Robert Gallardo grew up in southern California where he fell in love with Nature at a very early age while on family camping trips. He started collecting butterflies when he was 11. After moving to northern California he attended Shasta Community College then attended Humboldt State University. It was there that his curiosity for birds was awoken after purchasing a Meade spotting scope and wandered the trails at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.
After obtaining a degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation in 1992 he joined Peace Corps and in early 1993 was sent to Honduras. It was then that his passion for tropical natural history took off. He worked in the Dept. of Olancho at Sierra de Agalta N.P. where, amongst other projects, he did the areas' first butterfly inventory. His interest for birds also continued to grow and was able to add species to the areas' growing list.
He extended for a third year and transferred to the village of Raista along the north coast of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. He and his counterparts in an amazing 15 months established the country's first butterfly farm. On days off he made forays into the lush rainforest where he collected butterflies and bird watched; adding new species of both to the Reserve's list.
After Peace Corps he immediately returned to Honduras to try his hand at butterfly farming for export along Pico Bonito N.P. just outside of La Ceiba. While in the La Ceiba area he met Irma who at the time was working in a bank. It eventually closed and while working with Robert she fell in love with the natural history of her own country (and Robert too!). They married soon after.
They were unable to sustain themselves by exporting butterflies so Robert decided to start guiding natural history tours. While in La Ceiba he met Ricardo "Fito" Steiner who was to blame for Robert's third passion: native orchids.
Shortly after Hurricane Mitch in 1998 they found a property in Copan Ruins in western Honduras where they have established a fine Nature Center, unique in Honduras. It has a butterfly house, collection on display, native orchid exhibit and botanical gardens. Long and short term goals are to add an insect museum, reptile exhibit and an eco-lodge.
Robert has identified and added more than 20 new species of butterflies to the country's list and 17 new bird records. Two orchids they have collected are currently under investigation as being new for science. Robert and Irma have just completed the country´s first work on native orchids in a compact disc. It features over 170 species with nearly 350 wonderful photographs and bilingual text, section on habitats and other information. Contact Robert to find out where you can get a copy.
The natural history tours have continued to grow with each year seeing new companies coming to Honduras. They have been a good source of field data and personal satisfaction.
After a long and exhausting search Robert has finally identified a property in the Copan area that is worthy enough to build an eco-lodge. A large property of over 1,400 acres (with 1,000 acres of rainforest) in Rio Amarillo is in the process of being purchased with the intention of protecting the reserve and building a 3-star eco-lodge. More information will follow.