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News from the Jungle

  • Subject: News from the Jungle
  • From: "Eduardo Goncalves" <edggon@hotmail.com>
  • Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 13:43:54 -0500 (CDT)

Dear aroiders,

   Since my last (and dark) message about the situation in the rainforests 
of southern contries of Latin America, I have heard a lot of disagreement. 
Sorry guys... I know I was too hard, mainly for those that only had traveled 
recently the tropics behind the eco-tour guides and the powerfull dollars. 
Costa Rica is not a good sample of Latin America. It seems it was the only 
country that could find an interesting way to preserve its diversity without 
closing all doors. However, I think I may apologise myself for my though 
view of the (third) world sharing with you my impressions of my last 
Botanical tour in Amazonia. Here we go:

   We left São Paulo to Manaus on May, 1st, and from the windows of the 
plane it was already possible to note when we were approaching the jungle. 
Still in Para state (southern portion of Amazonia) we could see the small 
hills covered with the transition vegetation (Cerrado - Amazonia), then only 
higher-elevation portions of the forest (with enourmous patches of 
deflorestation), and then the lowland forest. Wow, it is huge! Manaus is a 
big (and chaotic) city deeply imersed in the jungle. We visited the INPA, 
the main research institution in Amazonia, and also the home of 
Bio-Paranoia! For them, ALL biologists are potential Bio-pirates! Anyway, we 
could find lots of Aroids growing aroid the main buildings, including 
flowering plants of Xanthosoma blandum and many other species (Philodendron 
solimoesense, P. barrosoanum, Alloschemone occidentalis, many Dracontium, 
etc). I also took a look in the herbarium, with lots of interesting aroids.
    At the same day we left Manaus to Tabatinga, a small village sister to 
the Colombian city of Leticia. It is the geographic corner among Brazil, 
Colombia (Amazonas) and Peru (Loreto). Once again, many aroids around. One 
of the main houseplants is Dieffenbachia cannifolia and large clumps of the 
naturalized Alocasia macrorrhizos. We took a small boat to Cauxi lake, the 
first place we entered the jungle. In the way to Cauxi lake, I could observe 
many hemiepiphytic and epiphytic aroids growing at trees in the innundated 
portion of the jungle. Very huge individuals of Anthurium clavigerum, 
Philodendron pulchrum, P. megalophyllum, P. uleanum, as well as large clumps 
of Anthurium trinerve. When we arrived at the "terra firme" portion near the 
Cauxi lake, the first plant we could see was Bognera recondita. This is a 
incospicuous aroid at a first glance, spreading its rhizomatous stem under 
the Sellaginela covering. The Marantaceae-like leaves are erect. The most 
exciting discover was that the plants were fertile, many of them with 
inflorescences at anthesis. Wow! We could even observe the probable 
pollinators, for the first time. We could also collect another possibly 
underscribed Philodendron. Many other aroids were observed around there, 
including the delicate Philodendron grazielae. Most epiphytic aroids were 
found growing in ant-gardens, that made our observations somewhat painful. I 
wont cite the many interesting palms and Heliconias we could observe around 
there. I also won´t comment the Marantaceae and the many orchids that I will 
never know the names... Wow! Life is everywhere (including trying to suck 
our blood)!
   The following day we took a boat to Atalaia do Norte, to look for 
Zomicarpella amazonica. Unfortunately, most forests around the city has been 
cleared in the next five years, so it is probable that the species is 
extinct in the type locality. We feel better when we remembered that more 
populations have been found in other places around the rivers Solimões and 
Javari. We also couldn´t find Homalomena solimoense, only collected once 
around the city of Benjamin Constant. Maybe next time.
   So we went to Tefé, a city in the margins of a huge lake. Once again, we 
took a small boat and explored the margins. We could find a small and still 
undescribed Dieffenbachia, growing together with D. cannifolia. We also 
could observe very huge populations of Alloschemone occidentalis, 
Philodendron elapholossoides, P. hyleae and Anthurium oxycarpum, as well as 
Syngonium yurimagense and many others. We spent two days exploring the 
margins of the lake Tefé, and I could find many apparently untouched 
portions of the forest, in places with hard access. We also found wild 
populations of the common Spathiphyllum cannifolium, growing in FULL SUN 
along small streams, together with Urospatha sagittifolia.
    The last phase were around Manaus. Firstly we visited the Adolfo Ducke 
reserve, one of the best known botanically. We could observe many 
interesting plants, including Schismatoglottis americana, one of the few 
relatives (who knows?) of the many Asiatic species in this genus. Many brand 
new species were also observed, most of them being described by Lourdes 
Soares and Simon Mayo. We also could visit some areas around Manaus, most of 
them highly disturbed, but still rich in interesting species. I could visit 
a Campinarana, a kind of vegetation that occur in sandy soils along Rio 
Negro. It was poor in aroids (except for Anthurium gracile), but I could 
find many interesting orchids, bromeliads and other epiphytics. Back to 
Manaus, we spend our last day in the INPA herbarium, to observe species from 
places we didn´t visit. The biodiversity is overwhelming, and I am only 
considering aroids. I will need 100 years to study superficially them all!
   My impressions about the forest? Well, most of the innundable forest is 
still untouched, because of the hard access. However, the non innundable 
portions has being seriously deforested to give room for a agriculture 
system that is low in efficiency. You can get a permission to clear a 
portion of the forest using the internet, but it is getting harder to 
collect plants if you are a serious biologist. The local airports are full 
of foreign missionaries (either catholics and protestants, as well as 
different "cultivars" of these), local politicians, Federal policemen and 
potential narcotrafficants and we had the impression that we are the only 
around worried with the future of the forest. Maybe WE are wrong!

