Documenting Conservation in Panama.
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About Matt's Project:
This past October I made my first visit to the Azuero Peninsula of Panama to work with the Azuero Earth Project to document spider monkey conservation. Because of abundant cattle ranching in the region, the majority of primary forest in the Azuero has been wiped out, and only small islands of preserved habitat remain.The Azuero Spider Monkey is now listed as critically endangered, and it is estimated that the total population is less than 100. Additionally, very little research has focused on this sub species and as a result, there existed almost no quality documentation of them in the wild. While working there in October, I spent two weeks accompanying a primate research team trekking through the forest, climbing waterfalls, and photographing monkey families. It was an exciting and fascinating project that I hope can shed much needed light on a little known endangered species.
I am returning to Azuero next month and will be expanding my work to focus on the Pablo Barrios Refuge, a relatively new protected area on the Pacific Coast. The PB Refuge extends 20 km along the coast of the Azuero Peninsula and protects a wide swath of marine and mangrove habitat that were in danger of being impacted by commercial fishing and cattle ranching. Much of the surrounding peninsula has been destroyed by cattle ranching, and the PB Refuge exists as an island of critically important habitat amongst a sea of grazing fields.
Perhaps most interesting, is that while the Pablo Barrios Refuge is one of the most biodiverse and largest protected areas in the region, it has never been professionally documented and virtually no information has been published on it beyond an occasional academic or conservation report. My goal while working with the Azuero Earth Project will be to explore the refuge and create a body of photo and video work to highlight the biodiversity (with a focus on endemic and new species), conservation efforts, and overall importance of the refuge.
In today’s world, words like conservation, endangered, research, and data are everywhere. While much of this information, especially in terms of conservation and climate change, is of great importance, it is often difficult to relate to numbers and statistics, and the messages can get lost amongst the noise of everyday life. I believe that photography offers a solution to this problem. People can internalize and relate to a face, an animal, or a stunning landscape a lot better than a statistic. The Azuero Earth project is accomplishing some amazing feats in terms of rainforest rehabilitation, conservation, and climate change research. I hope that by using photography and visual storytelling, I will be able to document and spread their important message to a wide audience.
See more of Matt's work at www.mattstirnphoto.com
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