Open post
Natutama's observation centre to monitor rare Amazon species such as manatees and pink dolphins

Marelvi’s Story – a Personal Account of Life in the Amazon during Covid-19

Marelvi Laureano, one of Fundacion Natütama‘s educators, has written a first hand account of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the indigenous Ticuna community living in the small town of Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon.  Marelvi has a job at the mayor’s office.  She also works for Natütama teaching in her local community about the importance of protecting the environment and conserving its rare, endangered species such as the Amazon’s pink river dolphins, sloths and manatees.

The account is inspiring for Marelvi’s ability to find rays of hope and positivity in the midst of the crisis.  Despite illness,  food shortages, poverty and serious problems due to erosion of the river banks on which the town is situated,  Marelvi says families have been brought closer together, people have appreciated their cultural ties with the land, and plants and animals have thrived during lockdown.   This is a shorter extract.  You can read the original version in Spanish here Natutama – Marelvi’s Account Covid 2020

“For me, life in the time of the pandemic was very difficult, being locked in without contact with other people.  Also, we weren’t able to fulfil our personal objectives or Natütama’s work of reaching out to the communities.

“Furthermore, it was tough economically since most people rely on selling goods for their livelihood and they weren’t able to go out to sell them.  It was also hard for me because the mayor’s office was closed and I was out of work for the pandemic, although we continued working with the Foundation (Natütama) researching local folk tales for future lessons who gave us a bonus.  My family and I got Covid-19 and I had a relapse and had to buy medicines and get plant remedies.  My husband couldn’t go out to get our daily food but … did get work on the cargo boats bringing food supplies to the town.

“At home, my daughters were bored, especially the little one who wanted to go out to play.

“We were also saddened and worried by the erosion of the Zancudillo (the banks of the river) which were washed away with part of the village’s port/dock.

“On the bright side, local flora and fauna flourished in those pandemic months.  The children didn’t leave their houses and the flowers and plants grew and looked beautiful and numbers of fish and other wild animals increased.

“On the other hand most people devoted themselves to cultivating the chagra, the gardens in the jungle where indigenous people grow their fruit and vegetables, and they realised how important the land was and is for their food and diet.  On my plot, I was also able to sow some bananas and fruit with the help of my daughters.  I was able to be with my daughters every day – normally with work we do not have time to be together constantly.  This improved my relationship with my eldest daughter and I was able to gain her confidence so she could tell me personal things that she had stored up.  It also greatly strengthened my family relationship with my mom and sisters.

For me and my family, this pandemic was a learning curve and all our historic cultural values – including the importance of traditional medicine and the management of the chagra as a source of life – were reinforced.  I realised we humans are not prepared for such drastic changes, but little by little we came to appreciate the real value of things.

In conclusion, the situation was difficult economically, socially, culturally, psychologically and health and education suffered but it did have positive effects for the natural world.   With these words I close the experience during the pandemic.”











Open post

Natutama Maintains Manatee Monitoring Despite Covid-19

Fundación Natütama faced significant challenges in 2020.  The charity, based in Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon, had to contend not only with the impact of Covid-19 but also major flooding which caused serious erosion to the banks of the town and its port.

The pandemic put a stop to the tourist industry – a major income source for the local community – and the floods ruined crops so families were going hungry and had no medical supplies to treat people suffering with Covid-19 in an isolated area with no proper hospitals or medical facilites.  Schools were closed for much of the year interrupting Natütama’s education programme teaching local schoolchildren about the many endangered animals and plants, their place in the local culture and the the importance of conserving the very special natural environment of the Amazonian rainforest.

Natūtama staff worked with members of Fundación Fénix in Bogotá to source supplies of food and essential medical equipment  which Natütama educators distributed to local families at the peak of the crisis. A big thank you to everyone who donated so generously to Children of Colombia’s Amazon Covid Appeal who helped provide this important help at such a difficult time.

Though unable to continue their work in local schools, the educators worked hard preparing material for use in the future and managed to hold their annual Natütama Week despite the many obstacles.

Wildlife monitoring was less affected by the restrictions of the pandemic and sightings of endangered species such as manatees, sloths and pink river dolphins actually increased, probably due to the decrease in river traffic with few tourists visiting the area.  The floods are also changing the environment, creating new lakes and areas suitable for manatees to live and breed safely.  Two orphan manatees were found and taken back to the Natutama centre where they were cared for and bottle fed.  Sadly one died but the other survived and will be returned to the lakes and river when it is fully weaned.

This success was the inspiration for the “Manatees” theme of Natutama Week 2020.   Topics included the significance of these big, gentle aquatic mammals in indigenous culture, where they feature in many folk myths and stories, the danger of extinction due to hunting and changes to their environment and conservation problems associated with the capture of the manatee calves.

“Because of the erosion to the river bank, climate change also became an important sub-theme during the week.  The educators worked hard to find strategies to reach people in the area without forming gatherings and meetings. They developed many posters along the main pathways and used the local loud speaker systems for interviews, story-telling, information and music. The elders talked about manatees and also about the influence of Natütama in the area, especially the benefits for children growing up and learning to care about their history and their surroundings.”

Natütama director Sarita Kendall sums up:

“… although we were unable to carry out some of the usual activities, we worked to use the time and funding in the best possible way and made a difference to the lives of many people in Puerto Nariño, especially in creating opportunities for children to reflect and to celebrate  their Amazon world.”

Read more about Natütama’s important work in the Colombian Amazon on their page  or read the full report here Natütama Foundation – 2020 Summary








Scroll to top