“Otherwise our children and grandchildren will not know what a deer looks like. They will not know what a giant anteater looks like,” he says. “They will not know what an arapaima looks like,” he adds, referring to a giant, air-breathing fish that inhabits Amazonian rivers and lakes.
Community management reaps rewards
The benefits of community management go beyond wildlife conservation, Van Vliet says. As part of their management plans, communities establish rules governing farming, fishing and hunting areas. They also keep a close eye on outsiders who enter their lands to engage in unauthorized activities. As a result, she says, when communities use their own resources sustainably and are recognized as the guardians of their lands, they help combat illicit activities like poaching for the illegal wildlife trade.
The Wapishana Wai Wizzi Wildlife Management Committee, recently established by the district community board in South Rupununi, helps communities establish hunting guidelines and wildlife management practices based on traditional knowledge. The Wapishana Wai Wizzi committee’s monitoring activities will cover hunting, but will also provide information that will help communities preserve the territory as whole, by reporting on activities such as illegal mining, unauthorized hunting and the illegal wildlife trade. The ability to control their own territory is rooted in the communities’ cohesion and efficient sharing of information when suspicious activities occur, Van Viet says.
Members of local communities are familiar with the animals, plants and fish that inhabit their forests and rivers. To establish a management plan, however, they need more detailed information about the numbers of animals and fish, their breeding grounds and their habits. Experiences shared during the workshop show that success in generating useful information for management is based on a combination of local and scientific knowledge.
Because of years of uncontrolled fishing, a decade ago there were fewer than 300 arapaima fish in lakes in the Paumari Indigenous Lands in Brazil’s Amazonas region. After the community members set some lakes aside for strict conservation, set limits on fishing in others and began keeping careful track of fish stocks, the population grew. There are now more than 8,000 arapaima in the lakes they manage, says Eneias Cassiano da Silva, a Paumari leader.
Many communities now use technology like camera traps, mobile apps and GPS devices to monitor and map the wildlife and fish in their territories. In the district of Sao Gabriel de Cachoeira, on the Negro River, members of Indigenous communities have noticed that rainfall and droughts are more extreme and the natural signals that used to mark the beginning and end of the rainy season are no longer reliable, says Juvencio da Silva Cardoso, a Baniwa Indigenous leader.
More and more communities are developing management plans and agreeing on rules that will enable them to hunt and fish sustainably. In most countries, national regulations only allow them to hunt for their families, while prohibiting the sale of wild meat. The workshop participants pointed out that they need a cash income to buy necessities, and said they should be allowed to sell surplus meat from sustainably managed lands.
In Peru, communities along the Ampiyacu and Apayacu rivers are doing just that. After a long process of studying and mapping their lands, designating areas for conservation and for sustainable use, and drawing up management plans, they have obtained certification from the Peruvian Ministry of Health that allows them to sell wild meat to restaurants in Iquitos, a major Amazonian tourist destination.
Principles of successful management
In their joint statement, the community leaders identified key principles of sustainable wildlife management, based on their own experience. Land security is crucial, so communities can make decisions about wildlife management in their territories, they said. Communities must also maintain unity, organize themselves and gain legal recognition for their activities. Networking with other communities, as well as with non-governmental organizations, government agencies and researchers, allows communities to learn from one another and gain technical expertise. And information and monitoring allow communities to make well-considered decisions.
Hunting remains important as a way of providing food and for cultural reasons, workshop participants said. Nevertheless, they share Denkel Ilipi’s concern that young people may not learn the skills that have enabled their parents and grandparents to support their families or other traditional knowledge that is passed from generation to generation. They also worry about new illnesses that are appearing in their communities because processed foods are replacing traditional fare.
The leaders urged governments to guarantee the right of Indigenous and traditional peoples to use wildlife and regulate hunting. They also called for support for local management and monitoring of wildlife, and they called for governments to implement the policies and legislation necessary to ensure that Indigenous people can continue to inhabit their lands in peace.
“Management does not mean prohibiting hunting,” said Sandro Soplín, who lives in the
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area in Peru’s Loreto region. “Management means we’re going to conserve our resources and use them sustainably. If a management initiative is rooted in the needs of the community, it will succeed.”
(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)