                                Tenham um bom dia!
                                 (Have a nice day)


P.S. Ron... In some places (including Brazil), sending living plants without 
the almost-impossible-to-have permits is now considered a crime, and people 
can be arrested for it. After March this year things have become dangerous 
around here. I has heard that things are now the same in Colombia. As an 
active plant collector (I also have a compreensive collection of some 
genera) I am not happy with this. I only want to make you know that the 
danger sometimes is not in the jungle... It is at the luggage inspection at 
the airports! Keep you eyes opened!!!

>Dear Eduardo,
>Thanks for stopping the dream become a living nightmare.   So its back to
>Thailand and Bali unless they too become no-nos.  One does not realise just
>how the hugely the problems of getting wild collecting in Tropical Americas
>have escalated over the past two decades.   Unless I can get residents of
>their indigenous areas somehow to send me wild Spathiphyllum then maybe 
>go with the tide and like other dedicated Aroiders grow Amorphophallus and
>other fragrant plants from safer parts.  There seem to be so many available
>already in cultivation .     That will applaud your salutory reminder to me
>that both
>Peace Lilies and giant phallic symbols have mystery and beauty.  But my
>horrendous thrust to get a comprehensive
>Spathiphyllum pool here is far more difficult than in the 80's.  If it is
>the embryo dream is to become reality I would welcome as much exchange as I
>can possibly get.  Please, please, no matter how "common" do you have ANY
>indigenous or other Spaths that I could beg, buy or exchange and which you
>could send even without health cert (I can get special permission here
>probably as I did in UK)?  Else I will go and revel in my love of Tropical
>luxuriance in SE Asia which is one of the places people with a variety of
>motives have suggested I should go..... !  What specially should I look out
>for there to
>bring back for others?  My #1 interests are aquatic
>plants,"aquarium" fishes and terrestrial Arthropods.
>Thank you for your wry realism and may you long survive against the odds in
>trying to safeguard natural diversity.  Great to
>hear from Brazil.   Please, do you know good Collections of Aroids 
>in Brazil that I could (safely) visit etc?
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Eduardo Goncalves" <edggon@hotmail.com>
>To: "Multiple recipients of list AROID-L" <aroid-l@mobot.org>
>Sent: Monday, April 30, 2001 5:58 AM
>Dear Ron,
>       I have a different story to tell. It was that I was in the same
>wonderful jungle place, but it was being deforested as fast as your eyes
>blink. There were too kind of Government people: Those that just don't care
>about you (if you keep paying the taxes) and those that think you are some
>kind of enemy. If you are foreign, they may think you are stealing their
>plants to produce bioactive drugs that will be sold back to the natives 
>the same country for expensive prices. If you are a native yourself, they
>may think that you are collecting plants to sell to the foreign labs, so 
>suspicious is the same. They protect the plants from being collected, but
>everybody can destroy them! You can go collect without any authorization,
>but you will be arrested if someone opens the mouth. If you ask for the
>authorization, they will ask you a mountain of paper, including a detailed
>project (saying exactly WHAT you will collect and HOW MUCH of each 
>You fill all the forms and it may take five to six months to have an
>authorization in your hands. It has to be done by all the participants of
>the Team. Remember: To bring plants (or animals, or rocks, or whatever) 
>to your country, you will need a different authorization. Ok, lets continue
>our "dream". There are also two kinds of local people: those that think you
>are completely crazy (wise people) and those that want to steal your
>expensive camera. Both kinds are poor and are probably suffering from many
>of the "Third World Diseases", like Cholera, Schistosomosis and Yellow
>Fever. Did I mention Malaria? Well, it is almost impossible to have all 
>group together, because some of the specialists have their permission
>denied. Some only had permissions for the next year. Some just gave off.
>There are also the people from the narcotraffic, which will shot you if 
>think you are from the Federal Police. Did I mention the guerrilleros? Yes,
>they will kidnap you as a vengeance against the Capitalism that you
>represent. Usually, they are even worse than the narcotrafficants, because
>they won´t accept money! Does it seem like a nightmare? Oh boy, welcome to
>the real world!!!
>      Collecting plants in the 21st Century isn't that easy. I know I 
>somewhat negative-minded, but I am only being candid about the facts. I 
