Monday, 8 August 2005

Daryl Hannah in the Rainforest

Last week I returned from a lightning visit to the forests of Belize. The visit was sponsored by Jaguar Cars, and I was taking some journalists from the UK to see what Programme for Belize (PfB) had achieved over the past 15 years, some of which has been sponsored by Jaguar Cars. And while we were there we were to meet Hollywood film star, Daryl Hannah, and show her the forests. It was with some trepidation I agreed the latter, as Hollywood is not the sort of place that I imagined an enthusiastic conservationist would originate from. But Daryl was a complete surprise. Yes she was glamorous -- but she was also seriously interested in conservation issues. She is actively promoting biodiesel in California, and despite it being the worst time of the year for visiting the forests (alive with mosquitoes, chiggers, no-seeums, ants and everything else that bites) couldn't spend enough time in the field, joining us on night spotlighting expeditions, and searching for crocodiles on the lagoon at night.

Simon Barnes, of The Times, published a write-up of the visit last Saturday -- with a (slight) gloat over the fact that he and David Tomlinson (Countrylife writer) both saw a jaguar, and despite nearly 20 visits, I have failed to see one so far. And we all saw Ocellated Turkeys, Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Toucans, humming birds and plenty of other wildlife.

But the main purpose of our visit was to raise awareness of the work of Programme for Belize and encourage visitors from Europe to go and see for themselves. After 9/11 tourism from the USA took a nosedive, and although much improved, is still not back to former levels. The field station at La Milpa, in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA) owned and managed by our local partners, the PfB has excellent facilities for school groups, and it also has some basic, but comfortable 'cabanas' where tourists can stay. It is the income from these activities that provides the funding for long-term management of the RBCMA.

Basic the accommodation may be, But Daryl was delighted with the experience -- not all Hollywood stars want luxury hotels, it was apparent. And if you want to know more about visiting the RBCMA, why not come and visit the World Land Trust's stand at the Bird Fair next week, at Rutland water in the centre of England? On our stand will be representatives from the PfB who can tell you all about it, and even take bookings.

No comments:

Post a Comment