Saving the endangered rain forest means saving unique species -- the blue Morpho butterfly, the pink river dolphin, leaf-cutter ants and poison arrow frogs -- says Peruvian native Edgard Vascones.
Edgard Vascones is on the front line in the battle to save the endangered rain forest in his native Peru.
His weapons: eyewitness accounts of the loss of rain forest habitat and species, photographs and slides, and a blow gun -- for demonstration purposes only.
Vascones, making his first visit to the United States, spoke at Kansas University's Museum of Natural History Tuesday about the endangered rain forest. He's a guide with International Expeditions, which specializes in eco-tourism.
"Ten percent has disappeared in the last 20 years," he said in an interview Tuesday afternoon at the museum. "We are worried. The scientists are still working there. They advise to slow down development, not to stop it. So that means trying to show how important are the rain forests."
Peru's rain forest is in the country's northeastern section bordered by Colombia and Brazil.
International Expeditions began presenting workshops for Peruvian students in 1991 and the number of workshops "gets bigger and bigger and bigger," he said.
The company provides a base of operation in its camps for university researchers as well as piloting tour groups along the Amazon River, through the rain forest and into the canopy overhead, Vascones said.
By using a canopy walkway, scientists and visitors can walk up stairs into treetops towering 10 stories and observe canopy-dwelling insects, birds and mammals.
"It's the only one in Latino America," he said. "It's going to be finished this year."
The company also is involved with rain forest preserves that are off-limits to logging and agricultural development, he said.
If Peru is to save its ecological heritage, it needs to solve some pressing problems, including population control, Vascones said.
"One of the largest problems is the population increase," he said. "The community is growing and growing, and there are more farmers and cattle, logging and fishing."
Certain species are becoming harder to find, Vascones said.
"There are less big fishes," he said. "When I was a young boy I used to see 9- to 10-foot pirarucu (fish), but I don't see that anymore. Where there was primary forest, you see another village."