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Guatemala's Living Wetlands

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June 7, 1999 -- For over a decade, Conservation International (CI) has combed the world for what it calls biological hot spots -- places where the diversity of flora and fauna is unusually rich. Join National Public Radio/National Geographic Society Radio Expeditions and travel with a CI team of international wildlife biologists on a Rapid Assessment Program - or RAP -- to the largest wetland in Central America. Located in the Peten region of northern Guatemala, it's both rich in species and under great pressure from colonization and oil exploration.

Join the Guatemalan, American, Mexican, Peruvian, and Brazilian scientists as they conduct a biological inventory of Laguna del Tigre National Park. They document the biological diversity of the region, especially in areas that have been poorly studied or unexplored, and that are threatened development.

For part one of this "Aqua-RAP" adventure, listen as NPR's Christopher Joyce travels the San Pedro River into saw-grass swamps with Dr. Barry Chernoff, one of the world's leading ichthyologists. They gather eleven species of fish in a single day, with lines and nets, both on and in the water. These fish, many rarely seen, are both a biological history of evolution as well as a potential source of food for settlers in the region. You'll also hear from archeologist Tom Sever, as he explains how the Mayans created great cities in the tropical forest. They survived for centuries until they eventually cut down all the trees and disappeared. Sever wonders whether modern societies might learn from that long-dead civilization.

Listen to part two of the adventure, as Chris joins a team looking for ants along the banks of the river and learns how life in the river depends on plants and animals in the regularly flooded forests -- and vice versa. Then we'll join a group of herpetologists on a mission to capture the biggest predator in the Laguna del Tigre national park -- the crocodile.

Click onto Conservation International's Web site and find out more about its efforts to demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature.

Barry Chernoff and Cristian Barr wading for fish Barry Chernoff and Cristian Barr wading for fish

RAP leader Leeanne Alonso sifts soil in search of ants RAP leader Leeanne Alonso sifts soil in search of ants
Photos: Leeanne E. Alonso, CI

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