|Selva Viva - history|
The rainforest project Selva Viva owes its existence to a lucky coincidence of many different facts. Four people have been part of it from the beginning: Christine and Siegfried von Steiger, Remigio Canelos and Angelika Raimann.
1990 Angelika travelled to the Ecuadorian Amazona area, to stay in the tropical climate and to find a place for her doctor theses. She ended up at the Hotel Anaconda, that showed three important things: Wonderful primary rainforest, an owner who supports the research of the rainforest, and an indian forest guide Remigio, who knew more about the contexts of the eco-system rainforest than she knew after five year studies. Back in Switzeland she decided to do her theses in Ahuano, but for safety she wanted to clear some questions on the spot during three weeks. The cheapest way was to work as a translater at the Anaconda.
By chance, Remigio and Angelika where guiding a pair of siblings named Christine and René Lazecki through the forest. The sympathy was on both sides, they kept in touch with eachother. Angelika moved definitely to Ecuador in July 1991, to start working on her theses. Soon after this, Christine Lazecki came back to the rainforest, together with her future husband Siegfried von Steiger. He was complaining, that there where no animals to be seen in this forest. And that everybody was talking about the protection of the rainforest but no one was actually doing something. Angelika complained too, that it was even questionable if her examination areas in the forest would be still there until the end of her field-studies, as the cutting down of trees went on very fast. At the end of Christine and Siegfrieds stay, the idea was born.
Christine wanted to build a zoo, that should be selfsufficient working under Remigios managemment after two years. And Sigi wanted to buy 200 acres of rainforest and put it under protection, therefore Angelica would have her areas for examination quarantied. He wanted to found a cooperation for the protection of the rainforest (GSR) in Switzerland. Remigio liked the idea of a zoo, but even better would be an animal rescue center. It is the law in Ecuador, that the state confiscates wild animals, which are traded without permission or treated badly. But then, where to go with these animals? At this time it was common for the most jungle hotels to keep some animals under lousy conditions, to show them to the tourists. An animal rescue center would kill two birds with one stone: To be a home for the confiscated wild animals, and to give tourists the chance, to watch these animals in their natural surroundings. Christine charged Remigio and Angelika, to look for a suitable forest, and therefore in January 1993 the 39 acreas of the amazoonico where bought in the name of Christine von Steiger. Christine had a house built there, Remigio and Angelika where constructiong theirs beside.
One year later the first tourists arrived. We had the first animals already befor the idea of the amazoonico was even born. In 1994 the amaZOOnico was officially acknowledged from the state as an animal reschue center and is recieving animals (and controllers) since then.
Christine von Steiger has been financing the amaZOOnico until August 1995, since then the station is living on the entrance fees, the income from the souvenirshop/bar, from donations of visitors and the amigos del amaZOOnico, a group of people from Europe. Concerning the forest, soon it was clear, that 200 acres where not enough to really protect the forest and the fauna. They where looking for more and more members, until they where 100(January 1999) and approx. 1100 acres had been under protection, partly owned by the GSR, private persons and the indiocommunity of Ahuano. The forest has been officially acknowledged from the state as preserve Selva Viva in November 1995.
As there was never enough money from the GSR to pay Angelica a salary, and the incom of the amaZOOnico was just enough for the food, Remigio and Angelika decided in summer 1998, to build a Hotel, Liana Lodge, in order to earn their living and to cover part of the spent money from the project. Thanks to credits from relatives and friends the constructing could start in Oktober 1998. The hotel has been opened on the 1st of July 1999 with 24 beds. If things are going right, that means if there are enough guests, the hotel should be out of the "red numbers" after 5-6 years, and should be able to support financing Selva Viva.
There is no lack of ideas what to use the money for: More rangers, education for forest guides, environment education in the schools of Ahuano, larger enclosures for the animals, enclosures for breeding, an aguti-breeding project, a tree nursery, a mahogany tree plantation...- the list could be endlessly continued!