In May 1999, Marlon brought us to a conservation project on the Serra do Piripiri near the third largest town in the State of Bahia, Vitória da Conquista. Here a small group of professionals had read Nigel Taylor’s report that Melocactus conoideus was threatened with extinction. They decided to do something about this, negotiated for half of the area on the Serra do Piripiri to be fenced off. When we visited for the first time in 1999, the fence has been completed, but there was a snag; during the frequent flash fires on the hill, the dry vegetation would burn, the wooden fence posts would catch fire and the fence would need repairs. The late Keith Grantham observed that as one reason for locals to visit was to collect the small grade substrate which was great for making concrete. Replace the wooden posts with concrete ones and the problem would be fixed. As the Conservation group and their families had already spent a good few years building the wooden fence, they feared their families’ reaction. At Keith’s suggestion a proposal was prepared for the BCSS Conservation Fund that had just benefitted from a bequest through the sale of the plant and book collection of Portsmouth Branch’s President Ken Ethridge. This donation covered the cost of labour so that the fence could be repaired with concrete posts.
By the time of our next visit in 2009, the fence was in place and the number of plants had increased dramatically. There was enough concrete left to build some office / class room space and the schools used it for their conservation classes!
This time Caio had warned us that in recent years, the Conservation Unit had been suffering a severe process of degradation caused by the criminal use of natural resources and irregular occupation of the area. Elimination of native vegetation, soil degradation and threat of loss of springs are just some of the issues which can seriously affect the geography of the city and the characteristics of our climate. Watch the video and help Vitória da Conquista take care of the natural heritage, which does not belong to government or individuals, but to all people and generations. Save the Piripiri Mountain!
We had a great lunch in the town of VdC – as this would also the point where Jarred would leave us, catching a bus towards Rio de Janeiro and a few days of rest to write up his notes. Good luck with your job hunt in the US!
The remainder of the group now headed south, back into Minas Gerais and on to the town of Pedra Azul, where here in the north east of the State, the landscape was dominated by Inselbergs.