Magic and Menace in the Moskitia

[This is the second blog in a series documenting the 5,000-mile “megaflyover” by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to survey Central America's extraordinary forests via airplane.]

By Jeremy Radachowsky

The Spanish-language news from the small TV echoes off of the hotel’s cement walls: “Today would have been Berta Cáceres’ 45th birthday. All of Honduras mourns her death and denounces her assassination.

As I finish my coffee and papaya, I contemplate the veil of violence and tragedy that hangs over conservation in Honduras.

Berta Cáceres was one of Honduras’s renowned environmental and human rights defenders, having stood up to promoters of a hydroelectric dam that threatened the natural resources within the Lenca indigenous territory. She was shot in her home at 1:00 a.m. the night before last and everyone suspects that her murder was related to her activism.

Tragically, Honduras is the country with the greatest number of environmental-related murders in the world – an astounding 110+ assassinations in the past 10 years.

Today I am joining colleagues from the Honduran park service, ICF, for a flight over the Moskitia – the second largest forest in Central America and the largest protected areas complex in Honduras. We are also here to help ICF with strategies to protect the cornerstone of this vast forest – the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated as “In Danger.”

Likewise in danger are the reserve’s rangers and the indigenous Miskitu, Tawakha, and Pech communities that hold territorial rights in the reserve’s cultural zone.

We drive to the air force base at the far end of Tegucigalpa’s international airport and meet up with ICF staff on the tarmac. Since our strut mounts won’t fit on the military’s large Cessna Grand Caravan, we affix makeshift mounts created from steel —> Read More