During the last two years, the discovery of an archaeological site in the remote jungles of La Mosquitia has been carefully guarded while archaeological explorations continue. The Honduran Government is giving high priority to the excavations and scientific surveys of national interest, and ZAMORANO’s role has been of vital importance. This February, the first team of biologists visited the site to build a biological inventory. The expedition was organized by a nonprofit environmental organization, Conservation International, aided by the ZAMORANO Biodiversity Center to build inventories of birds, fish, insects and plants for the site.
The group involved biologists from the Department of Environment and Development, Dr. Eric van den Berghe, Carlos Funes, John Van Dort and was led by Dr. Trond Larsen of Conservation International. They accompanied the team of archaeologists to build the first faunistic and floristic inventory of one of the least explored areas of Honduras. The team spent ten days evaluating the biota, but from the moment the helicopter landed, it was clear that the place was spectacular. The team contemplated an extensive forest embraced by steep mountains without a trace of humanity, even the archaeological remains are well hidden under a solid canopy of majestic trees.
Although the process of analyzing all that was found will take time, it is evident that this is an area of great importance. Many species -jaguars, tapirs, macaws, and three species of monkeys- are not only common but have little fear of man. In most of their former range, these and many other species are no longer present. The expedition was dedicated not only to collecting photographic samples but also recordings of bird songs and abundant physical material for the collections of the Paul Standley Herbarium and for the ZAMORANO’s entomological museum.
It is still too early to say if there are new species for science, but by now it is clear that there are new reports for the country and that their biological importance is on par with the archaeological importance of the site. This area has to be protected from advances of the agricultural frontier, and the depredations of timber companies.
Following the expedition, the team was invited to the United States Ambassador’s house for the launching of the book The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston detailing the events of the discovery. The book will soon be available in Spanish.
* It should be noted that without the initiative of the Honduran Government this archaeological finding would not have been possible.
We invite you to keep an eye out for a series of blog articles about biodiversity and the experience of these researchers in La Mosquitia.