A ride through the jungle
12/18/2010 14:52 by Thorsten Böhnke
Tropical rainforests are disappearing worldwide at alarming rates. On Saint Lucia, we took a ride on the "Aerial Tram" through one of the remaining original forests and marveled at its lush vegetation and animal life from above.
Tropical rainforests are known as the “green lungs” of the Earth. Nevertheless, approximately 550 million m2, or 550 km2, of rainforest are cleared worldwide on a daily basis. That’s equal to over 50 FIFA football fields per minute. These are alarming figures. The main culprits for this destruction are commercial extraction of tropical hard-woods, slash-and-burn agriculture to clear new areas for cattle pastures and plantations, mining of natural resources and the construction of large-scale hydroelectric dams. Although the reasons for deforestation vary, in the end they all boil down to the same thing - the greed of some individuals and businesses who are keen to earn a quick profit at the expense of our environment.
Above the canopy of the forest: a photo from the tram ride through the rainforest of St. Lucia.
Talking about rainforests the first places that come to mind are usually South America and Southeast Asia. However, original, old-growth rainforests - so-called primary forests - can also be found on the Caribbean islands. On Saint Lucia, the value of this type of forest has been recognized and the remaining areas are now protected. Not only that, entrepreneurs have created a market niche to earn money from the forest in a sustainable manner. While hikers can normally enjoy and marvel at the giant trees of a rainforest only from the ground, the “Aerial Tram” on St. Lucia (a cable car through the rainforest) allows visitors to explore all layers of the forest, from the ground to the canopy. This is a particular attraction for film producers. The BBC documentary “Darwin’s dangerous idea” already took advantage of the tram to produce a tracking shot through the forest; in a tracking shot, the camera moves through the scenery being filmed. Today, with new clearings and greater light penetration as a result of Hurricane Tomas, the journey is twice as interesting.
These cute little vervet monkeys are an introduced species. They arrived in the Caribbean on board European trade ships from West Africa.