Journey through the jungle

I want to take you on a trip through the jungle. If you are curious, journey with me... start off following a trail (otherwise you'd have to hack your own trail through the jungle with a machete. Well, that would take all day and you would probably run into a bushmaster or fer-da-lance [two of the most deadliest snakes in the world] and get bit and die). The first thing you notice is how quiet it is; quiet with respect to the sounds of the city. There are no cars here. Absolute solitude, except for the thousands of animals living their lives in the depths of the jungle, waiting patiently for you to pass before continuing there daily routines. It is not quiet with respect to birds. Flocks of parrots fly overhead, spitting curses at you through the treetops. They seem to play with you as you follow the sound of their squawking, stopping only long enough in each tree for you to get just a glimpse of their bright red feathers before flying ahead to the next tree. Tropical songbirds sing for you and there are so many songs that its hard to distinguish all of them.

There are insects you've never seen or even hoped to see crawling on the trail ahead. Giant grasshoppers as big as your foot rustle in the low-lying shrubbery beside you. You evade a giant millipede curled up on the trail. Gross, but kind of cool. You look up and admire the extreme greenness of the foliage surrounding you. There are so many treetops that you can barely see the sun, desperately trying to find a way to shine through. You notice a short tree to your right. What is that on the tree? A small animal? You pull the top of the tree toward you, slowly. You come eye-to-eye with a tiny mouse opossum. If you can think of the cutest animal in the world, then you can imagine the mouse opossum. Its eyes are surrounded with a mask of black, like a raccoon's. Inquisitive, it stares in wonderment at you as you slowly reach up your hand to touch it. It looks nice, so you figure, what the hey? It just sits there and lets you stroke its fur. Who knew that a mouse opossum would let you pet it? Who knew that you would EVER be petting a mouse opossum in the middle of the jungle? Ha! Well, you figure you won't wear out your welcome, and let the treetop back up slowly. You chirp "bye" to the cute little thing and hope that it is having as good a day as you are as you continue down the trail.

But now a strange noise has caught your attention. What the h--?!! You look around you, searching all sides for a sight of this animal, whatever it is, that's producing the most horrible and scary sound you've ever heard. A loud howling, squealing, snorting sound surrounds you, and, figuring it's a pack of wild pigs, you run for the nearest tree (after a short search for one that doesn't have giant thorns sticking out of its trunk) and climb up. This is the way to avoid a pack of hungry, man-eating pigs. Okay, they're not man-eating, but you dont want to get between an angry mama pig and her baby. The noise stops, and after sitting for 15 extra minutes in the tree (just to be sure), you climb down. Shaking the ants off of you, too nervous to notice that they are three times the size of regular ants, you walk the trail cautiously. You never see the culprits, but intermittently throughout your walk you hear the noise again and end up hopping up into a tree about every 20 minutes before your journey is done. Later at the camp you find out that the horrifying noise was just a pack of howler monkeys, and definitely NOT man-eating pigs. You feel really stupid, but glad to know you weren't in danger of anything more than having sticks and random pieces of rainforest junk thrown at you. Howler monkeys have also been known to try and pee on you.

Back to the trail. Tracks that look like cat tracks appear in front of you. Cute. Then you see the jaguar tracks. Shit. Werent the man-eating pigs bad enough? Pleeeeze! You follow the giant kitty tracks, wondering if they are fresh but hoping they were made a looooong time ago. You remember that book you read about the guy who studied jaguars, and take little consolation in the fact that jaguars usually only STALK humans, not eat them. Typical kitty games. You decide not to let it bother you and hurry on your way. Its funny the amount of wildlife you don't see, considering how diverse the animals of the tropics are. They have learned to stay well-hidden, to blend in with their environment. Evolution at its best. You know that millions of eyes are actually on you as you make your way to your destination; agoutis, coatis, ocelots, sloths, opposums, peccaries, etc. etc. etc.

Then your destination! Youve hit it! The trees clear, and the sun shines fully upon you. You admire the glittering green Pacific in front of you. You admire how the trees grow across the beach and right down to the water. Forest, then ocean. No space in between. Its the most beautiful water you have ever seen. Palms surround the glistening pool just like in the most beautiful of postcard pictures you've seen. Its a tropical paradise come to life. The thought of sharks is only momentary as you strip down and jump in. You realize at that moment, looking up at the treetops and all the little squirrel monkeys staring down at you, that here, you are home. This is where you were meant to be. You will save this beauty, this diverse ecosystem of species, most of which we haven't even discovered yet. Ignorance has caused the destruction of the rainforests, and it is your job to educate against that destruction.

In 1990, only 1/10th of the original amount of rainforest on the planet was left after the years of destruction. The number one cause of destruction is beef farms. Farmers clear the forests so that cattle can munch on an un-diverse mixture of grasses. Other crops such as bananas, coffee, and recently soybeans are harmful as well. Squatters who have no where else to live burn areas of forest and build huts for their families. Loggers cut down thousands of trees per day. With each tree that is felled, each animal that loses a home, a piece of my heart, too, is lost. How can we let this happen to our beautiful planet? This is why I do what I do.


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