EPISODE 2 | FRAGMENTS OF EXTINCTION
We are ready to descend into the Amazon
7 technology suitcases arrived regularly, with all the instrumentation still functional. In Quito we are guests of Prof. Giovanni Onore, an eclectic entomologist / agronomist / biospeleologist, a retired professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, in his Marianist Mission, center of Otonga Foundation that operates in education and singular project to buy pieces forest through private donations, to protect them from deforestation and environmental degradation. For three days we converse with Onore to acquire all the baggage of the unsaid, the unmanifested, the non-official, of which all the layers of natural / social / political management regulations are permeated in tropical countries, and that always go known in order to avoid duplication of effort and errors of assessment. Onore has been the fundamental person in opening our road for working on the field that we will do in the first period inside the Estacion Cientifica Yasunì of his Catholic University, a station in the middle of the primary forest on the border between Kichwa and Huaorani territories, where we will go from tomorrow.
In Quito, the capital of 2800-3000 meters above sea level, in the midst of the Andes, the pollution situation is dramatic: thousands of buses in the West from the 70 no longer used to burn an unrefined kerosene and the streets are literally immersed in an unbreathable black air that obscures the vision of Cotopaxi (the volcano that just the day before our arrival had made a column of a thousand meters of spectacular fumes beginning a new phase of activity) and the wonderful profiles of other peaks at 4-5000 meters around.
Our job these days is to provide ourselves with all the missing furniture needs including batteries 12v large capacity, essential for the field work. The bad news is that the lithium batteries (5 times lighter and more powerful than traditional lead acid and can not be transported by air to IATA) do not exist in all of Ecuador and shopkeepers had lied to Nika - who had specially traveled before for looking the batteries - that they would have had in two days. At our expense, we realized through Onore that an Ecuadorian never says no preliminary and that nothing it's certain here until such time as it become real. After visiting 25 shops, malls and even the Bosch-Ecuador, we had today buy a heavy car battery to 40 Ah, to have the minimum required to make sound long-life portraits, but this obliges us to have an extra porter in the forest with many added troubles, not least the need to transport in the forest the battery always in a vertical position to avoid accidental spills of acid.
Together with Onore we go to find Luis Coloma, one of the greatest living herpetologists. He brings us inside the project "Noah's ark", a set of laboratories where researchers are keeping alive and desperately trying to reproduce species of frogs on the brink of extinction, only to reintroduce them in the wild when the fungus that is decimating them all over the planet, due to unknown causes, there will be no more. We are doing an incredible journey in life of crazy forms and colors, conserved inside showcases with controlled climatic conditions; we visit the breeding of crickets that serve as food. Let's talk about Fragments, of the need to connect our projects and a possible collaboration. We also talk about the papal encyclical "Laudato si' - On Care of Common House" and the extraordinary propulsion that it will serve to save as much as possible and as soon as possible, but he is very skeptical, disappointed and indeed he talks about the most reliable climate models. They predict that the Amazon will be an area subject to drastic changes in the medium term, and underlines the fact that every year they find frogs in gradients of altitude higher and higher, running away from the heat, but whose habitats will come very soon to collide doing extinguish species remain. At one point we approach a glass case where under a leaf, he tells us, there is the supposed last male individual of that species: when it will die his genetic heritage will be lost forever.
We are ready to descend into the Amazon, I think.
Quito, 2016 Ecuador
Photo by Alex D’Emilia e Nika Saravanja