By Caitlin Hamilton, Contributing Editor
Volunteers can live and work within the breath-taking Cloud Forest national park of Honduras, aiding the conservation organization, Operation Wallacea, to document the flora and fauna health of the Central American rainforest.
The forest itself covers over 250 square kilometers of rugged terrain, over two-thirds of which boast slopes of over 60 degrees in angle. The incredibly high precipitation levels means that the forest is lush and green, which makes it a haven for both flora and fauna species.
Contributing to a long-term dataset, the data collected by the volunteers adds to the understanding of how factors such as human activity and global warming are affecting the biological landscape of the park. Illegal deforestation is an issue in Honduras, with many locals felling large areas of forest to farm and harvest crops. Although there is a military presence within the rainforest in attempts to quash the illegal activity, the effects are pronounced.
By removing and damaging the life blood of a forest—its trees—species will falter and die out at an alarming and irreversible rate. That is why organizations like Operation Wallacea appreciate the importance of involving local communities in conservation efforts. By explaining the consequences of human actions upon an ecosystem, local communities are provided with the tools to make better-informed decisions in the future.
Volunteers experience close interaction with local Hondurans, whether at meals, guiding them through the dense forest canopies, or effortlessly identifying the species that the volunteers are studying. One of the initiatives in the Cloud Forest was the implementation of cocoa farming. A less intrusive way to make a living, the local farmers were introduced to the concept that cocoa trees can be planted and harvested successfully under the existing forest canopy.
Although a modest venture, the initiative to involve locals in understanding the responsibly of caring for the home environment is of pivotal importance in a conservation effort. The work done by Operation Wallacea, and organizations like it, is innovative and smart—and it is appearing to be making a real difference.
Learn more about what you can do at opwall.com.
Photo Credit: Caitlin Hamilton