Thursday, 26 July 2007

Asa Wright Nature Centre

Once you begin to climb the winding road that leads out of the Arima Valley and up into the Northern Range, it becomes obvious that this is virgin rainforest. Miles and miles of untouched forest lie on the horizon. It is, quite simply, a bird watcher's paradise. 2007 is the 40th anniversary of Asa Wright Nature Centre and there is an interesting display that gives a good overview of the history. The original house was built in 1906 and was run as a privately owned cocoa and coffee estate. With the crash of cocoa prices in the 1920's the estate was put up for sale and was purchased by an American engineer, Joseph Holmes. In 1946 it changed hands again and became the property of Dr Newcome Wright and his wife Asa.
A neighbouring estate, Simla, was purchased by Dr William Beebe, the first curator of birds at the Bronx Zoo. Beebe donated the property to the New York Zoological Society and the Tropical Research Station of the New York Zoological Society was established here. The relationship between the two estates was excellent. Asa took over the reins of the estate after the death of her husband and welcomed nature lovers and researching naturalists. In 1967, it was established as the Asa Wright Nature Centre and was officially opened as such on 5th November 1967. Asa continued to live in her home until her death in 1971. In 1974, the 265 acre Simla was gifted to the AWNC and continued to function as it does up to today as a Tropical Research Centre. Today the Centre is managed by a Board of Directors and is the recipient of several international awards. In 1973 the National Audubon Society's conference on the Conservation Needs and Opportunities in Tropical America was held at Asa Wright and the centre has been instrumental in several landmark publications. The first publication was the highly regarded and indispensable "A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago" by Richard ffrench. This text is still the definitive guide and is sitting next to me right now as I type this!
The house is virtually unchanged. Guests are invited out onto the large verandah to view the birds who come to the feeders. On an average morning, it is possible to see as many as 25 species of birds.Barry our very knowledgeable guide.
The lovely waterfall on the estate.
A Baby Mappepire. Yes, he is deadly. He belongs to the pit viper family and they are quite common in our forests. They are hatching at this time of year and it is best to be wary. Notice howwell camouflaged he is in the leaves.

2 comments:

Barry said...

Hey was looking at the Asa Wright pictures of myself Barry and this is wonderful.

My Chutney Garden said...

Glad you like it Barry!