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Massacre in El Petén Impacts Conservation

Published 05/18/11

Dr. LoraKim Joyner of Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife blogs:

I read in this morning’s paper that yesterday a terrible tragedy came to the people of El Petén, a northern Deparment of Guatemala. Twenty seven people had been massacred near La Libertad, which is less than an hour’s drive south of Flores where Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is headquartered and where I had been stationed. The victims include two women, two children and three teenagers.

Most of these people had also been decapitated, in what seems to be a drug traffic related act of vengeance or warning. As a result of this the President of Guatemala has declared a state of siege in El Petén, and no one can enter the forest where we had been working with the macaw chicks.

The biologists that were there are now stranded, temporarily. In the meantime the WCS headquarters is closed, and army personnel, vehicles, and aircraft came to the area to capture suspects in Santa Benito, a town that connects to Flores by a bridge.

I am glad that we collected the macaw blood samples just in time, but am heartbroken that our work to conserve and stabilize this area did not come in time for the dead and their families. May you know, people and conservationists of El Petén, that we internationals witness this tragedy, and will do what we can to preserve life for all at home and abroad.

Read more updates about our scarlet macaw project.

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