Seven Names for the Bellbird: Conservation Geography in Honduras

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Texas A&M University Press, Jun 17, 2003 - History - 231 pages
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Offering intimate and unforgettable descriptions of the birds and people that inhabit Honduran landscapes, Seven Names for the Bellbird showcases the deep-rooted local traditions of bird appreciation and holds them up as a model for sound management of the environment. Through his appreciative recounting of local lore, author Mark Bonta makes the interaction between culture and avifauna in Latin America a key to better understanding the practice of biodiversity protection. He makes a significant contribution to the scarce anthropological and geographical literature on human-environment relationships in Central America and also provides wonderful stories of native birds and their human observers.

After a decade in the field in Honduras, Mark Bonta came to realize that, contrary to outsiders’ general beliefs, the society he observed was predisposed “to like birds, to observe birds, to weave them into folklore, and to protect them on private property.” Bonta argues that if North Americans and Europeans paid real attention to local knowledge and practice—instead of condemning them out-of-hand and imposing new beliefs and techniques—they would learn that rural cultures offer alternative ways of accommodating habitats and wildlife.

Bonta uses the concept of “conservation geography”—the study of human beings and their landscapes, with natural resource conservation in the forefront—to advance his argument. He describes many cases where local individuals and their traditional knowledge of birds contribute to a de facto variety of bird conservation that precedes or parallels “official” bird protection efforts.

This book is not offered as “proof” that all birds have happy futures in the Neotropics. Bonta recognizes the ravages of both human pressures and natural disasters on the birds and forests. But he shows that in many instances, birds are safe and even thrive in the presence of local people, who “celebrate them just as often as they persecute them.”
  

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Contents

Ornithophilia
12
Historical and Geographical Background
20
Women Children and Birds
36
Counterpoint of Zorzal and Zopilote in Juticalpa
50
Large Private Landowners as Conservationists
69
Pajarales in Human Landscapes
88
Owls Cacaos and Goldencheeked Warblers
107
People and Avifauna of Montane Rain Forests
124
Landscape Dialogues
146
Birds Recorded in Central Olancho 19372002
161
Notes
177
Glossary of Spanish Terms
189
Bibliography
201
Index
207
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Mark Bonta is an assistant professor of geography at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. In the early 1990s, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, and he has returned many times since, living and working in the province of Olancho. He continues to participate in a wide variety of local environmental projects in Olancho, including protection of the Sierra de Agalta National Park and monitoring of the endemic tree cycad Dioon mejlae. This book was inspired by the sublimity and pathos of his adopted country.

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