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José Rodríguez Vélez (Pepe)

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  • Location
    Dunmore, West Virginia
  • Country
    United States

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  1. I just got the terribly sad news about Jim’s passing away. I can’t quite believe it. It was 1983 and I had been working with John P. Taylor (USFWS Culebra Wildlife Refuge), fresh out of college, sponsored by the Culebra Conservation & Development Authority. When my appointment ended John suggested that I should write a letter to Jim about my interest in working at the Puerto Rican parrot captive facility. Jim didn’t have any budget to hire personnel at that time, so he got me in touch with José L. Vivaldi, who was the Chief of the Scientific Investigations Unit of the Terrestrial Resources Division of the Puerto Rico DNR. My appointment planted me right at the core of the Puerto Rican parrot captive breeding effort..it had been a childhood dream of mine. Living at the Aviary was an incredible experience, not only because of the importance of the task at hand, but because it allowed me to develop a meaningful level of respect towards Jim and the work he did. I emulated him in many ways...He was the real deal. I got to know Jim at a different level as well, the Cobra car enthusiast, road bike cyclists beast and Jazz music audiophile. In 1988 José L. Vivaldi called me in Virginia, were I was doing field archeological work for James Madison University, and offered me the project leadership position for the second Puerto Rican parrot captive breeding facility in the Rio Abajo State Forest. There was a great deal of skepticism about the capabilities of the PRDNR to effectively and safely undertake the responsibilities of a second captive flock. My wife Anne Smith and I were hired by the PRDNR under a contract and we set off to get the facilities ready to receive the test flock of surrogate Hispaniola parrots. I had flown to L.A. to attend a meeting at UCLA, there I got to see Jim who invited me to stay at their home for a few days. One afternoon he had arranged a sort of interview with three well know field biology heavyweights. I understood their concerns about the State government’s potential for causing irreversible damage to the recovery effort. They were worried about me not going to be tough enough to handle the job and the bureaucracy. I believe that we (my team) proved our worth in the best way possible. A few years after the Puerto Rican parrot breeding successes in Rio Abajo, Jim came to the Aviary to stay with us...as the honest to Earth man he has always been, he apologized to us for not having had total confidence in our capabilities to run the captive breeding facility, that we had demonstrated other wise. That he was proud of our achievements. I was to meet Jim and Beth in Ocean City Maryland in 1993, I was there to attend the Ward World Wildfowl woodcarving competition as a competitor and they came to see my life-size Bald Eagle entry, however we somehow missed each other....he was very disappointed that Beth didn’t get to see me....that’s the last communication I had with him by email. José Rodríguez-Vélez Rio Abajo Aviary(José L.Vivaldi) Project Leader 1988-1999
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