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What Would Berta Cáceres Say?

LoraKim is still in La Moskitia, Honduras until March 7, 2019. Here is a blog she composed three years ago today when Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered for her important work in her country.

Sunrise over Rio Tegucigalpita near Cuyamel

Cuyamel, Honduras February 3, 2016: Often people imagine the life of a field conservationist as being exciting. It can be, but it’s also a march through discomfort and unexpected challenges.

Take for instance my first day in the field this week when visiting Cuyamel and our yellow-headed parrot project with Cuerpo de Conservación Omoa. Getting up at 4 a.m. is so like sleeping in, compared to some projects, and driving out to the observation site in the dark without our no-show guide is also not unusual, nor the drizzle that keeps gear tucked away. Where things begin to get more complicated is being left to observe while the driver of the car goes to get the guide, only to get a flat on a muddy track.

Our guide turns out to be a conservationist who risks his comfort to look for nests and to protect them

Next thing I know I am riding on the back of a motorcycle along same muddy track to join up and observe a different yellow-headed parrot nesting area. This muddy track soon turned to a quagmire. It was slow going, and admittedly, I needed a little help. Just to brag though, I only sunk into the mud to my knees while others went up to their thighs.

Slogging through the mud – (I get by with a little help from my friends)

While perched on one of the few dry spots, I could hear a pair of yellow-headed parrots calling in the distance as they made their rounds defending their territory. I couldn’t get closer because of the muck, but it turns out I didn’t need to, because one of the pair came to me to chase away a pair of calling white-fronted amazons in a tree nearby. Busily observing these behaviors, I lost track of the fact that my camera had been on a fence post and had attracted a large ant that laid into me when I picked up the camera. It was like a hornet sting and still hurt 12 hours later, when I was back along the same muddy track in the pouring rain, huddled under a tarp while trying to work my phone to see if the other biologists were thinking the same thing as me, “time to go!”

Huddled under my rain poncho in the mud and cow patties

It was not time to go for Berta Cáceres, a human rights and environmental activist who was murdered this morning in Honduras. Any slight discomfort we can experience seems to pale in comparison to a woman who risked her life, and then lost it, for a better Honduras for her people. Her loss sparks anger among me and my companions, and throughout the world, for Honduras is one of the most dangerous places for environmental activists.

Berta Cáceres showing us the way

As evening closes, I peel out of my wet socks for the first time in 13 hours and rub the ant bite that still throbs, thinking of Berta. What would she say of our work here protecting parrots?

She might say, “Rise up my people so that parrots can catch the wind of our indignation and forever fly free!”

With that vision of a better world in my mind, I realize that truly every day in the field as a conservationist is exciting, meaningful, and worth all the hassle.

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