"Alexander Wetmore and the birds of Panama", a resilient book in times of pandemic

Miraculously Vallecillos

The scientific legacy of Alexander Wetmore and his passion for the study of birds in Panama, It is reflected in the new work of the Panamanian Stanley Heckadon-Moreno: "Alexander Wetmore and the birds of Panama. Expeditions 1944 a 1966”.

The work is a compilation of articles Heckadon has written over the years, in which he recounts part of Wetmore's bibliographical history, contributions from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Gorgas Memorial Institute.

Dr. Heckadon explains that Wetmore's work has been a tool to educate himself and share the keys to the diversity and history of Panama, for that reason his book is dedicated to Wetmore, an ornithologist par excellence, who through his studies demonstrated the love he had for the Isthmus since his arrival in 1944.

The book, launched in the middle of a pandemic with all the challenges that it implies, It is a tribute to the precursor of environmental conservation and the naturalist who made the diversity of Panamanian birds known to the world.

Son of a rural doctor, Frank Alexander Wetmore was born in North Freedom, Wisconsin, U.S. Between 1946 Y 1966, Wetmore made annual trips to Panama to study and collect specimens of the birds of the Isthmus.

His masterpiece of 4 volumes called "Birds of the Republic of Panama", was published by the Smithsonian between 1965 Y 1984, the last volume appeared posthumously.

In 1953 married Annie Beatrice van der Biest Thielan, who became a guarantor of the American Union of Ornithologists after his death in 1978.

"It is a book published in very difficult times, world emergency. It came out in the middle of a pandemic, I thought it would not come out. I managed to get it assembled in Panama and then in Bogotá they printed it for me, but then with the closure of the airports he waited long months. Finally, arrived in Panama and we were able to launch it ", relates Heckadon with the optimism that characterizes him.

Notes that Wetmore performed 22 scientific expeditions in Panama, He practically retired after being one of the great ornithologists in the world, and dedicated the rest of his productive life to studying the birds of Panama.

“His last expedition in 1966 on the Burica peninsula, in the Pacific it was very revealing and left us an important legacy that allowed us to get to know our birds ", the author details.

Another issue that attracted Wetmore was the migration of birds from the americas. exist 7 routes, 5 of which pass through Panama, and they travel from Alaska to Patagonia.

“He came to study the birds of the Las Perlas archipelago in 1944, during world war II. After the conflict, attracted by the Darien explores it in 1946 Y 1947. Soon he became passionate about the biological richness of the Isthmus ", adds the author.

Wetmore was an excellent field researcher and keen observer of nature.. "The doctor. Wetmore was also a passionate photographer. Everything caught his attention, Jungle, the ways, people, in short, he had an anthropological vision that allowed him to capture the diversity of Panama ", comments Heckadon.

For the author, in a forgetful culture, This book seeks to pay tribute to a naturalist who contributed so much to make the splendid diversity of birds of Panama known to the world.

About the Author

Stanley Heckadon-Moreno is a scientist originally from the Province of Chiriquí who has dedicated more than four decades to the protection and study of nature.

He is an anthropologist, humanist, defender of nature, scholar of indigenous cultures, researcher and writer. He is currently on the staff of scientists at the Smitsonian Institute for Tropical Research., and is head of the Marine Laboratory of Punta Galeta.

His contribution has been key in the creation of the protected areas of the Canal Basin, that supply water to the interoceanic highway, and the water treatment plants of Panama and Colón.