In the Royal Resorts employee spotlight this month is one man who is doing his part to protect the planet. Pablo C., Restaurant Manager at The Royal Sands tells us about his tree planting project and mission to restore the forest in northern Yucatan.
“I wanted to smell the fragrance of cedar again, the scent that I remembered from my childhood home when the surrounding jungle was full of these trees and sounds of birdsong filled the air,” Pablo explains. Originally from the small town of Sucila at the heart of cattle ranching country in northern Yucatan, Pablo left his town at the age of 11 to go away to school. Years later, he found things sadly changed. The town had grown, the forest had been cleared to make way for cattle pastures and the cedars were no more. He vowed that one day he would return to his birthplace to heal the land by planting cedars and other native trees.
In 2005, Pablo bought a 40-hectare ranch a couple of miles outside Sucila. There were no buildings at the site; no electricity, and water came from a wind-powered pump. He renamed the ranch Petachuc in honor of his parents and set to work. He began to clear the scrub around existing trees on the land and planted saplings of native species such as balche, maculis (pink poui), guayacan, ciricote (geiger tree), ramon (breadnut) and his beloved cedars. To date, he has reforested 60 percent of his ranch and some of his trees now reach heights of seven meters.
Pablo is participating in a Conafor (Comisión Nacional Forestal) program to assist farmers and ranchers who decide to reforest their land. Native species such as cedar, mahogany, zapote and ciricote are planted and when they reach maturity landowners may practice sustainable logging if they choose to, always replanting to replace the trees they fell. Pablo only removes dead wood, clears a firewall around the land every year and doesn’t even own a motor saw. He says planting the trees has made him think about his place in the world and what he can do to protect the planet. He has renewed his ties with nature.
A refuge for wildlife
Pablo has seen how wildlife is returning to the area. “There are more birds now than when I first visited the ranch and there are loads of orchids in the forest canopy,” he says. “The birds love the cedars and ciricotes because of the seeds and fruit they bear and they flock to six old breadnut trees and some fruit trees growing in a hollow on my land. Peccary, deer, agouti and ocellated turkeys gather to eat seeds, fallen mangos and sweetsops. There are families of up to 80 coatimundis; grey fox, armadillos, anteaters, and I have even seen the elusive tigrillo or margay, the smallest of the Yucatan’s wild cats. To help the wildlife during the dry season I installed water troughs on the property and they are now using them.
“In addition to stands of cedars, I have 5,000 breadnut trees growing on the ranch,” Pablo explains. “The seeds are very nutritious and the ancient Maya used to harvest them and grind them into flour as a substitute for corn during the dry season. In fact, one hectare of breadnut is seven times more productive than a hectare of corn. The seeds can be used in a variety of ways and they also make good cattle fodder. Breadnuts are very hardy and can withstand drought, you can always tell them in the dry season, as they are still green and not parched like other trees or pastures.
“I have a caretaker on the ranch and I go at least once a month,” Pablo continues. “In the spring we plant squash, beans and chilies in between the lines of trees and my next project is to grow pitahaya or dragon fruit. I am building another well and I want to collect rainwater and install solar panels in the future. I’d like to build a cabin and, who knows, maybe even retire here some day.”
Renewing a bond with nature
It has become a family concern. Pablo adds, “Although initially in two minds about the ranch, my wife is now convinced; it is something we can share with our children and teach them about the importance of conservation. They even collect seeds from mahogany and guayacan trees at their school for me to plant.
“I love going to the ranch and I can really say that I have returned to the land. Pablo says, “There is always something to learn from nature and a gift each day, whether it’s the sight of a new species of bird or a colorful butterfly or flower. I love watching the bees at work, fireflies illuminating the forest at dusk, the sight of so many stars in the night sky, and of course the smell of cedars on the wind.”
His brother and sister both have ranches in the area and have followed his lead with their own breadnut and cedar plantations. It’s a good start but Pablo hopes to convert more of his neighbors to the reforestation cause. “It hurts to see that burning still goes on around my town,” he says. “Some of the local ranchers aren’t really interested in planting trees yet. The municipal government donated 12,000 saplings but as there were no takers they gave them to me. We are looking after them at Petachuc and I hope that in the future more people will look at my ranch and the sanctuary that it has become for wildlife and will decide to green our land once more.”
Help protect the Yucatan’s wildlife
You can help protect the tropical forest covering the Yucatan Peninsula and the wildlife that inhabits it by donating to the Royal Resorts Foundation in support of conservation. For more information visit www.royalresortsfoundation.org
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