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.”