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Memorial held for Kimberly Blackwell slain in Costa Rica


"It is well known that to protect her fawn, even a doe puts her feet down and faces a lion" --Jain Bhaktamar Stotra

This sutra recognizes the courage of those who protect helpless, harmless creatures from harm, despite the risk it entails.

Kimberly Blackwell had the fierce courage of a doe protecting her fawn. She was murdered at her home in Costa Rica defending the wildlife she loved and protected, not by a lion, but by a band of crazed hunters, defending their right to kill the harmless creatures of the wild. She faced down these killers numerous times to keep from harm the innocent prey they hunted. This last time their right to kill included Kimberly.

Kimberly Blackwell was creative, compassionate and courageous as she stood up to those who believed they had the right to kill harmless defenseless creatures, for their own benefit, when they poached the wildlife near her home. She began a chocolate collective so that the poor would not have to earn a living by killing. She was therefore a threat to those who thrive on violence, especially those inspired by the belief that killing an animal is a legitimate, god-given right as presented in genesis:

'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.' "

The machismo and bravado with which acts of cruelty are sometimes carried out only serves to highlight the lack of courage of underlying such gratuitous violence. Hunters boast of their prowess and display trophies of their victims, as if they had accomplished a great feat of strength. Scoping out and killing a grazing animal with a high powered rifle requires little skill. It is a childish display of ignorance, not courage:

Just as dominion allows the physically strong, though morally weak, to dominate, exploit and kill harmless, innocent creatures, so too those who have assimilated these values see little difference between the brutal slaughter of a gentle, compassionate and fearless defender of animals and the creatures they hunt down.

The sanctified killing of animals for human benefit, of the semitic religions cannot be contained. The act of killing deadens the human spirit, so that every subsequent act of killing becomes easier and is not necessarily confined to animals.

Kimberly Blackwell had the spirit of a doe facing down a lion. Her work and legacy of compassion are honored in the following obituary:

February 05, 2011
By David Boddiger

Kimberly Blackwell. Photo by Tao Watts

A criminal investigation focuses on poachers in the Osa Peninsula, but police can't arrest suspects because a judge is allegedly too busy to sign the warrant.

Kimberly Blackwell, 53, loved animals so much she created an organic chocolate company to employ local workers so they wouldn't have to poach animals on protected government land.

Friends describe her as a tough-as-nails farmer with a big heart, someone who never backed down from a fight, even if it meant standing up to violent men with hunting dogs and guns.

When Blackwell was in her 20s, she built a log cabin in the Yukon, the isolated and rugged territory in northwestern Canada where she worked as a chef in the logging camps. When she moved to Costa Rica's remote Osa Peninsula, she defended her property near the Corcovado National Park with a BB gun.

Police suspect that battle against poachers may have cost her life. On Wednesday, Blackwell was found beaten and shot to death on the patio of her home in San Miguel de Canaza, a remote area near the Southern Zone town of Puerto Jiminez . A memorial service will be held on Sunday, in the Cabo Matapalo area where she lived for many years.

Despite reports that Blackwell died of strangulation, an autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound, a source close to the family said. She was also badly beaten. The Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ) and the coroner's office have not yet clarified if she was also strangled or sexually assaulted.

While police have not ruled out other motives, their investigation is focusing on poachers. That investigation now targets two suspects, but a judge has not signed arrest warrants, a source close to the investigation said. The source said that the police "strongly believe" the two suspects, who are local hunters, may be involved in Blackwell's murder.

"A judge said he 'might' be able to get around to signing the warrant this week," the source said. "[That judge] said he doesn't have time and the arrest of these two suspects has been delayed," the source said. "But these two people should be arrested before evidence is destroyed."

An OIJ official in Ciudad Neily, the closest office to Puerto Jiminez, would not comment on the case. The OIJ press office in San Jose is closed for the weekend.

Meanwhile, friends and neighbors try to cope with what they describe as a "devastating loss."

"She was confrontational when she needed to be, but she also had such a sweet side," said Tao Watts, a Puerto Jiminez resident. "Ticas love her and a lot of people are outraged," Watts said.

Blackwell moved to Costa Rica from Whitehorse, Canada 18 years ago. She founded the Samaritan Xocolata organic chocolate company from cacao that she grew on four hectares of her own land. Her chocolate business employed local women to harvest the cacao and turn it into what customers describe as some of the "best chocolate in Costa Rica."

"She created this whole micro-industry in the area so that she could employ her neighbors and get them to end the practice of hunting," Watts said.

Nine years ago, Blackwell bought 52 hectares of mountaintop land next to the Gulfo Dulce Reserve and Corcovado National Park. She reforested former logging territory to create a corridor of primary forest that adjoined the government-protected reserve and national park. She also grew her own food and exotic tropical ornamental plants.

"She fell in love with that farm because she loved the forest and wildlife," Watts said.

Hunting is illegal in both the reserve and national park, but poaching is common. Blackwell often worked with Environment Ministry park rangers to target poachers, who frequently use Blackwell's driveway - a private access road - to access surrounding forest, Watts said.

Poachers also hunt on Blackwell's property, and confrontations between Blackwell and hunters were becoming increasingly common. A couple years ago, someone killed her dogs. According to Watts, Blackwell recently shot at a poacher on her property with a BB gun.

"It's really unnerving to hear dogs and guns all the time," Watts said. "This is something that we've been dealing with for years. Hopefully, this will bring about some kind of change."

"A lot of people love her and everybody loves her chocolate," Watts said. "We hope to continue [pursuing] her vision," she said.

Blackwell is survived by two sisters, a brother, stepbrother and stepmother, who live in Canada.

November 2011

Police in Costa Rica have charged a man with murder in connection to the death of a former Yukoner.

Kimberly Blackwell, 53, was beaten and shot at her home near the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica last February.

Police have now arrested Jorge Enrique Flores Rojas, 36, in connection with her death.

So far, no date has been set for trial.

Blackwell, who was from Whitehorse, moved to Costa Rica 20 years ago. Her organic chocolate factory bordered the national park.

Her friends told CBC she was an animal-lover and had had confrontations with sloth poachers who crossed her property to hunt in the park.

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