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  • Writer's pictureLuis A Mazariegos

April 2024 — Honoring Colombian Conservationists @MPNR

Discovering a new species is a testament to the remarkable biodiversity of our planet and underscores the importance of continued exploration and conservation efforts. Each new species offers invaluable insights into evolutionary processes, ecosystem dynamics, and potential applications in fields ranging from medicine to technology. Moreover, these discoveries remind us of our responsibility to protect and preserve the delicate balance of life on Earth, ensuring the survival of both familiar and yet to be discovered species for future generations.

 

Celebration dinner during the Colombia Birdfair. Appearing from left to right, Jorge Enrique Orejuela, Carlos Mario Wagner, Luis Augusto Mazariegos, José Fernando Castaño and Emilio Constantino.


During the 10-year anniversary of the Colombian Birdfair celebrated in Cali in February 2024, we seized the opportunity to convene and commemorate alongside a distinguished cohort of conservationists recognized by Bioconservancy. These individuals were honored for their pivotal roles in conservation efforts, by naming new species of Darwin Wasps in their honor. Later that evening, as the celebration continued, we eagerly coordinated an excursion for the entire group to embark on a journey to the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve. This anticipated visit offered a unique opportunity for us to immerse ourselves in the heart of conservation efforts spanning over 15 years in the western Andes of Colombia. Enthusiastic anticipation filled the air as we looked forward for our friends to witness firsthand the remarkable progress and achievements made in preserving the rich biodiversity of the southwest Antioquia region.


Visiting MPNR during mid-March 2024. From left to right, Carlos Mario Wagner, Jose Fernando Castaño, Jaime Diego Botero, Jorge Enrique Orejuela and Luis Augusto Mazariegos.

 

The following are the specific epithets corresponding to each of the honored individuals and the species name: 


Dolichomitus orejuelai — The specific epithet orejuelai is a tribute to Jorge Enrique Orejuela Gardner, National Geographic 2007 Buffet prize winner for his work over three decades in Colombia on conservation education, protected area management and sustainable development. His accomplishments include the establishment of the cloud forest nature reserve La Planada, also helped establish Utría and Gorgona Island national parks, and the Quindío Basin and Calima River nature reserves. His mentoring for the creation of the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve was key to the success of this conservation project.


Dolichomitus rendoni —The specific epithet rendoni is in honor of Ubiel Rendon, park ranger at the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve. A La Mesenia village native and once an avid hunter, his knowledge of the surrounding forests has been key for monitoring wildlife and helping with long-term studies using camera traps. He has made several important contributions to the scientific world, finding multiple new species of amphibians, reptiles and orchids at the reserve, including this Darwin wasp named in his honor.

 

Lusius castanoi — The specific epithet castanoi is a patronym honoring José Fernando Castaño Hernández, biologist, birder, and conservation advocate from Jardín, Antioquia, municipality of the type locality. José is no stranger to discovery and through his more than 20 years as a birder has contributed significantly to the knowledge of Colombia’s avifauna. His commitment to the conservation of Andean ecosystems in southwest Antioquia has made him a recognizable leader in this region. Finally, José was instrumental in the rediscovery of the glittering starfrontlet (Coeligena orina), an endemic hummingbird, and the reason why the Mesenia-Paramillo Nature Reserve was initially established.

 

Epelaspis boteroi — The specific epithet boteroi is in honor of Jaime Diego Botero Vélez and encapsulates his profound commitment, unwavering determination, and wholehearted reverence for the environment, mirroring Jaime Diego’s lifelong voyage as a custodian of nature and champion of conservation at the Nirvana nature reserve. Jaime Diego has devoted his life to safeguarding ancient, endangered trees like Aniba perutilis, and has a dedicated commitment to nurturing and conserving the diverse flora and fauna within the “Forest of the new being”. His mission is to leave the natural environment improved, as a genuine expression of gratitude to his existence.


Epelaspis constantinoi — The specific epithet constantinoi pays tribute to Emilio Constantino Chuaire, a distinguished Colombian agronomist, conservationist, and naturalist, commemorating his exemplary environmental stewardship and unwavering commitment to environmental studies. It stands as a lasting testament to his tireless efforts in promoting ecological consciousness and safeguarding natural ecosystems in Colombia. This symbolic gesture not only honors his profound influence on the scientific realm but also highlights the vital link between environmental advocacy and entomological exploration, emphasizing the interconnectedness of these disciplines in advancing environmental conservation.


Epelaspis wagneri — The specific epithet wagneri pays tribute to Carlos Mario Wagner's unwavering commitment to nature conservation and sustainable rural development. This patronymic honors his leadership in designing and implementing projects focused on bird and big cat conservation, as well as the promotion of birdwatching tourism in Colombia. Carlos Mario’s contributions have been recognized both locally and internationally, from receiving awards for his efforts in bird conservation through tourism to leading innovative initiatives such as the development of birdwatching routes for people with visual disabilities. His legacy symbolizes a dedication to environmental stewardship and conservation leadership in Latin America.


Epelaspis tavoi — The specific epithet tavoi is in honor of the late Gustavo Alberto Suarez Osorio —Tavo, whose life was intricately woven with the landscape of Antioquia’s southwest, where his intimate knowledge of its forests and mountains began from a young age. Gustavo’s involvement in monitoring and rediscovery bird expeditions and land conservation efforts further solidified his legacy in protecting biodiversity. His work provided the foundation for the establishment of the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve. Tavo’s profound impact on conservation and community service is a testament to his unwavering dedication, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape he cherished.


At the Mesenia-Paramillo Nature Reserve, a staggering total of 88 previously unknown species for science have been scientifically confirmed to date, with 28 of these species formally described and published.

 

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