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Ring of Fire

Savanna burning to the left and to the right. Are we fools to be riding down the middle of the hungry flames?

The intrepid LoraKim Joyner is now in Honduras (after returning from Guatemala earlier this month!), so here's a blog she wrote on May 15, 2016 of an earlier trip she took there.

"Love is a burning thing

And it makes a fiery ring

Bound by wild desire

I fell into a ring of fire.

I fell into a burning ring of fire

I went down, down, down and the flames went higher.

And it burns, burns, burns

The ring of fire, the ring of fire

The taste of love is sweet…"

Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”

The love of parrots and the people who protect them propelled me to go down for two months to the Moskitia region of Honduras. This time period corresponds to the peak of the breeding season of the endangered scarlet macaw, which extends from January to August. The Miskito indigenous people in the core conservation village of Mabita, and now expanding to the villages of Rus Rus and Pranza, have decided to make a stand to save their wildlife, and in turn, I stand with them.

Surrounded by a ring of fire. All around us we see evidence of the destructive nature of nature. This includes human nature, for it is widely assumed that most of these fires start from ignorance or purposeful destruction of the pine savanna. Every day there is at least one new fire somewhere, burning some parrot nest tree, filling the air with smoke that stings the eyes in the morning, or causes us to put the pedal to the metal to outrun a fire that has jumped over the dirt road leading us home. The fires chase us also in the dark, lighting up the nighttime return from the field, like the USA White House Christmas tree.

When we reach a high spot ,we can see how all seems burned and blackened around our village, or is burning currently with columns of smoke everywhere. Some nights the flames in the distance cause a glow that seems to reach the moon. The destruction seems so complete, so difficult to contain, yet we carry on with blind faith that something can be saved. For instance, the local fire brigade last week made a dashing run to one nest tree to create a fire break, burning their rubber boots as they did so, and saving two macaw chicks.

Burned boots from saving a scarlet macaw nest

There is fire in the people’s efforts here. Every day the parrot patrols go out to turn back those whose desire to make money from the illegal wild bird trades dumps us into the age-old conundrum of us against them. Sometimes there are clashes, threats, angry words.

Parrot patrol about to head out for a full day of scouting all the nests and watching the entry ways into the conservation area. Their hands are raised as they say, “Apu pauni pree palisa.” (Scarlet macaw fly free)

Other times there is just the felled parrot nest tree, chicks long gone with poachers oblivious to their broken bones, injuries, or malnutrition. The remaining eggs and feathers haunt us as a silent reproach to all that we as humans have failed to contain.

Poachers downed this pine tree with a machete, and once down, hacked open the nest cavity to extract the chicks. (climb team is in the distance checking on a macaw nest tree that had two dead chicks who died of unknown causes)

Hate smolders, as do the stumps that extend as far as the eye can see. Hawks soar through the fire’s burned remains looking for stricken prey. Life finds a way. The hawks benefit from the fire as long as their nests aren’t in the path, and gentle green shoots cover some sectors like a blanket of emerging possibility.

A hawk keeps watch over fire looking for prey weakened or scared by the fire

Life finds a way, and remains, as do we, and as do 19 active scarlet macaw nests with 29 chicks and 5 eggs (our first chick fledged 5 days ago). The breeding season has never gotten this far along with so many macaw families still intact. As a tribute to what the macaws have accomplished, and us too, when we leave each nest tree after the pre-fledging chick exams, we raise our hands to them saying, “Apu pauni pree palisa” (Scarlet macaw fly free in Miskito). With every chick flying free with their parents, our spirits soar.

Painting on our research station with the words in Miskito which mean, “Macaw fly free!”

We may be in a burning ring of fire with the pines coming down, down, down, but the fire of commitment and love rises up, up, up upon rainbow wings of what can, and will be. The taste of love is sweet, and it may yet quench human desire.

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