National Geographic : 1903 Nov
RUBBER PLANTAT picture No. 2. The ulero makes with his machete diagonal lines of gashes, extending nearly around the tree, like the letter V, the point being downward. The milk flows down these channels to one side of the tree, whence it is led down to a cavity hollowed in the ground and lined with large, tough leaves. These are dexterously lifted up, and the milk is poured out into a calabash or other vessel and carried away to be coagulated. The diagonal channels are from two to three feet apart, and those of each successive tapping are inserted between the older scars. The milk will all run out of the tree in about an hour. A Castilla tree 5 feet in diameter will yield when first cut about 20 gallons of milk, making 50 pounds of rubber. The tree may be cut again after the lapse of a few months. That the trees at La Zacualpa shown in picture No. I have been able to survive so much of this barbarous treatment and are still vigor ous and heavily laden with fruit seems to indicate great tenacity of life, and yet even this rough handling represents an improvement upon the former custom of cutting the trees down entirely or hewing steps in them for the ulero to climb up. Instead of the forked stick used as a ladder at La Zacualpa, the large forest trees are ascended for 30 feet or more by means of ropes, vines, climbing irons, and steps cut in the trunk. The studies which the Department of Agriculture is making in regard to start ing rubber plantations on American soil are specially important in view of the disappearance at no distant day of the rubber forests of Brazil and Africa, whence nearly nine-tenths of the sup ply of rubber now comes. The world is almost entirely dependent on savages, or on natives too barbarous to be called civilized, to get the rubber out of the forests. They, tempted by the high price which rubber brings, swarm into the rubber forests and chop the trees down to save time in collecting the milk. IONS IN MEXICO 413 Mr K. K. Kennedy, U. S. consul at Para, Brazil, has recently sent to the Bureau of Statistics of the Department of Commerce and Labor the startling reports of two expeditions which have been examining conditions in the rubber country.* Captain Gerdeau, after ex ploring, investigating, and canvassing the territory of the upper Amazon and its tributaries in the richest rubber belt in South America for more than a year, advises him that the rubber gatherers are cutting down the forests with amaz ing rapidity and improvidence, far be yond what his previous information had led him to expect. He expresses grave doubts if the supply can be kept up un less stringent measures to protect the rubber forests be immediately taken. Robert Blair Ewart was a member of an American exploring expedition which started inland from Lima, Peru, crossed the Andes, and then descended the tribu taries of the Amazon and the great river to Para. Mr Ewart described to Consul Kennedy the rubber-hunting in eastern Peru, along the Ucayali River, a tribu tary of the Amazon: " The Ucayali is a magnificent stream, as large as the Mississippi, and traverses one of the finest rubber districts in South America. In all this great territory there is but one man who is producing fine rubber. All the rest are caucho hunters. These latter are the bane of the country, and have done incalculable damage in the past few years. They do not bleed the trees in the regular way, but cut them down and extract the gum by the wholesale. Thus every year enormous forests are destroyed, and each year the supply grows less and less and the rubber gatherers are com pelled to go farther back from the rivers. This makes the production of rubber more difficult, dangerous, and expensive each year, and it is only a question of time when this immense and most important rubber-producing terri *Daily Consular Reports, October 21, 1903 (No. 1780).