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  • Using indigenous knowledge to link hyper-temporal land cover mapping with land use in the Venezuelan Amazon: “The Forest Pulse”

Using indigenous knowledge to link hyper-temporal land cover mapping with land use in the Venezuelan Amazon: “The Forest Pulse”

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Authors: Olivero, J.; Ferri, F.; Acevedo, P.; Lobo, J.M.; Fa, J.E.; Farfán, M.A.; Romero, D.; Blanco, G.; Real, R.

Remote sensing and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) can be combined to advance conservation of remote tropical regions, e.g. Amazonia, where intensive in situ surveys are often not possible. Integrating TEK into monitoring and management of these areas allows for community participation, as well as for offering novel insights into sustainable resource use. In this study, we developed a 250-m-resolution land-cover map of the western Guyana Shield (Venezuela) based on remote sensing, and used TEK to validate its relevance for indigenous livelihoods and land uses. We first employed a hyper-temporal remotely sensed vegetation index to derive a land classification system. During a 1,300-km, 8-day fluvial expedition in roadless areas in the Amazonas State (Venezuela), we visited six indigenous communities who provided geo-referenced data on hunting, fishing and farming activities. We overlaid these TEK data onto the land classification map, to link land classes with indigenous use. Several classes were significantly connected with agriculture, fishing, overall hunting, and more specifically the hunting of primates, red brocket deer, black agouti, and white-lipped peccary. We then characterized land classes using greenness and topo-hydrological information, and proposed 12 land-cover types, grouped into five main landscapes: 1) water bodies; 2) open lands/forest edges; 3) evergreen forests; 4) submontane semideciduous forests, and 5) cloud forests. Our results show that TEK-based approaches can serve as a basis for validating the livelihood relevance of landscapes in high-value conservation areas, which can form the basis for furthering the management of natural resources in these regions

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 0034-7744

Source: Revista de Biología Tropical 64(4): 1661-1682

DOI: 10.15517/rbt.v64i4.21886

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  • From the Congo to the Amazon, hunters speak the same language

From the Congo to the Amazon, hunters speak the same language

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Research suggests hunters in the Congo Basin face similar issues to hunters elsewhere. Photo: Ollivier Girard / CIFOR.
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By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Although continents apart, hunters in the forests of Africa and Latin America can learn from each other’s experiences in wildlife management and the use of bushmeat, according to experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“In both the Congo and the Amazon, millions of people depend on wild species for food, and hunting and fishing provide a large percentage of nutrients,” said John Fa, senior research associate at CIFOR and coordinator of the Bushmeat Research Initiative.

In addition to hunting to feed their families, hunters in both the Congo and the Amazon Basins sell some of the wild meat they catch. The income provides a buffer against crop failures or other economic crises, as well as money for household expenses, health care or school fees.


But wildlife management is crucial to make sure that hunting—or rather, overhunting—does not have excessive negative consequences for ecosystems, Fa said.

For example, overhunting of a certain animal species could reduce the scattering of the seeds of plants on which it feeds, gradually decreasing the number of those plants and, therefore, the food supply.

“Changing the vegetation changes the food supply, which affects the animal species that can survive in that landscape,” Fa said.

Overhunting can be controlled if hunters know how much game their communities are harvesting, said Nathalie Van Vliet, a senior researcher at CIFOR.

“The problem is that hunters know how much they or their neighbors harvest, but not what others harvest, so they don’t know how much the community harvests as a whole,” she said.


Community monitoring can fill that gap. In parts of Africa and the Amazon, hunters are armed not only with shotguns, but also with notebooks or cell phones to record information about where and what they hunt and conditions in the forest.

In Namibia, where hunting—including trophy hunting—is an important source of both income and food for communities, game guards keep detailed records that allow community conservancy committees to monitor impacts and adjust quotas, according to Greenwell Matongo of WWF Namibia.

Matongo was among a group of researchers, government officials and hunters who met in Leticia, Colombia, in October 2015, to discuss regulatory changes for legalizing the sale of bushmeat in Colombia.

Hunters in the Ticoya Indigenous Reserve or resguardo near Leticia, along the Amazon River where the borders of Colombia, Brazil and Peru converge, are experimenting with a cell phone app to help them track wildlife.

By becoming citizen scientists, hunters gather data that are valuable to their communities and to researchers, said Brian Child, associate professor in the geography department and the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida.

“People love it—it’s so empowering. They love learning, they love doing graphs, they love understanding what the data are saying, they love presenting it back to communities,” Child said of community-based wildlife monitoring.

“That’s where the real gain is—in the communities themselves becoming paraprofessionals and collecting, analyzing and responding to data,” he added.


Although both the Amazon and Congo Basins include expanses of tropical forest that is home to bushmeat hunters, the two regions differ in some significant ways.

The Congo Basin has less than half as much dense forest—1.6 million square kilometers, compared to 3.9 million square kilometers in the Amazon—and more than twice as many inhabitants as the Amazon.

Research in the past seemed to indicate that substantially more bushmeat is consumed in the Congo Basin than the Amazon. According to one rough estimate from 2010, bushmeat consumption in the Congo basin totaled about 3.2 million tons in one year, compared to just under 1 million tons in the Amazon.

But that estimate and others like it are extrapolated from relatively little data, some of which is old, Van Vliet said. More recent studies show that people continue to consume bushmeat even after moving to cities from rural areas, but further research is needed to understand how consumption patterns change, she said.

