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AN ILLUSTRATION OF PRACTICAL RESULTS FROM THE PROTECTION
OF NATURAL RESORUCES ABOUT fifteen years ago a highly enlightened administration of the government of Peru became interested in the decline of the country's valuable guano industry and the apparent diminution in number of guano-producing birds. It was the privilege of the writer to be engaged by the Peruvian government for an investigation of the condition of the guano industry and the possibilities of its preservation, as well as for studies relating to the fisheries and to the marine fauna and flora. On my arrival in Lima I was impressed with the alert attitude of government officials in reference to the guano industry and with their anxiety to take whatever measures might, as the result of careful investigation, be found conducive to the conservation of the guano birds. A most significant preliminary step had indeed already been taken through the closure of the three Chincha Islands. 1 After an extended investigation, a series of recommendations for the general regulation of the guano industry was submitted to the Director de Fomento, and, with his approval, the report was reproduced in SCIENCE for July 10, 1908. A few excerpts from that report will be illustrative.
2. The present tendency to decrease in numbers (of birds) may be checked. There is a wealth of reliable testimony from the older men of long experience in the industry, that the useful birds, were formerly vastly more abundant than now. ... If they have endured the treatment they have received without decrease in numbers, then pro
1 Two of the islands were shortly opened for guano extraction under pressure of circumstances, but the South Island remained closed through three breeding seasons, affording a convincing demonstration of the utility of the measure.
(See “Habits and Economic Relations of the Guano Birds of Peru,” Proc. U. S. N. M., Vol. 56, p. 484.)
teetion can hardly be worth while. On the other tion between the exporting corporation (to hand, if it is true, as represented by every one which a considerable portion of the guano who should know, that there has been a great di
was mortgaged) and the national company minution in number of birds, then
might be obviated. 3. We may hope that the protection of the birds will result in a great increase in their numbers.
The problem before the government, the national Before the working for guano on a large scale be
agriculture, and the exporting company, is this: gan and before the nesting grounds began to be
How can the guano industry be saved to the fu
ture? plundered for eggs and fowls, the birds must
Certainly no legitimate interest can be have existed in a condition of abundance depend
furthered by a continuance of the present unsatisent upon their food supply, their enemies and factory system, with its sacrifice of the birds. their natural prolificness. New factors have en
I think the solution of the problem will be tered in recent years which have caused the birds furthered if we put the question in this way: What to decrease materially below this normal condi- system of regulation will result in the greatest tion of abundance. If these unfavorable factors annual deposit of guano twenty years hence ? are removed by well-considered and well-executed
It was a comparatively easy matter to offer protective measures, why may we not see an in
recommendations, but an extremely difficult in number toward the former normal
one to give them effect, because of complicaabundance?
tions arising from the heavily mortgaged conI think it conservative to say that the proper protection of the birds means the saving to Peru
dition of the guano deposits, the inadequacy of hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of of the current deposits for the use of national guano each year.
agriculture, and the restive internal condiWe. may well plan for protective measures tions which culminated, shortly after the that are intended to work progressively to the ad- recommendations were presented, in the most vantage of the industry for the next twenty years serious revolutionary movements known in We want to see many more birds in
many years. The matter of the preservation 1915 than are present in 1908, and more birds in
of the guano industry was not, however, lost 1920 tban in 1915; and this will not be accom
track of altogether, and it is understood that plished by routing the birds from their nesting
several of the measures proposed were given grounds as soon as they are fairly established.
effect at an early date. A later government The general plan of protection comprised
took up the matter again in a serious way the following essential elements.
and enlisted the services of Professor S. O. 1. The admission of but a single concession- Forbes of England who made a careful study ist to an island or a group of islands in order of the conditions and submitted a compreto eliminate the vigorous competition which
hensive report to the Peruvian government. was resulting in utter disregard of the needs
As this report has not been published it can of the birds, requiring also that the con- not, unfortunately, be cited in this connection. cessionist, through a resident representative on It is evident that the protective measures now each island, should be held responsible for the in effect are based upon the essential prinfullest protection of the birds.
