Oscar Mishaja, rainforest guide in the Tambopata region. (Photo by R. Butler)
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' ROLE IN CONSERVATION
By Rhett Butler
| Last updated July 31, 2012
Tropical forests have been inhabited by humans for tens of thousands of years, and human activities on a traditional
scale may actually help promote forest diversity. Traditionally forest-dependent indigenous peoples have rarely over-exploited the resource that provides them with their livelihood, and they carefully practice rotational farming and sustainably harvest forest products and game. Yet these indigenous peoples often take the brunt of the blame for the destruction of the rainforests. Creating
reserves has sometimes evicted these traditional peoples from their lands and in some places national park rangers
unfairly restrict their activities. Less so today, but frequently in the past, tribal peoples were disregarded
when national government granted concessions to foreign oil, mining, and logging firms on their traditional lands.
Indigenous people have missed out on most of the benefits garnered by forest developers.
Articles on indigenous people and conservation >>
Indigenous people have intimate knowledge and perspectives of the forest ecosystem around them. Instead of looking as them with condescension, scientists, environmentalists, and conservationists must come to view indigenous people as an asset to forest use and conservation.
- What can we learn from indigenous people about rainforest conservation?
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Local communities rise to the forefront of global conservation practice (commentary)
(10/29/2014) A few weeks ago, a remote aboriginal community in western Australia made headlines when it completed the establishment of an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) containing over 4.2 million hectares of desert and grassland. The Kiwirrkurra IPA, as the area is known, is billed as the largest protected expanse of arid land on Earth.
Between the forest and the sea: life and climate change in Guna Yala - Part I
(10/27/2014) The island-dwelling Guna people of Panama are one of the most sovereign indigenous communities in the world, but now severe weather and sea level rise are causing regular flooding on many of the islands, and will likely force the Guna to have to abandon their island homes for the mainland. This multimedia piece offers an introduction to everyday life and customs in Guna Yala and touches upon the uncertain future the Guna are now facing thanks to the impacts of climate change.
Scientific association calls on Nicaragua to scrap its Gran Canal
(10/27/2014) ATBC—the world's largest association of tropical biologists and conservationists—has advised Nicaragua to halt its ambitious plan to build a massive canal across the country. The ATBC warns that the Chinese-backed canal, also known as the Gran Canal, will have devastating impacts on Nicaragua's water security, its forests and wildlife, and local people.
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