Untouched and Unprotected

28 Mar 2011, Posted by admin in Stories, No Comments.

Untouched and Unprotected

By Ariel Cheung


A group of Cincinnati students had the unique opportunity to explore an untouched rainforest that they could eventually help save.

Walnut Hills High School students are spending 10 days in Costa Rica, and Sunday, March 27, they ventured into the Corcovado National Rainforest.

“We are the first actual non-Costa Ricans in a long time to be invited up to this rainforest,” said Bill Schnure, 50, a biology teacher at Walnut Hills.

The students hiked 3 miles through the rainforest, learning about everything from sangrio sap to esperanza crickets.

“We saw probably one of the last rainforests that is not dead yet,” said Lucas Aschemeier, 15, a freshman at Walnut Hills. “We saw a bunch of spiders and a few frogs and learned about how the animals are being destroyed by logging.”

The 280-acres of land are owned by native Costa Rican Don Tino Gonzales-Batista, 70. Gonzales-Batista and his youngest son, Jonathan Gonzales-Fonseca, 14, took the students through the mountain ridge.

“This family is reaching a dilemma like many families in the Costa Rican area where [logging] companies are offering them a lot of money to get permission to harvest the lumber in their forest,” Schnure said.

Gonzales-Batista has lived in the same two-room hut for 25 years, but his family has owned the land for generations. Gonzales-Batista is currently battling logging companies interested in his expansive property. To counter the threats, Gonzales-Batista hopes to preserve his land and create an ecotourism destination.

“This gentleman would like to see if he could make a living off his land without having the foresters harvest it,” Schnure said. This could mean anything from offering guided tours of the rainforest to opening a hotel on the property.

The Walnut Hills group hopes to assist Gonzales-Batista in his efforts to preserve the wildlife. Schnure plans to host fundraisers and utilize various student organizations to generate funds to help the cause.

“We’ve been talking about raising some money to help him develop an eco-business that would protect his property and his land and allow him to make a sustainable living off the property without actually damaging it or distruptive the balance of the ecosystem,” Schnure said.

The students also saw land that had already been ravaged by foresters.

“You see all those pictures of rainforest being torn down,” Aschemeier said. “And [here], you see how much is really there before and after, and after, it looks like hell.”

The students are staying in Morgan’s Jungle Lodge outside of Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica. There, they will learn about the ecosystem and experience the country’s culture. For the next several days, they will be taking a guided horseback ecology tour, zip lining through the rainforest and touring an organic chocolate factory. The New Media Bureau will continue to update this story.

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