Frensel Mercelina grew up close to nature on Curaçao and has volunteered for Uniek Curaçao for many years. ‘I was taught to hunt and fish as a child by my father,’ he says. ‘At first, it was out of necessity to put food on the table for our family. But by the time I grew up I was hunting and spear-fishing for fun.’
Years ago Frensel had a life-changing experience. ‘I caught this huge snapper and as it was dying I looked into its eyes and it struck me what a beautiful fish it was and how long it had taken to grow so big,’ he says. ‘Suddenly I found myself looking at nature from a whole new angle. I wanted to protect it, not destroy it.’ Frensel joined a nature conservation group and began using his intimate knowledge of the island’s forests to help build and maintain nature trails and walks.
Now he regularly finishes work as a shift supervisor at the island’s oil terminal to spend hours as an unpaid volunteer trail guide or to talk to and inform islanders and visitors about conservation initiatives during stints at the local library and museum. ‘It’s great to see the DCNA telling the world about all the work we’re doing on the islands to protect our environment,’ he says.