ciples outlined above. The extraction of 2. The closing of islands for periods of
guano for national agriculture was placed in years.
the hands of a single organization, the Com3. The continuation of the existing yearly pañia Administradora del Guano, directly closed season of months.
responsible to and regulated by the govern4. Placing the extraction of guano for na- ment. Suitable adjustments were made with tional agriculture in the hands of a single the Peruvian Corporation Ltd. The closed company, which would thus “be induced to
was continued, and the closing of plan for the future.”
islands for periods of years became an estab5. Adjustment with the Peruvian Corpor- lished part of the plan of regulation. Guardation, Limited, whereby detrimental competi- ians were put upon the several islands.
As to the results, we have convincing testimony from Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy, of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, who has recently visited Peru and given especial attention to the birds of the guano islands. Some of his observations are comprised in a series of papers of fascinating interest entitled “The Sea Coast and Islands of Peru” appearing in current numbers of the Brooklyn Museum Quarterly. I quote from the last number (October, 1920, p. 250).
87,898 " 80,517 "
Guano Production 1909-1910
25,370 tons 1910-1911
1918-1919 The slight fluctuations in the column are doubtless due to the fact that no island is worked two years in succession, which results in a somewhat disproportionately large yield for the seasons in which the product of the most important islands is included. In a letter dated August 24, 1920, Senor Ballen writes that the guano output for the current year will exceed 82,000 tons, of which 70,000 tons will be required by native agriculturists and 12,000 tons will be at the disposal of the Peruvian Corporation for export. It should be understood that the tabulated figures refer to newly deposited guano, for the so-called “fossil” beds have been long since exhausted except upon Lobos de Tierra and Lobos de Afuera.
The first undertaking of the Compañia Administradora del Guano under the able directorship of Senor Francisco Ballen, was to make each of the numerous guano islands a bird sanctuary, closed at all seasons of the year to unauthorized visitors. Competent guardians with duties scarcely less exacting than those of lighthouse keepers, were posted as permanent residents upon every group. Clandestine guano extraction, the stealing of birds' eggs for food or for the use of the albumin in clearing ine, and other disturbances which had formerly caused havoc in the colonies, ceased at once. The old method of extracting guano without regard to the presence or physiological condition of the birds has, of course, been abolished, the islands, under the new rule, being worked according to a system of rotation which leaves ample and congenial breeding grounds always available. Courting or nesting birds are now carefully shielded from disturbance. Moreover, after removal of the guano, an island is promptly vacated and is thereafter given over to the complete possession of the birds for a period of approximately thirty months, at the expiration of which the date for a renewal of digging operations is determined only after careful reconnaissance.
The régime of the Compañia Administradora del Guano, with its well-balanced regard for both business and conservation, has resulted in a nearly uniform increase in the annual increment of guano, as well as a promising outlook for a continually aug. menting supply while the birds are repopulating the breeding grounds to the limits imposed by space and the nutritive resources of the littoral ocean. Since 1910, the administration has issued an annual “Memoria" containing statistical data, from which the following table of production has been aken:
Most instructive deductions may be made from the table of guano production just quoted. In the first place, it is evident that in the early years of the period covered the annual production of guano was approximately as estimated in 1908, i.e., from 20 to 25,000 tons per annum. In the second place, it appears that, beginning about 1913, the annual production of guano (proportioned in large measure to the abundance of producing birds) has risen to more than 80,000 tons at the present time. The production now is approximately three times as much as it was ten years ago. In 1908 the annual deposits were far below the estimated requirements of national agriculture, disregarding the export requirement. In 1920 the production substantially exceeds a greatly increased requirement for national agriculture so that a moderate export may be carried on even without sacrifice of internal requirements. The government derives revenue of more than a million dollars a year from the extraction of guano, a reasonable profit accures to the Compañia Administradora, and presumably to the export