• Luis A Mazariegos

Dec 2019 - The Invisible Wall: A life sentence overturned

Since the first plot of land was acquired to create the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve in 2007, it has been a pleasure witnessing how natural secondary growth has taken over most of the areas that were once used for cattle grazing. The sight where the station was built in 2010 is now surrounded by trees which attract many birds and mammals.

Yet when one looked straight across the San Juan Antioquia river, there lied a barren piece of land scarred by cattle (drone image below). For several years we had tried to negotiate this plot and finally, with the help of SavingSpecies, this piece of land was acquired.

One particular characteristic of this plot was that every morning one would hear a Chestnut Wood-Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus) male calling from a small isolated forest fragment. It was as if a wall had been built around this area and the bird was not able to leave. Since this species of quail are ground forest dwellers, they only move throughout areas that have some kind of plant cover, even if its low-lying bushes. Not being able to hide under any kind of vegetation, had this bird imprisoned for life.

The late Gustavo Suarez and I used to talk about using a mist net to capture the bird and transferring it to an area where he could find others of his species. Years went by and we never got to it. For two years now the plot has been left alone for plants to regrow. Additionally, our park rangers have planted over 2.500 trees in this 10-acre plot, which will further transform the area in years to come. The drone images taken of this area on November 2017 (above) and November 2019 (below) begin to tell a story. But no better story than the male quail being able to “escape” and join its peers.

This story exemplifies the importance of reconnecting forest fragments to create corridors through which animal species can move freely. The Chestnut Wood-Quail is considered a Near-Threatened species. A healthy population is reproducing at the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve as can be attested by the camera trap video below.

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