The Link between Cloud Forest Conservation and Community Benefit : The Roles of Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) and Aguacatillo (Persea caerulea)

TitleThe Link between Cloud Forest Conservation and Community Benefit : The Roles of Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) and Aguacatillo (Persea caerulea)
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSugaya, Satoko
Academic DepartmentEnvironmental Science
Thesis AdvisorHalse, Dr. Richard
DegreeBaccalaureate of Arts in International Studies in Environmental Science
Number of Pages68
Date Published09/2006
UniversityOregon State University
Thesis TypeUndergraduate
Keywordscloud forest, Costa Rica, ecotourism, quetzal

From April to June 2006, I had a great experience in the cloud forest in Cerro de la Muerte located in the pacific slopes of the Cordillera de Talamanca in Costa Rica (pictures 1-9). It is a region filled with dense forests which are mostly covered with clouds (picture 1). It contains a lot of animals and plants which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Utilizing the unique environment, local people have developed ecotourism. I worked in one of the private ecolodges called Iyok Ami located in Cerro de la Muerte. Their objective is to promote conservation and village development with local people. Details of my jobs included 1) cleaning the trails and giving a tour, 2) maintaining organic gardens and the green house, and 3) identifying plant species and making some signposts of plants for the eco-tour.

While working on the project, I found out that a bird calledquetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is culturally significant for local people (picture 2 and picture 2 0 ) . Quetzal is well known because of its beautiful green feathers. A male has a red breast and belly and its tail is up to 1 meter long. Females have a brown breast and belly and shorter tails (Johnsgard 2000).
Because of its beauty, quetzal has been considered sacred for a long time (Maslow 1986).

Quetzal is attracted by the fruits of a wild avocado tree called aguacatillo (Persea caerulea) (picture 3). Aguacatillo is grown at high elevations, low temperatures, and a lot of moisture (Whiley at a1 2002). Being loved by people, quetzal became a national bird of Guatemala. However, because of the environmental change, quetzal is under the threat in some parts of Guatemala. World wide, it is on the endangered species list (Nagal 1999).

The cloud forest of Cerro de la Muerte is one of the few places in the world that quetzal can be seen. Using this as an advantage, local people opened ecolodges. There are a lot of ecolodges containing the word "quetzal" in the name of the ecolodges. A lot of people from other countries come to the ecolodge to see quetzal. In front of the lodge that I stayed, there are two aguacatillo, which have become a good viewpoint to see quetzal. We got visitors from other Latin American countries, the United States, Europe and Japan. Local people could get economic benefit from ecotourism while protecting their environment.

I believe quetzal and aguacatillo are the key species in the cloud forests in Cerro de la Muerte because they are biologically and culturally valuable. This value contributes to ecotourism, which eventually becomes economic benefits of local people. In this paper, I examine how the cloud forest conservation and community benefits are related. In this process, I focused on if quetzal and aguacatillo could be key species.