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miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013

Introducing Jean-Paul

Hi everyone, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jean-Paul Brouard (aka Japes the Piz). I originate from Durban, on the east coast of South Africa, but for the last five years I have resided on the small, frozen, damp AND cold island known as the UK. I have returned to Laguna Blanca to fulfil the role of the legendary Helen Pheasey as Museum Curator and Volunteer Co-ordinator. Growing up in the small coastal town of Amanzimtoti, south of Durban was an awesome experience. My dad, a true wildlife fanatic and Bushman by heart, developed my passion for wildlife from a young age. If we were not looking for the threatened Dusky-bellied Water Snake near the local river, we would be exploring the bush or searching through the tidal pools at the beach. Time flew by and my interest in Herpetofauna (Reptiles and Amphibians) escalated. I remember my first solo snake catch in an abandoned field, strewn with waste. I lifted a tin and a snake shot out. I Paused. Heart racing, the chase ensued. I managed to get my hands on this fast, little beaut, a Short-snouted Grass Snake, a widespread species found in the eastern parts of the country. When I entered High School we moved from the coast and settled on a small-holding inland from Durban. I did extensive local surveys in my spare time, and developed an interest in bird watching ;) As a Fifteen year old, getting involved at general EIA (environmental impact assessment) meetings, with my wildlife inventory lists, was a stretch out of my league. At one of these meetings I was fortunate to meet my butterfly mentor, Steve Woodhall, author of several field guides to South African butterflies and President of the Lepidopterist Society of Africa. Steve took me under his wing from the word go. We spent most weekends chasing butterflies, and he got me into macro photography. I only had a video camera at the time, but that was good enough. It was glued to my hand 24/7. I moved to Johannesburg after school. My uncle opened a position for me as a Learner Technician in his UPS business. At this time I started a BSC in environmental management through UNISA. After two years I decided to make a change and immigrated to the UK. I managed to get a job near Henley-on-Thames as a gardener. I spent the next five years working hard to make a living and eventually worked my way up to manage the company. The neotropical region has always fascinated me. The mighty Amazon rainforest with its blue Morpho butterflies to the Andes and its range restricted species. I needed to come explore this rich land. In the first quarter of 2012 I got my opportunity in Paraguay as a volunteer at Para la Tierra. My introduction to this special place had started before I had even arrived at Laguna Blanca. Karina had come to fetch me from the small town of Santa Rosa and I decided to sit on the back of the pickup truck on our way to the reserve to soak up the scenery. It proved to be a good choice as I saw a snake crossing the road. I leaned over the side of the vehicle and shouted SNAKE. All at once I had lost my grip and fell off the back of the car. That was not going to stop me. I got up and sprinted towards the serpent. I brought the prize over to show the others with the biggest smile on my face. Heaven. It was a gorgeous Yellow-bellied Liophis. A very gentle, non-venomous snake that eats amphibians. We arrived at dusk and I was mind blown by the beauty of Laguna Blanca. Not even five minutes spent within the reserve and my lifelong dream to see a wild Morpho butterfly was realised. My time at PLT seemed to fly by as I worked on the inventory of butterflies within the reserve and helped Helen with her reptile projects. I made some amazing friends, and was inspired by the hard work and passion the organisation put in to protect the wildlife and local people within the area. A new year and a new chapter in my life as I have returned to be part of the PLT team. Everyone has been very warm and welcoming. Sadly at the end of the week we will be saying our goodbye’s to Helen, Victoria (Capuchin monkey volunteer), Sean (Fish inventory intern) and Kevin (Bird inventory volunteer). I wish them all the best. In the coming months I hope to share with you my experience and wildlife encounters within this unstudied part of South America. Until next time. Jean-Paul