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AVES: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology


Looking into a large mirror at the zoo founded by Miguel Álvarez del Toro at Tuxtla Gutiérrez, you will see, along with your own visage, these words: THE MOST DANGEROUS AND DESTRUCTIVE SPECIES IN THE WORLD (Navarro and Morales-Pérez 1999, 226). True enough: There is no doubt that Homo sapiens has done a fairly comprehensive job of overexploiting and thereby destroying much of the natural fecundity that flourished in the New World. Habitat destruction is, and will likely remain, the greatest threat to wildlife, and it is hard to see how the interests of birds will compete effectively against the needs of a growing population for food and a place to live. Certainly, the creatures of our continent have not been spared in this same competition, leaving North Americans with little claim to the moral high ground when advocating conservation in Latin America. Perhaps the example of Miguel Álvarez del Toro, and the reserve at El Triunfo, offer a glimmer of hope for the future. A special place, identified and prized by a local scientist, then protected by local initiative. A place that attracts visitors from around the world, thus becoming a source of income for the residents of the community. A place that by virtue of saving a few charismatic species, such as horned guans and resplendent quetzals, also provides a haven for the numberless other species of plants and animals that form the ecological community of a cloud forest. All of this, of course, may just be wishful thinking; perhaps it is inevitable that one day, as Álvarez del Toro feared, the push to develop and exploit a mountain valley will trump all other values. It happens all the time.