>to face these problems everyday here. I really think it would be great to
>have such a group and I would love to be a part of it. However the reality
>is much harder than the expedition of your dreams. The plants we usually
>find in the field worth well the previous "Via Crucis", but the price is 
>high yet.
>                                     Cheers,
>Eduardo (an aroid-lover from Brazil that thinks that Helicodiceros and
>Spathiphyllum are equal in mystery and beauty - stinky and fragrant are 
>human sensorial illusions)
>P.S. Tomorrow I am leaving to the field again! :o)  Try to understand those
>crazy botanists...
> >From: "Ron Iles" Reply-To: aroid-l@mobot.org To: Multiple recipients of
> >Sun, 29 Apr 2001 21:25:32 -0500 (CDT)
> >
> >Dear Aroid Collecting Friends,
> >
> >During a nightmare about gigantic Amorphophallus ravishing my Peace 
> >I had a wondrous Dream. I will tell you the story!
> >
> >It was that I was in Team that had gone to this wonderful Jungle Place
> >never visited before, a bit like Roraima with waterfalls and swampy 
> >and we found huge numbers of new kinds of the amazing plants that we all
> >love. In our Team there were also a few Ornamental Fish Collectors,
> >Butterfly, Moth and Bug Enthusiasts, Snake lovers, Bird Fanciers and
> >Anglers that we knew before or got quickly to know. They were all wowing
> >about in the water, the mud, the trees and the glades. It was a great 
> >and it was a place where the Government people liked us being there as
> >Naturalists and willingly gave us permits to take back home some of the
> >things we had found. Everybody mucked in, and it was enormous fun. It was
> >much like I used to do in the woods of Somerset near where I was borne 
> >hotter with everything so much more brilliant and bigger like I'd always
> >dreamed about before. An Aladdins Cave of colour and fragrances, 
> >everywhere. And although we split into various little groups we all 
> >what we found. Because there were a lot of us it made everything cheaper
> >and allowed us to stay even longer. Because it was such an important Team
> >Organisation, we got all the support we needed from the locals and the
> >officials. In the dream it became a regular thing several times a year
> >going to different places each time the same way. People in the Botanic
> >Gardens sometimes came and they advised us each time as to the best and
> >most worthwhile places to go so that they could share in what we found. 
> >was easier for them too I thought during the dream how amazing it was to
> >have teams of keen Naturalists joining together to do their collecting. 
> >far better and more efficient than people going in ones and two's
> >uncertainly to places on DIY trips and collecting only the plants they 
> >when people back home might like so many things that didn't interest. And
> >maybe even better than some of the ecotourist holidays with the same old
> >find a monkey itineraries. In the dream with so many eyes and ears 
> >everybody got far more of what they wanted and together the Group could
> >look for everything that those who stayed at home wanted as well.
> >
> >Then I woke up and thought about it. I wonder if we could get together 
> >other eGroups and go on expeditions like in the dream to help everyone
> >whether they came or not. The Botanic Gardens, and Animal Collection
> >specialists would advise us and suggest the best places to go and even if
> >they didn't come along we could look out for everything they were
> >interested in. We might even get grants from Horticulture or Universities
> >or Government agencies or even Airlines if we became THE Tropical Rain
> >Forest Study and Collecting Group?
> >
> >Just a dream which we maybe could come true. I was thinking of spending 
> >Northern Winter in Tropical Asia on a DIY trip but I would be just as 
> >to help organise something anywhere useful and best for everybody and 
> >help film and sound record it. Or do anything as part of a team. That is 
> >fellow members have keen eyes for new Peace Lilies.
> >
> >Are there enough people out there to make a team for the first of many
> >tropical wonder trips? If so when, where and what for? Perhaps the people
> >who are very experienced in Jungling could advise? Would you like to send
> >any suggestions to Ron Greenman in time for Winter 2001 travel, all 
> >of special expert or general help appreciated. Or perhaps you know of an
> >expedition of people with very varied interests who are going already. 
> >cautious about commercial "Nature Tours" there are so many and maybe some
> >are more suited for people who are just Nature Spectators rather than
> >growers as well?
> >
> >Whether the Team comes true, the Dream was great.
> >
> >Cheers
> >
> >Ron
> >
> >
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