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2006: Bolivia at the end of the year

Riverside near Piso Firme

The present government of Bolivia seems to plan no positive variations with regard to the protection of their natural heritage.  The subject does not occur in the official announcements and so-called settler syndicates often occupy untouched forest reserves and serve themselves, whatever they can swap for money or nourishment, meaning depredation of precious wood and animals living in the wild. On the side of the government we could until then not detect any signals to restrain these officially illegal actions. The permanent political and economic crisis in the country leads to a situation where there is no political force that could curb these devastations.

As a small group, if we would make too big a promise  under such circumstances, in regard to a consistent and permanent environmental protection, this would be boasting, which we leave to large, world wide organisations. But also they have not succeeded, despite their beautiful and impressive publications, to prevent the destruction of ecosystems and forests.

In addition regarding the political conflicts and the constant economical crisis in the country we see no political power that would or could oppose the environment destruction to some extent.  If under these circumstances as a small group we would make a grandiose promise in regard to durable environmental protection, this would mean  exaggerating to an extent that we leave to the established large organizations. Our modest, but in the frame of our possibilities successful activity exists in not only calling out to the conscious public, but rather to create oases in the desert, to show exemplary alternatives and to change the consciousness of the persons in the concerned regions.

Our center at Piso Firme

is not only starting point for influencing the ocurrences in the surrounding zone, but can also be considered an example for an alternative attitude to act towards the environment Also the people of Piso Firme are well aware of the fact that our activities are non-profit. That we are not there for business and are not for example the logistical basis of a sawmill or for exploitation of the fish wealth, but stand for the integration of man into an environment still excelling in natural beauty and variety of species.

Our continued presence with the support of our friends in Europe is a constant hint to the people there to adopt a different view to their environment. So far they are interested, like anywhere else, in everything else except the sustainable handling of natural resources. But our concern in the meantime is well known and noted. As a sign for at least an increasing tolerance, perhaps even some interest in the biodiversity in its environment it has to be mentioned that in past years the number of the giant otter (pteronura brasiliensis) has noticeably increased, although they were before defamed and pursued  as "fish-robbers"  and that people eagerly call me to observe, if for example a gang of Toucanillos (small toucans, Pteroglossus bitorqautus) has settled on one of the larger trees.

What have we reached in the year 2008 and where are we now?

Our friend Harry Huber, owner of the meeting place tavern "Munich" in Santa Cruz has bought  a 15 hectare plot of land at the border of the Amboró national-park and constructed a house there He is not a member in our organisation, but pursues in every sense our objectives. He protects each animal and every tree and watches out that his less sensitive neighbours do not cause more damage, at least as far as his land is concerned. What he achieves for nature by his private initiative would have taken us a lot of fund- raising to begin with.

In the mean time our house in Concepción has been improved and waits for guests. From its terrace large swarms of birds of prey can be observed, among them rare species. They come from North America in autumn to hibernate in South America and for some strange reason one their biggest aggregation is over the lake and the protected forest of Concepción de Chiquitos.

The Piso Firme water supply, which we had installed, is continuing to function efficiently. It also is welcome asset for ourselves, because we have fluent water for ourselves and the our guests. The specimen of jungle/fruit-trees planted on our property there, as far as they have survived occasional droughts, are growing to huge heights and are pleasurable  to rest in their shadows. The substance of the cabañas is still in good order. If we could always be there, the whole assembly could without much expense be kept in a good condition.  However, as only the casero is there most of the time, who although well instructed, still does not have the desired concept of "pretty" and "well tended", certain things remain to be criticized. For example people there are used to leave very small window openings, so few insects or other creatures would enter. They like a closed shelter, whereas for us light and lots of fresh air is important.

During my not very long sojourn in October I had ordered work to be done and also tackled a few tasks myself. In my ventures this year 2006 I was hindered again by the lack of a suitable vehicle as a carrier of persons and material. Therefore the board of our association decided that we would buy a "four by four" vehicle of better quality than our old Toyota-jeep. This we did the following year, financing it partly with our private money. Although for overland trips, as soon as they deviate from the main streets, a suitable vehicle is indispensable, we previously had avoided to use much of the money needed for the actual projects, because it can only be justified, if one is up to date to the conditions within the country. We will try to help refinancing the vehicle by offering tours (including to Piso Firme) to visitors. The vehicle and, if possible, an outboard motor are required because all distances are large and roads are often in an  abysmal state. Buses only serve the main routes or have irregular schedules and are therefore not suited for our purposes.  Individual mobility is the prerequisite if one wants to go not only to places to be reached easily and quickly from Santa Cruz. Many an information given here maybe causes the impartial reader to ask what all this has to do with nature-conservation. I myself ten years ago also had  totally different ideas about how we would bring about environmental protection. Partly the development of our association explains this, partly the given conditions themselves. Although we have Sra. Maribel Añez on location, I had hoped that soon a larger group would be found, guaranteeing a permanent presence in Bolivia. But all eligible persons from that time have turned in the meantime to their own life planning. We, who went there each year, could until now, not remain there completely. It therefore depends on the possibilities of the participants and secondly one has to get to know Bolivia in order to grasp, what is possible and meaningful there and what not.

With determination we have achieved many things. Much had to be left to be done later. We have made many new experiences that will help in the future. If our members continue with us and hopefully many others will join, we can proceed and new perspectives will open up. So will have to be abandoned. Others have been tackled, like the purchase of rather large plots of land populated with old trees.

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