The big environmental news coming out of Peru this past week was that a huge waterfall previously unknown to the greater world was “discovered” in the country’s Amazon Rainforest region. The word “discovered” is in quotes because a community that lives near to the waterfall had known about its existence according to Andina News, but had chosen to keep their knowledge a secret to help protect the area from damage. Obed Cabanillas Silva, the explorer who “found” it, thinks that it might be taller than Peru’s Gocta waterfall (pictured to the left).
The Gocta Fall is third tallest waterfall in the world, although its status is disputed. It is 771 meters high (~ 2529 feet). If its measurements are accurate, only Venezuela’s Angel Falls and South Africa’s Tugela Falls are taller. It was also “discovered” in 2005, although local communities knew about its existence as well. According to Peru’s El Commercio newspaper (via Wikipedia), “local people feared the curse of a beautiful blond mermaid who lived in its waters if they revealed its whereabouts.”
Only several days after the news of the this new waterfall’s discovery was announced, an expedition has departed to see and document the waterfall. The group includes a topographer, photographer, and representatives from local communities. While this expedition’s hasty departure is not surprising, the “discovery” of the spectacular waterfall leaves me with two conflicting feelings.
The first feeling is one of excitement and inspiration. It’s fascinating to know that there are still discoveries to be made in the world. Just this week we had the announcement that a gorilla sanctuary had been found in Africa’s Congo. It is believed to be home to approximately 125,000 gorillas. Earlier this year, we also saw the first photos of an “uncontacted” tribe in Peru and Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest regions.
The second feeling I have is one that is worrisome. What if the local communities were correct? Will the area where the waterfall is located now be damaged with an influx of tourism? And even though the discovery of the gorillas in the Congo is great, what if it now leads more people to go there and kill them, study them, and so forth, leaving them at greater peril than before their presence was known? Just this week, news also came out that across the world, almost 50% of all primate species are critically endangered.
And what about the photos of the “uncontacted” tribe in the Amazon? Even though they provided a thrill, will some well-meaning, yet foolish anthropologist now try to contact them as part of his or her PhD Dissertation? And will the photographs serve the purpose of stopping the illegal logging that supposedly threatens the tribe’s survival?
In any case, now that the cogs on the machine are moving, I will be interested to hear how tall this “new” waterfall is in Peru, and whether or not it is one of the tallest in the world.Original here