Community Conservation for the Amazon Waterworld
Beach by night turtle.
|Puerto Nariño, Amazonas||Colombia||Central and Latin America, Education, Marine, Turtles||5 Aug 2008|
The Natutama Foundation built an Interpretation Centre to represent the underwater world and reinforce conservation and education in Colombian Amazon communities in 2005. More than 20 indigenous educators and fishermen/researchers (many of them former hunters of manatees, pirarucus and other species) form a team committed to protecting endangered flora and fauna, while about 1.000 schoolchildren in the Puerto Nariño municipal school system are reached by our environmental education work.
The Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) was hunted almost to extinction locally but now appears to be recovering as a result of our work to stop hunting. The side-neck turtles (Podocnemis expansa, P.unifilis, P.sextuberculata) have been drastically reduced due to captures and sacking of nests. The pirarucu fish (Arapaima gigas) has virtually disappeared from some lakes and we are collaborating with local entities to enforce off-seasons and other conservation strategies.
The turtle protection programme includes nightly beach patrols by 14 people from the local community during the laying season, in collaboration with the Aticoya indigenous authority. When a nest “at risk” is found, the eggs are transferred to an artificial beach at the Fundacion Natutama. The hatchlings are released immediately on the beaches from which the nests were taken. Manatees are monitored throughout the year, with counts made by fishermen in the lakes during high water and the river during low water. In particular, we try to prevent nets being set in key habitat areas and we use an extensive fishermen’s network to collect information on captures and mortality of manatees and pirarucu. We also map pirarucu nests and carry out fish counts during the low water period.
We aim to contribute in both a practical way – with specific actions to benefit turtles, manatees and pirarucu fish – and in a long term sense – through education and conservation strategies – to help people conserve and manage their resources. Above all, we try to ensure that the results of our conservation work are fed back into the community by the Ticuna and Yagua indigenous researchers and educators on a daily basis. In order to achieve this, we use story telling, theatre, puppets and games as well as more conventional environmental education methods and the resources of the Interpretation Centre.