Community wildlife management is crucial for adapting to changing circumstances, said Van Vliet, who works with hunters in Colombia and Gabon who are designing hunting management plans.

“The hunters in Gabon realized that they needed to set limits on the hunting of partially protected species in their area,” she said. “The question was where to set the limit, because they did not have data showing how much would be sustainable.”

Van Vliet suggested an adaptive management plan, which would begin by setting the limit at the amount currently being harvested. The hunters would then monitor the impacts and adjust the plan as necessary.

“The problem was that no one knew how much they harvested as a community,” she said. “A community monitoring system provides important information to fill in those gaps.”

The hunters in Gabon—who set a limit of 30 bush pigs a year, based on data showing that they had hunted 28 in 2014—are using a monitoring system similar to one used by hunters in the Ticoya resguardo, which is in the southernmost corner of Colombia, near the Amazon River.


Van Vliet would like the two groups of hunters to be able to learn from each other’s experiences.

“They face similar challenges,” she said. “I think there are fewer differences between a hunter in Gabon and a hunter in the Amazon than a hunter in Gabon and a city dweller in Gabon.”

While meeting with hunters during a recent trip to Gabon, Van Vliet received messages from hunters in the Ticoya resguardo via the smartphone app WhatsApp, and began to think about ways in which the two groups might be able to communicate.

“The problem is language, but they could exchange photos,” she said.

The hunters in Gabon were especially interested in how the hunters in Colombia managed fruiting tree species to attract certain animals.

“They said they felt wildlife was farther away now than in their grandparents’ day,” she said of the Gabon hunters. “They said that could be due to hunting or to logging, which sometimes removes trees that bear fruit.”

The African hunters were intrigued by the idea of planting some of those tree species closer to their villages to attract animals, as communities in the Ticoya resguardo had done.

“I think these exchanges are very useful,” Van Vliet said. “I learn a lot from looking at these different situations, and I think they would, too.”

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  • Conservation by another name: Traditions, taboos and hunting

Conservation by another name: Traditions, taboos and hunting

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Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR
Spiritual beliefs affect how people behave in the forests in the Amazon. Marco Simola/CIFOR

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

When Sara Armas Díaz goes hunting, she pauses before entering the woods and pays her respects to the forest spirits.

“I carry a lighted branch and say the name of the animal I want, and within a short time, I see it,” says Armas, 51, a Cocama grandmother who learned the ritual from her grandparents when they took her hunting for the first time at age 10.

In communities along the Loretoyacu River in the Ticoya Reserve or resguardo, a territory shared by Ticuna, Cocama and Yagua indigenous people, many hunters have stories of encounters with forest spirits that help them find game or keep them from hunting in a certain place.

Those encounters, combined with practices related to preparing the meat for meals, are traditional ways of controlling hunting in the territory, according to researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


The researchers are studying the hunting, use and commercialization of bushmeat in the area around the reserve, on the Amazon River where the borders of Colombia, Peru and Brazil converge.

“The hunters never mention the word ‘conservation,’ but what they are doing is conservation related,” said Nathalie Van Vliet, a senior researcher with CIFOR, who leads the research team.

“They also have practices related to reducing health risks—for example, kids should not eat a certain part of a particular animal,” she said. “They don’t call them health regulations, but by regulating consumption of the meat, they also contribute to conservation.”

Different hunters recount different—and sometimes conflicting—beliefs, but collectively, they constitute a control on hunting.

When certain plants are flowering or bearing fruit, the meat of animals that feed on them has an unpleasant flavor and can cause nausea, diarrhea or rashes, Armas said. She and her husband, Gabriel Murayari Pinedo, 63, avoid hunting those animals in places where they see those plants. Hunters avoid other places for other reasons.

“There are places where you can’t hunt,” said Milton Pinto, 22, a Ticuna who, like Armas and Murayari, lives in Puerto Nariño, a town of about 7,000 people in the Ticoya Reserve.

 One is a certain salt lick—a place where animals tend to congregate, which makes them easy prey.

“It’s a sacred place,” Pinto said. “You have to respect it.”


Hunters offer various accounts of that salt lick and others—as places where hunting is permitted, but hunters can only take what they need, or as places that keep hunters at bay, with thunder, lightning and rain if a hunter gets too close.

“The place has a madre, a spirit,” Pinto said.

In surveys of community members, including hunters, traders and restaurant operators, the researchers found that more than two-thirds of the beliefs that limited the hunting or use of wild game were related to consumption. Eating the meat of a tapir, for example, could cause a pregnant woman to miscarry. Women also should not look at or touch the turtle known as a matamata, the researchers learned.

The largest number of “taboos” about meat consumption involved the jaguar, a top predator that also has spiritual significance to many Amazonian people. Other animals regulated by traditional beliefs included tapirs and snakes.

The largest number of beliefs related to the way meat is handled involved turtles—for example, touching the blood of a turtle while preparing the meat is said to produce warts.  Only 10 percent of the people surveyed said that ignoring such traditional beliefs would have no negative effect. More than half said failure to respect taboos could cause illness, while others said it could result in a decrease in the number of animals or make hunters unlucky in their search for wild game.

Fishermen respect similar practices, Pinto said. One lake in the reserve is known to fishermen as a dangerous place, home to huge river otters, jaguars and giant caimans.

“You have to fish silently,” said Pinto, adding that some parts of the lake were off limits.

When Pinto was younger, an elderly fisherman showed him which parts of the lake were safe for fishing and which should be left alone.

“It’s a kind of natural control,” he said.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
This research was supported by USAID.

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