For centuries, the White Mountain Apache have lived in the canyons and forests of the American Southwest—a vast expanse of land where Mexican gray wolves once thrived. And even though, in recent years, these magnificent animals have been living as little more than long shadows on the landscape after settlers and government agencies nearly drove them to extinction, the lobo remains a revered thread in the fabric of Apache tradition.
For many years, Defenders of Wildlife has worked closely with the White Mountain Apache Tribe in its efforts to restore Mexican wolves to their native lands—providing equipment and training to tribal wildlife staff and offering technical assistance to the tribe’s livestock owners. Defenders’ members and supporters—through the Wildlife Volunteer Corps—have also helped out, rolling up their sleeves alongside the tribe to prepare for the first wolf-themed ecotours in the region.
In 2010, Defenders helped the tribe develop Apache Wilderness Journeys, a unique weeklong 6-day culture and wildlife tour into the heart of the Southwest. Apache guides take visitors on expeditions into the Tribe’s remote, lush forests for a chance to hear or see the world’s rarest wolf in the wild and learn about efforts to restore other imperiled wildlife such as Mexican spotted owls and Apache trout. The tour lets people experience firsthand the Apache way of life through crafts, storytelling and traditional meals and helps them appreciate the cultural value of Mexican wolves.
The tribe offered two tours in June 2011 and 20 people participated. They are currently making plans to offer similar trips in the near future.
Read the full article and watch a short video about the tours here
photo courtesy of Jean Ossorio