When a hunter becomes a protector

How an encounter with a monkey and her baby triggers a life changing decision

Q&A interview: Jesus Recalde

  • Job title: Reserve ranger
  • Organisation: Fundación EcoMinga
  • Location: eastern Andes of Ecuador
  • Reserve name: Candaleria Reserve, Rio Zuñac Reserve and others

Why do you want to protect wildlife?

Someone has created all of this and for me, right down from an ant and up to a tapir, we are all equals. Just by looking at how an ant works, by watching a butterfly, by seeing how a hummingbird sucks nectar and by watching all the other birds…it’s all incredible. No bird, no animal, no insect is worth less than the other. We are all equals.

What did you do before becoming a ranger?

I was a 100% farmer. All around here, we used to work the land; we used to cut down trees to create grassland and we planted crops. We were brought up to be farmers and I am also ashamed to say that I was a hunter.

Hunting is part of what we do here when we live from the land. We don’t hunt because we enjoy harming the animals specifically; it is more of a vice that people choose and it destroys. I’m ashamed to admit that I have done things that I shouldn’t have, ever since I was a child. Now that I’m working here, and during the three or four years before I started to work with the Fundación EcoMinga, I realised I was doing bad things.

What made you stop hunting?

A monkey changed my life completely. I shot a female monkey and she had a baby. When I went to see her hurt on the ground, she was moaning, whining and crying like a person and it was very sad. That is when I stopped hunting. From then onwards my life changed completely. I began to think differently; since I used to cut down lots of trees that provided food for the birds and animals, what I began to plant was for them.

Then I met Lou [co-founder of Fundacion EcoMinga] and he found out that I planted flowers and trees for the birds. So he contracted me to work with him because he knew that I was no longer a hunter and I really liked the fauna.

How has your life changed?

I always wanted to bring tourists to the area. Unfortunately, my economic situation prevented me from doing this; I didn’t have enough money to establish an agency and everything else. But thanks to my present job and thanks to everyone who supports us – to Lou and everyone else – my economic situation has improved so that I can feed my family, my children and support their education.

Now I am happy planting lots of trees.

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