FES students raise funds to save endangered squirrel monkeys

Students in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) hope their recent actions will save the most endangered primate in Costa Rica, the Central American squirrel monkey.

The students are holding their second annual Las Nubes Program Week, today through Thursday, to raise funds to support the student-initiated Squirrel Monkey Reserve near York’s Las Nubes Rainforest in Costa Rica. Las Nubes, donated to York University by Toronto physician Woody Fisher in 1998, forms the basis of a research and conservation program in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. This program supports the protection of the biological and ecological values of the Las Nubes Rainforest, rural sustainable development in adjacent areas, the production of certified sustainable coffee, and environmental education in local schools. FES works in collaboration with the Tropical Science Center in San Jose, the local farmer’s cooperative CoopeAgri, and Toronto-based Timothy’s World Coffee.

One of the highlights of the week will be the Las Nubes Annual Holiday Sale, running from today to Thursday, with the opportunity to do some environmentally-friendly gift shopping.

 Right: Endangered Central            
American squirrel monkey           

The sale will take place at three locations: the new Las Nubes Café in the Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) building, the FES lobby in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies (HNES) Building, and the York bookstore in York Lanes.

Fair Trade products designed to improve rural incomes, such as Las Nubes coffee, chocolate and tote bags will be on sale. Carbon reduction certificates in collaboration with the organization Zerofootprint will also be available. The goal of Zerofootprint is to reduce people’s effect on the environment by providing information and services to a global network of consumers and businesses. The carbon certificates will help protect existing forested land near the Las Nubes Rainforest that will eventually be set aside as the Squirrel Monkey Reserve.

"The purchase of a certificate for $20 indicates that one tonne of carbon is being prevented from release to the atmosphere," says FES graduate student Vanessa Alsop, who is coordinating the carbon conservation program.

Left: Las Nubes coffee

On Thursday, Nov. 15, the grand opening of the Las Nubes Café with live music and free Las Nubes coffee will take place in the CSE building at 9:30am, with remarks by York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. Las Nubes coffee has been certified as sustainable by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture and certified Fair Trade by Transfair Canada. Las Nubes Sustainable Coffee is a project of the Fisher Fund for Neotropical Conservation in collaboration with Timothy’s World Coffee, the Tropical Science Center and the local farmers’ cooperative in Costa Rica. It gives farmers a fair trade or better price for their goods and helps save rainforests as the coffee is grown in shade.

"This café represents a growing recognition on the part of York of its responsibility to sustainability in action," says Howard Daugherty, the professor of environmental studies who has spearheaded the Las Nubes project.

In addition, a collection of about 20 photographs taken in Costa Rica are on display in the ZigZag Gallery in the lobby of the HNES building until Nov. 15, when there will be a silent auction from 5pm to 6pm. Bidding began on Nov. 9.

Right and below: One of the 20 photographs taken in Costa Rica by US wildlife and landscape photographer Brett Cole and available at the silent auction

"They were taken by Brett Cole, a professional wildlife and landscape photographer from Eugene, Oregon, whom I met in Costa Rica in 2004," says Daugherty. "He volunteered his time for three months to photograph the Las Nubes Rainforest, the nearby Los Cusingos Neotropical Bird Sanctuary and adjacent areas."

FES students, who participated in the summer field course in Las Nubes, chose 20 out of 200 photographs by Cole. This is the first time the photos have been up for sale. Proceeds will go to COCOFOREST (Comite de Conservacion Forestal), a Costa Rican community group located in the Las-Nubes Los Cusingos Biological Corridor in southern Costa Rica which helps provide protection for the squirrel monkey. Last year, the students raised over $1,500 for COCOFOREST with their own photographs at the silent auction.

The FES students who participated in the 2007 summer field course in Costa Rica created the Las Nubes Carbon Fund and came up with the idea for a squirrel monkey reserve (see the April 25, 2007 issue of YFile).

Also on Nov. 15, the award-winning documentary Black Gold will be showin from 7pm to 8pm in the HNES Building. The film examines the $80-billion golbal coffee industry, from African women sifting beans to sweatshop production lines. 

Click here to view a clip from Black Gold

For more information about the Las Nubes research and conservation program, and the Costa Rica field course, contact Daugherty at jaguar@yorku.ca or visit www.yorku.ca/lasnubes.