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Curse of the tropics – a glimpse at tropical conservation

Kirsty Graham holds a fer-de-lance/terciopelo snake. - Photo submitted
Kirsty Graham holds a fer-de-lance/terciopelo snake.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Part I

When we picture “the tropics”, we picture lush jungles teeming with wildlife, where we can’t hear ourselves think over the sound of bird song.

We don’t imagine banana and coffee plantations, ramshackle urban sprawl or clear-cuts. My education thus far has drawn me to wherever the twain shall meet.

Conservation biology explores the limits of ecology when faced with human infringement, and tries to find a balance between nature and development. I am fortunate enough to study at Quest University Canada – an institution that encourages wild experiential learning projects.

For my undergraduate thesis, I travelled to Costa Rica for two months. I focused on primate research, but was immersed in a diverse range of conservation projects.

It soon became clear that the challenges facing tropical conservation are similar to those here in Canada, including land disputes, ecology versus economy and inadequate environmental education.

Costa Rica provides an interesting case because their economy relies heavily on ecotourism. With so much invested in biodiversity, the pressure is on to develop quick, cheap and effective management plans.

As in British Columbia’s own rainforests, it remains to be seen how much we are willing to compromise. To avoid the inevitable sense of overwhelm, there are small changes that individuals can make to chip away at the problem.

So next time you visit a tropical country, consider your impact. Although we are encouraged to leave no trace, change will happen when we can take away an appreciation of the awe and splendour of these natural tropical places.

– Kirsty Graham, Special to MidWeek

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