”
In a country that is one of the top three producers of cocaine and cocaine labs in the world (most of it produced right in the Chapare where this refuge is located) it will be an awful blow to Bolivia’s image, whether it is true or not, if rumors spread that an extremely highly viewed and internationally known animal refuge and important nature preserve is being destroyed and replaced to facilitate the transport and production of coca (which in many people's minds directly translates directly to "cocaine").
I don't happen to personally think this is why the road is being built. Roads are being built all over Bolivia and they are necessary. Bolivia suffers from a serious lack of road infrastructure and access to isolated communities as it is. But I can understand why people might get that impression.
In any case, I AM against the building of THIS road. It's not right. It's a national park and nature preserve. It's very name indicates it has been set aside to AVOID its destruction. For me, that's enough reason to not agree with it. Period.
The sad thing is, I visited Villa Tunari several times and I saw first hand how Inti Wara Yassi volunteers cared for and loved the animals back to health. I was told most of the animals rescued and received at Machía were taken from their original habitats and sold to urban dwellers who, after realizing how large they grow, how dangerous they can be, how much care and food they need, or how long they actually live, abandon them or simply lock them up in cages for the rest of their lives, or worse, abuse them.
Many of the animals have been severely abused and will not be able to live on their own in the wild – ever. Others may be re-inserted but this is a very long and gradual process. You can’t just move animals to a new place. It requires a lot of logistics and they many never be able to adapt to a new situation. In the case of some of these animals haven't they been put through enough already as it is! In addition, Villa Tunari is a beautiful tropical region, one of Bolivia’s most beautiful regions in fact. Carrasco National Park is here too, with thousands of endemic species and some you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
So here’s the original article about what is happening on the Inti Wara Yassi website. This was written in 2009 - for updates visit the their site.
Defender of Primates Jane Goodall
Evaluates the Situation at Machía Park
Today (11 October 2009) I saw an article that gave me hope. This is a rough translation of an article that was written by Igor Ruiz and published on October 11th in the El Deber Newspaper in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. You can read it in Spanish here.
After learning that Machía National Park in the Chapare region is under threat of being closed and damaged due to the construction of a 8-kilometer long road from Villa Tunari to Villa Copacabana, primate researcher Jane Goodall arrived yesterday in Bolivia to learn more about the situation, and share her experience with saving chimpanzees in Africa and her work to promote environmental conservation.
As her first official activity, Goodall received a municipal Distinguished Guest award from the president of the city council, Enrique Landívar, in recognition of her position as a United Nations Ambassador for Peace.
One of the most outstanding moments was when Jane Goodall howled like a chimpanzee in thanks for the show of appreciation she received in Bolivia just a few hours after arriving. “This is a language that needs no translation” she said, alluding to the fact that she required an interpreter to translate from her native language, English.
Likewise, she proposed Bolivian authorities join her 10-10 Initiative which seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10% by 2010. Universities and companies in Great Britain, where she was born, have already adhered to it.
Goodall told about her experience while visiting a glacier in Greenland. Thirty years ago it was an enormous mass of ice with trickles of water. “When I returned the ice had disappeared, the land was covered in plants, and there was an enormous river. When the ice on the polar ice caps melt, the sea level will rise by seven meters,” she said.
The Director of Inti Wara Yassi (which manages Machía Park) Juan Carlos Antezana, was named by Goodall as one of the five heroes of nature in the world. He indicated that Goodall had asked him not to give any advance information about the situation of this reserve until she visits it on the 14th of October.
“Machía Park is under grave threat of being destroyed by the insistence by Villa Tunari’s municipal authorities to build a road that will alter the habitats of many native species, such as the monkeys, and the refuge for animals that have been rescued,” Antezana explained.
Goodall will also visit another Inti Wara Yassi refuge (Ambue Ari Park) in Guarayos, as well as Madidi National Park, where she will meet with members of the Tacana and Chimane peoples.