Jaguars at a Bicultural Leadership Conference in Panama

In November, Lucy and I participated in events launching Earth Train’s not-for-profit Center for Biocultural Leadership in Panama City. Earth Train partners with many other organizations namely JGI’s Roots and Shoots, Junglewood, and Fundacion Danilo Perez and its mission is to support the growth of leadership in a new generation with a focus on environmental and cultural renewal.

One morning comprised of an educators and nature leaders workshop led by Bruce and Carol Malnor.


I joined a group of educators in Panama and learned about the Manor’s Flow Learning teaching strategy.


We had an evening of music and dance in Panama’s City of Knowledge theater called The Ateneo. Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, spoke to the crowd and performers with inspiring words and a serious call to care.


Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, shares the stage at The Ateneo with the Condor and Eagle Peoples of the Americas and Junglewood’s Shea Welsh.


The entire following day Lucy and I spent out on the Amador Causeway – six kilometers long and made up of four islands originally constructed as a breakwater for the Panama Canal entrance. STRI (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) has research facilities here with the mission to understand biological diversity throughout the tropics.


On the causeway is Frank Gehry’s BioMuseo scheduled to open soon. Gehry substitutes his usual neutral, metallic color palette with an allusion of Panama’s tropical environs.


Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Biodiversity (Biomuseo).


The event held a packed agenda which did not allow for many AoC one-health awareness activities but we did manage to sneak in a surprise or two. Prior to traveling to Panama I contacted my friend Khanh to ask her if she could make a few (6) jaguar costumes. Khanh is always extremely busy but she made time for me. We found a pattern that worked, picked out beautiful brightly colored batik fabric, stuffing material for the tails, and off Khanh went to her studio. She surfaced a few weeks later with the cutest costumes which I eagerly packed in my suitcase.


At the Junglewood Picnic. Photo courtesy of Lucy Spelman.


Our friend Shea Welsh, a fabulous jazz musician and Junglewood’s Executive Director, asked if the jaguars could make their appearance at the Junglewood Picnic staged at the causeway. Seeing that the large group of children gathered for the event were busy pounding on drums, my friends and I decided not to interrupt them… just join them. We leapt onto the scene and danced.


Jaguars with Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, at the Junglewood Picnic. Photo courtesy of Lucy Spelman.


Lucy and I got up early the next morning to traverse across Panama in a few short days. We managed to make it up to the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean and met with the Kuna La Indians. After spending the night on a tiny island with coconut trees and women making beautiful molas which I bought many of we snorkeled and drank a can of not so tasty warm beer. From there we pushed toward the interior along the Chagres River and met with another group on indigenous people from the Embera Nation.


Near the Chagres River with an Embera community.

Thank you to the Executive Directors at Earth Train, Nathan Gray and Lider Sucre, and Junglewood’s Executive Director Shea Welsh for an exciting conference.

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