Becki Cohn-Vargas, Co-Owner, Makengue Reserve

22 March 2016

After the success of the 2013 Makengue trip, the spring break trip for 2014 quickly filled up.

This time Professor Chris Tudge, a bird enthusiast let the group together with Angela Pinaglia, graduate student leaders. Allison, a student from the 2013 group returned as the student leader.

The research groups included science, communications, and community involvement. Following the recommendation from the 2013 group, the science team began a bioblitz, identifying a small area to investigate, while also gathering photos and observations from the whole Makengue property. They also set up trail cameras and were amazed to get a great photo of a tapir, a wonderful animal that looked like a small elephant crossed with a large boar, but extremely endangered animal from the local region.

The American University 2014 Makengue group.

The AU group visited the two local towns, Sabalos and EL Castillo, and even played a rip-roaring soccer game with the Nicaraguan youth. Mainly it was the Nicaraguan boys who played and beat the AU team. They also filmed an interview with Yamil, a Nicaraguan owned Borders Coffee in El Castillo and experienced harassment for being the only openly gay man in town. The film was later posted on YouTube and a blog was written in support of gay rights in Nicaragua.

On the last day at Makengue, the community involvement and communications teams joined to lead an activity where they hosted youth from the local area in a leadership development project for a daylong environmental video production workshop led by AU students. The day began “Kunja” a wordless icebreaker that had everyone laughing. Then the Nicaraguan youth worked in small groups to produce environmental protection Public Service Announcements which were posted on YouTube. Finally, they played pool, another wordless way for great interaction. Everyone loved meeting Marianna, the caiman who lived in the waters right in front of Makengue’s dock and came when they whistled.

Returning to Managua for the final two days, they visited the rain forest of Mombacho, and the lava fields of the Masaya volcano. They also enjoyed a thrilling zipline experience.

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