We pass a Palo María tree that’s been illegally cut and hauled away (they fetch close to US $10,000) and on the drive in to the Gardens this morning Gerlowski pointed out the nascent signs of development along the road – a barbed wire fence here, a cement slab there, earth that has been carved out of the ridge of the river’s canyon for the entrance to a future house or hotel. There are legal and illegal construction projects galore.
For those reasons and many others, the Jardín Botánico is working to purchase the land that surrounds it and create a buffer zone from development that will protect this forest and its inhabitants. Even as Gerlowski starts to talk about bringing scientists out to study the local flora and fauna, Price interrupts him:
“The truth is we really don’t want anyone out here. We just want to leave it be and let it be natural.”
That’s a more complicated and expensive task than one would expect. The Gardens already own 32 hectares (about 80 acres) of the surrounding land and is working with donors to acquire more, but they would need thousands of hectares to preserve the local jaguar community, for example, which needs massive tracts of land for migration and to ensure their genetic health.