Where have all the butterflies gone?

By Dr. Hermancia Eugene-Zamore


It is a known fact the Caribbean and Latin American region has always been used as an example of beautiful landscape giving breathtaking views and adventures some can only imagine. We have been fortunate to see this beauty everyday, first hand. Let’s think back to our childhood days for those of us that have been around prior to the 21st century. Remember summers or school projects where we observed a beautiful butterfly emerging from a cocoon? Now, think of today when last have you seen butterflies of various colours flutter around. If you can say this week you are in the minority. I bring the issued of butterflies not only to remind you of a childhood memory that brings a smile to your face but to bring across how important forest and wildlife diversity is important to our daily lives even when we do not realize it. This topic of Forest and Wildlife diversity may seem far removed from your current circumstances, working in an office or in a supermarket, but it does affect our lives and the beauty we get to enjoy in our surroundings.

Many organizations have conducted studies and written reports following the effect of climate change on the forest and either directly or indirectly on wildlife diversity. The reality of it is that the earth is changing whether it is weather patterns changes, hurricanes getting stronger, the sea-level raising. All of these have such an impact not just on the numbers of plants and animals that populate our lands and seas but also on the types of flora and fauna that occupy the ecosystem.

With warmer waters ,animals move into new areas becoming what we call invasive species, changing the dynamics of that living environment. What does that mean for farmers, hucksters, fisher folk and their families and their customers; what does this mean for us? As the forests suffer severe wind damage and soil erosion from multiple or severe hurricanes; where do the animals that use the trees and soils get shelter. How does the loss of forest canopy affect our watersheds and water tables? The people of Dominica after Hurricane Maria witness first hand the vulnerability of a forest as theirs stood naked and exposed after the passage of over 155 mph winds.

I know I have started this blog with a sense of loss, but I want to stress that while change results in the loss of some, if managed properly, can result in the growth of what is left and establishment of new and productive things. Once we, the citizens and governments of the region, review our policies, our daily lives and take stock of what has changed this changing world can continue to be our home. Our forests will continue to thrive and so will the wildlife.

Simple tasks that have been discussed for years, like conserving water and electricity in our homes, can make a significant impact on our forest and wildlife biodiversity over time. The slogan we have heard “reduce, reuse, recycle” continues to be relevant. Protecting our reserves and upholding existing policies and laws, avoiding the transfer of infected food products or meat products when we travel, not keeping exotic animals as pets, proper waste disposal, carpooling and walking when possible. All these seemingly insignificant tasks add up to significant change when thousands and millions of people are participating at the same time.

I began this blog post asking you to remember the beauty of nature; this is our primary marketing tool to attract tourists to the Caribbean. But my question to you is, when was the last time you marveled at the beauty that surrounds you? When was the last time you took a deep breath as you looked out at the ocean or sea from your window? When last did you notice the bird taking nectar from the flower in your backyard or appreciated the crickets chirping in the evening while the fireflies light up the nights especially on a moonless night?

Paying attention to the beauty of nature around you is a good first step to noticing what’s missing and what we need to work harder to preserve. Forest and wildlife diversity is not merely the task of a government to secure. It is the responsibility of all of us to preserve and continue to enjoy.

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