ORNTHOLOGIST, author and US nature tour company owner Bill Murphy has taken his pleas to help save the Asa Wright Nature Centre to another level. He wrote to US first lady Dr Jill Biden for help.
On January 18, the Arima-based centre issued a statement saying, with the continued closure of the borders and the limited physical movement owing to covid19, its management decided to terminate its eco-lodge business.
It had also asked for donations owing to financial woes.
But it assured the public conservation and research efforts will continue.
Murphy, who owns Peregrine Enterprises, has led 94 tours to TT since 1984, bringing over 2,000 US nature lovers to enjoy the sights of local flora and fauna.
He is also the author of A Birder’s Guide to TT, now in its third edition.
He told Newsday he always included the Asa Wright Centre in his tours and is also a charter member of the TT Rare Birds Committee.
In a Facebook post, Murphy said the centre’s closure is negatively impacting even international ecotourism companies.
“Income from those tours helped send my daughter to college. Everyone loves to stay at the incomparable Asa Wright Nature Centre….Over the years I’ve known and grown to love many of the wonderful staff.”
He recalled Biden visiting with her husband US President Joe Biden in 2013.
“Your then vice president husband negotiated the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement while Isabel Brash, owner of Cocobel Chocolatier in Port of Spain, showed you how she produces her delectable chocolates…It’s a shame that time didn’t permit a visit to the centre, nestled high in the verdant Arima Valley about 15 miles north of the airport. You would have loved it.
“Its mission is ‘to protect part of the Arima Valley in a natural state and to create a conservation and study area for the protection of wildlife and for the enjoyment of all.’ Its 1,500 acres include the William Beebe Tropical Research Station (Simla), founded in 1950. The centre has been the undisputed crown jewel of southern Caribbean ecotourism for 54 years. But perhaps no longer.”
He said the closing of the centre was “sudden, stunning and incomprehensible.”
He said other US-based tour companies such as Field Guides in Austin, Texas and Caligo Ventures in Portal, Arizona, have “enjoyed a long history of profitable business” through the centre.
He continued, “One of the subjects your husband discussed with the TT government during your 2013 visit involved opportunities for collective efforts between the US and TT to promote economic growth and development. Thus, I thought the current situation might be of interest to him, as well as to you.”
He is yet to receive a response to his letter but hopes when the covid19 pandemic is “finally under control,” the couple can visit the centre.