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A unifying environmental purr-pose.

Enshrined in Indian lore and revered as a religious symbol, the mountain lion, the cougar, the puma--a.k.a. la pantera--ranges widely in the New World from the icy landscape of Alaska, through the steamy Central American rain forests, to Patagonia. The great adaptability of these sleek, powerful and fearless animals makes them one of the few species to have thrived successfully in the land bridge between North and South America.

It was only fitting, therefore, that Wildlife Conservation International (WCI), along with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), select the name Paseo Pantera (Path of the Panther) for a bold new conservation program that will follow the path of the mountain lion and other members of the cat family through Central America.

The uniqueness of the Paseo Pantera stems from its strong regional approach to conservation. The program initiative identifies protected areas in seven countries of the Central American region--Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama--to be the focus of two simultaneous conservation strategies over the next five years.

The first strategy is to develop classic conservation management plans for the reserves and their surrounding areas. The second will provide funds to develop a multinational nature tourism program, thus creating jobs and income for the local population.

The end result will be a nature touring circuit in Central America comprised of "demonstration parks" which meet international management standards and incorporate most of the region's wild lands. Four pilot parks have been selected for the project. They are the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, the barrier reef in Belize, Tortuguero Beach in Costa Rica and the Bay Islands of Honduras. The parks will not only protect dwindling species, such as the mountain lion, but will also be centers for research and development in biological and physical assets, with particular emphasis on long-range management planning and ecotourism.

Project promoters believe that linking the parks would enhance their value for tourism and research, although they are concerned about the feasibility of connecting these Central American reserves geographically.

According to Dr. Archie Carr, III, WCI regional coordinator, and creator of the CCC, "Paseo Pantera originates from a phenomenon of nature [but] its successful completion may breach a human phenomenon in the region--the partitioning of the isthmus into six small nations. In reaching beyond the cramped political boundaries of modern-day Central America, Paseo Pantera may intelligently address the challenge of biodiversity conservation in the entire region. Whatever else divides the human inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, the Paseo Pantera mutely unites us."

The cost for organization and start up of the Paseo Pantera is estimated at $3.2 million. Reflectingthe significance attached to the project by the U.S. government, WCI and CCC contributions will be matched by a $ 1.6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
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Title Annotation:Paseo Pantera, a new conservation program by the Wildlife Conservation International and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Author:Goethals, Henry
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:469
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