July 6, 2020
The World is Upside Down
- as seen by -Jason M. Aloisio @TRUEcologyNYC
Even though I work at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, and we have a flock of flamingos that live next to the Dancing Crane cafeteria, where I eat my lunch daily, I had no idea there were flamingos living above 12,000 feet in the Andes Mountains.
While their pink coloring is not as vibrant at their Caribbean cousins, Chilean flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) are just as elegant and, as the legend of Pink Floyd the Chilean flamingo suggests, may be the most resilient member of the flamingo family.
Pink Floyd the (Chilean) flamingo became a local legend when he escaped the Salt Lake City Zoo and went on to live for more than 15 years in the North American Rocky Mountains, some 8,000 miles north of his kin’s home range.
Pink Floyd would eat shrimp from the Great Salt Lake in the winter then fly north to Montana and Idaho for summers.
I felt akin to Pink Floyd, in that we both had spent extended time far from our home on the other side of the Ecuador. His tale resonated more deeply in early March 2020 as the Coronavirus began spreading rapidly in Latin America and countries began shutting borders.
Chile, where I was in early March 2020, had declared a 90-day state of catastrophe, closed their border to non-Chileans, and announced a military-enforced curfew. Simultaneously, New York City, my home, was becoming the global epicenter of the growing pandemic and all of my friends and colleagues had been working from home for weeks.
While I had planned to remain in Chile for another month and ride my bike to Karukinka Natural Park at the southern tip of South America, all flights to and from neighboring Peru had been canceled and tourists were trapped unless their home government could secure release and transport.
As much as I love South America, I did not want to end up like Pink Floyd — stuck in the Southern Hemisphere for an undetermined amount of time, totally socially isolated.
Moreover, tourists were the vectors of Coronavirus introduction to South America and, despite having ridden nearly 400,000 vertical feet over 7,000 miles in 730 hours over the last six months, I knew it was my responsibility to abandon my journey and return home.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason cycled from the Bronx Zoo through Central and South America from October 2019 to March 2020. His trip ended early as COVID-19 became a pandemic. He is safe and back in New York.