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  • Writer's pictureLuis A Mazariegos

Jan 23, 2018 - In Memoriam Gustavo Suarez Osorio

Updated: Jan 29, 2018

One year ago today, we lost our great friend and collaborator, Gustavo Suarez "Tavo". This is a story to honor his life, work and dedication to conservation. To his wife, children and family many blessings.

Gustavo grew in the beautiful antioquean southwest and from a very young age he hiked through all the forests and mountains which he knew like the palm of his hand. Even at night Gustavo did not require a GPS, as he knew each tree and which was the path to follow. His sense of smell was incredible, as he recognized the flowering plants, in particular the anthuriums, when they were blooming.

Gustavo worked on the “tree seedling” project of Corantioquia in the year 2000. He collected the seeds of those important trees (magnolia or “gallinazos”, oak, and other important species) with which Corantioquia reforested with native species.

Something that is important to highlight is that he was also a voluntary fireman and rescuer in the town of Jardin, Antioquia, and his commitment to service to the community was always his priority.

In 2001, together with his great friend Jose Castaño, during an ornithology course in Leticia, Amazonas, the idea of creating the Proaves Foundation came to life, together with a group of friends from Antioquia and Tolima. Although Wikipedia says something different, this is worth mentioning. During the same period he implemented the protection and conservation strategy of the wax palm in southwest of Antioquia.

In the year 2000, Gustavo Suarez, Jose Castaño and Juan Lazaro, found two active nests of the Yellow-eared Parrot near Jardin. Between the years 2001 and 2002, Gustavo supported the project of monitoring of this highly endangered parrot and today the populations of this bird in this area are very important.

Between the years 2003 to 2006, he was the coordinator of the migratory bird project in the Colombian southwest, and became one of the main bird banders (certified by American entities) and monitor of these migratory birds. He holds the record of more than 30,000 banded birds.

As an anecdote, he commented that every time he made a census, he would record more than 100 species while others only 25 to 30. When he was confronted, thinking he was inventing the data, he said he always used a tape recorder to dictate the names of the species he observed without taking away his eyes from the binoculars to write them down. It was so impressive that this technique was recommended to others to get more data during field observations.

In the year 2004, he participated in the rediscovery expedition of the Coeligena orina (Dusky Starfrontlet) hummingbird. This expedition had also the participation of Niels Krabbe, Jose Castaño, Pablo Florez and Juan David Arango.

At the beginning of 2007, Gustavo helped The Hummingbird Conservancy acquire the first plot of land to create the Mesenia-Paramillo reserve. To date, the bird inventory of species, led by Gustavo, is 348 of which 21 are classified as endangered. This is the greatest concentration of threatened species in all the Americas. Recently in a study done by a PhD candidate, it was found that this area is one of the most important worldwide for birds due to the high biodiversity.

Gustavo was also an active participant in the amphibian and reptile inventory that until now has resulted in the description of two species new to science and four more in the process of being described.

Gustavo was convinced of the importance of conserving natural areas for the benefit of communities in the southwest region of Antioquia.

In conjunction with this principle, more than 3,000 trees of important native species have been planted, which will be the basis for the continuous regeneration of forests in the future. Each one of these trees now have a piece of Gustavo’s soul who planted these seeds and cared for them until germination.

Thank you, Gustavo, for all you did for this project which is a testament to your life.

Your spirit will forever live amongst birds.

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