The only constant in life is change.
In my time in Boquete I watched the early days of Paradise Gardens, if you use search on this blog you can see and read several posts back to June 2007. Sadly, in November 2008, the owners Paul and Jenny Saban were involved in an auto accident in which people were killed. For their own reasons they fled Panama in 2009. You can read their narrative at this link.
For more than a year Paradise Gardens languished under a stream of well intentioned, but not always well informed, caretakers and a very disinterested owner. Still it remained open as a cross between an animal refuge and a zoo. More recently the property sold and this sign appeared in the driveway.
Beverly Stearns was one of the principal long term volunteers at Paradise Gardens. Last week Beverly asked me if I would like to visit the new Jardin Encantado and speak to the new owners. I was happy to have the opportunity to meet them and hear their intentions for what was a major community attraction in Boquete.
Today Beverly and I visited Jardin Encantado and spent over an hour talking to Claudia Schumann, she and her husband Dr. Sid Schumann are the new owners of the property.
It was raining so we did not have the opportunity to see all the changes, but change is the operative word. The property is no longer a wildlife refuge or an animal exhibition, a polite term for zoo. There has been considerable investment to clean the property and return the gardens to their care taken state. It is the intention of the Schumanns to relocate all of the animals other than the birds into either the wild or other more humane remote locations. They do not intend to run a tourist attraction and they believe cages are cruelty.
They are currently licensed by ANAM and ANAM has an inventory of the animals that survived the transitional period. Some animals died, others disappeared. Beverly has walked the property with Mrs. Schumann and is comfortable that the animals are being well maintained. It is clear to Beverly that Mrs. Schumann has an interest in what is best for the animals. The Schumanns do plan to retain only the birds. They have already moved many birds into the larger enclosures including the former butterfly house so that they can have more room to fly.
Mrs Schumann did express that if people find injured birds they will accept them, nurture them and release them; but only birds.
Four Scarlet Macaws were reclaimed by ANAM and returned to their prior owner. The method of capture and handling the birds so concerned Mrs. Schumann she said she followed the ANAM truck to try to assure no harm came to the birds. Her passion for the future of the animals is vocalized in words and deeds.
When I asked about the future plans for Jardin Encantado, I was assured that it is their intent to use the beautiful gardens for community events open to the public in support of local charities. This is planned for some time in the future when the property can sustain the events. With the exception of those events Jardin Encantado will be their residence not open to the public.
Paradise Gardens is gone forever, as are the people who created it. The new owners, although animal lovers, or perhaps because they are animal lovers, prefer to see the native animals uncaged and returned into nature or at least more remote locations with care provided for those that cannot be released. I doubt very much that petitions will change the reality or the future of what was once Paradise Gardens.