Stalking #2 Walls: Good or Bad?

Walls have become a popular instrument in our society. They have been used for protection, to keep people out and to keep people in. These physical walls have been effective for such needs, but have also drawn other barriers in the process. The wall enclosing Punta San Juan in Marcona, Peru has successfully restored the ecology of the area, but has restricted the rest of the community from the educational assets this sanctuary has the potential to offer. There lies a controversial issue within the creation of this wall. It is the reason outsiders cannot readily experience the reserve, but is the only reason there is any potential for experiencing what lies inside.

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This cement barrier is the sole reason that the animals colonize in this specific location. Without such a wall, I would not have been able to experience the sea lions, fur seals, penguins or guano birds in such large populations. These animals thrive in seclusion and so islands are the ideal environments for them. This is the purpose of the wall; it creates an island. Naturally, these animals of the Humboldt Current want privacy, seclusion and isolation from the human activity that usually consumes locations like Punta San Juan. Before the wall was built in the 1950s, the abundance of animals on the peninsula was a fraction of what it is today. In this rare secluded habitat, the ecology thrives. The populations of fur seals have noticeably increased over the last few years and the Humboldt penguin, an endangered species, nests here. Punta San Juan’s colony is the largest colony of Humboldt penguins. This is all possible because of the barrier.

The wall provides the habitat for these animals, but also provides them with management they need. By secluding the access to a select group of people, Punta San Juan is able to provide much needed research to allow the conservation of the ecology to be efficient and relevant to the newest technology. Few people have direct access to this reserve and among them are the  members of Proyecto Punta San Juan, the conservation initiative in place at the reserve.  This project is run by a few individuals dedicated to the protection of the ecology of the reserve and this is all tied back to the creation of the wall. To be able to set up the research station, there needed to be animals to research and without the wall there would not be anything for them to study. There is no doubt that the wall is a key tool in the success of this reserve, but it has also created a more figurative wall between the reserve and the community.

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Upon visiting this reserve, the wall is the first thing you notice. It is just under 4,000 feet in length, stands twelve feet high and encloses over one hundred acres of land.  It is a little intimidating. The people of the community may see this wall as a barrier and a way to hide the project from the people of Marcona. It seems as if the community is completely disconnected from the progress of Proyecto Punta San Juan. This of course is my own speculation of the situation at hand. I do know however, that the people who are visiting the reserve for educational purposes are not those from Marcona. The physical wall may not be the issue with the relationship between Proyecto Punta San Juan and the local community, but there is a barrier there. The people of Marcona should be involved with the project. They live in such close proximity to the reserve and have a large impact on the environment there. Marcona is a mining town, but also depends on the commercial fishing industry. Their fishing boats circle the reserve daily. The researchers of Proyecto Punta San Juan are worried about these boats coming in such close proximity to the habitats, but it does not seem like the fishermen have been informed enough about this issue. If Proyecto Punta San Juan reaches out to the community and opens up communication it could lead to greater benefits to the protection of the reserve. There needs to be a stronger relationship between these two parties.  By involving the community into the program at the reserve, both sides of the relationship would benefit. There is much to teach to the community about conservation practices and the protection of the animals in the reserve. Opening the barrier that the wall has created would be beneficial to all involved.

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