Alvaro Jose Negret ~ 1949-1998

On 18 July 1998, Alvaro José Negret died in his home of a heart attack. This untimely death robbed Colombia of one of its greatest naturalists and conservationists.

As a boy, Alvaro started collecting birds for the Natural History Museum of Cauca University in Popayán under the direction of Carlos Lehmann and Kjell Von Sneidern, and whilst an undergraduate, he co-founded the Natural History Museum at Caldas University (Manizales). Having obtained a Masters in ecology and management of natural resources at the University of Brasilia, Alvaro went on to conduct many ornithological and other wildlife studies throughout Brazil. He later returned to Colombia as a professor of Popayán University, and became Director of the Natural History Museum at Cauca University, a position he retained until his untimely death. Whilst at UniCauca, Alvaro helped maintain and improve a substantial natural history collection there. With an emphasis on ornithology and environmental education, he wrote many publications on ecology and conservation, especially for children.

Alvaro travelled widely throughout Colombia, and using his outstanding knowledge of natural history, he was involved in many conservation initiatives, both through research and practical conservation. His efforts were targeted especially in the Chocó region of western Colombia, where one of his greatest achievements was the foundation and management of Tambito Nature Reserve, known to contain over 300 bird spp., including a host of Threatened and Endemic species, and the subject of a forthcoming article in Cotinga.

In recent years, Alvaro initiated and directed the Naya Corridor Program, aiming to unify two National Parks (Farallones de Cali and Munchique), Tambito N.R. and the Cuenca del Río Naya to form a 120 km-long 430,000 ha conservation zone, in co-operation with Conservation International. Shortly before his death, Alvaro had made enormous progress towards the conservation of this last Chocó wilderness. Whilst a dedicated conservationist and naturalist, Alvaro was above all an enthusiastic ornithologist. At the time of his death, the manuscript of a book entitled Aves Colombianas Amenazadas de Extinción [Threatened Birds of Colombia], based on his bird studies throughout Colombia remained unfinished. The death of Alvaro José Negret is a great loss for conservation and research in Colombia, at a time when his energy, enthusiasm and knowledge are needed more than ever.

Obituary by Paul Salaman. Published in Cotinga.