Grant Recipients Conference, Colombia 2017
OBJECTIVES OF THE RUFFORD MEETING COLOMBIA
1. Provide a forum for grant recipients to share research results, improving networking opportunities.
2. Identify main threats to biodiversity and possible actions to curb their impacts.
3. Facilitate communication/collaboration between field practitioners and policy makers.
4. Make advancements in the Strategy for the Conservation of Primates in Colombia.
5. Promote conservation of three heavily traded wildlife species and raise awareness against illegal trade.
1) Rufford grantees conference: We had a wide variety of presentations ranging from species and ecosystems that are traditionally difficult to fundraise to charismatic species that have successfully used as flagship species. For instance, we learnt about the ecological importance of bees for flora diversity and human livelihoods; as well as the important role of dragonflies for monitoring aquatic microhabitats. Both studies emphasised on the difficulties to fundraise for the conservation of these species. On the other hand, charismatic taxa such as sea and river turtles are facing the risk of extinction owing to increasing threats including poaching of their nests and loss of breeding females through incidental capture in fishing gear and collisions with boats. The current IUCN conservation status of some of these taxa do not reflect their critical population status, as it is the case of the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) which IUCN status was downgraded from Endangered (EN) to Vulnerable (VU). In both sea and river turtles conservation projects it was clear that the funding provided by Rufford Small Grants (RSG) was critical for raising local awareness, training and capacity-building of local conservation groups, as well as long-term monitoring of these charismatic taxa.
Several presentations showed how Rufford grants have provided seed funding to build capacity. This is the case for the study conducted on the herpetofauna of the Munchique National Park. The environmental education strategies developed effectively contributed to the dissemination of general knowledge about snakes, as well as the prevention and treatment of snake bites, improving local perception towards these animals which favours their in-situ conservation. Rufford Foundation has also supported studies focused on understanding the role of skin bacteria as potential defence mechanisms that allow explaining why some Andean amphibian species can coexist with a fungal pathogen without signs of declines.
Regarding the identification of conservation needs and the development of replicable models for future projects, we have the case of the long-term strategy for the conservation of primates at the Colombian-Peruvian Amazonian border. With the funding provided by the RSG, through community-based research hunting bans have been implemented for woolly monkeys in Tikuna communities in Colombia. This model was replicated in Peru, with the inclusion of hunting bans for night monkeys. Peruvian communities that were involved in illegal trade of these monkeys for malaria research are now part of a conservation project that envisages wildlife tourism as a sustainable livelihood for habitat and species conservation. In addition, the work in progress conducted on the Pacific coast insmall-scale fisheries, aims at providing decision makers and resource users with critical information for the long- term management of this important source of protein in Colombia. For this purpose, baseline information on current stock condition of main target species, fishing gears and socio-economic dynamics will be crucial for the implementation of a strategy that will increase sustainability of this threatened resource.
Several projects have produced a significant amount of peer reviewed and popular literature about species, ecosystems and their conservation challenges. For instance, the long-term study carried out on the brown spider monkeys distributed in the Magdalena Medio provides a complete description of their ecology and demographic dynamics. Also the effects of fragmentation on brown spider monkeys’ stress levels and parasitic loads suggest inbreeding problems. Likewise, as part of the Crossing the Caribbean project based in northern Colombia, a wonderful pictorial guide about the fauna of the Darién and Urabá region was published, illustrating not only the highly strategic region for migratory birds, but also important facts about its wildlife. The long-term project at the Colombian-Peruvian border published baseline information on primate population densities for a ten year period as well as detailed information about wildlife trade.
2) Workshop: With the collaboration of different stakeholders, the two day workshop provided comments and corrections for the first draft of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Primates in Colombia. We have the input of policy makers, field primatologists, academics and members of NGOs, institutions from environmental authorities and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) management and scientific authorities. The outcomes of this workshop were:
2.1. Progress was made on chapters 1 (General aspects of non-human primates (NHP) and 2 (Assessment on the current conservation status of NHP species in Colombia) of the document.
2.2. The contents of the five lines of action in chapter 3 of the Program (Line 1: Research and Monitoring, Line 2: in-situ Management and Conservation, Line 3: Ex-situ Conservation and Management, Line 4: Legislation/Law Enforcement, Line 5: Education and Communication). During the group work sessions the activities proposed for each line of action were evaluated one by one based on five criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.
2.3. Ms. Claudia Rodríguez from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development presented a talk on the implementation and enforcement of the National Conservation Strategies in the context of the current legislation framework, with emphasis on the particular case of Primate Strategy.
Based on the results obtained and the valuable feedback received from the participants, we will proceed to make the necessary changes and adjustments to the set of activities for each of the lines of action. This will allow us to better adjust the contents of the lines for the fulfilment of the objectives and goals established for each one.
3) Conservation exhibition: The art exhibition clearly promoted the conservation of the three selected species: Woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagothricha), IUCN conservation status upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered; The Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), classified as Endangered and the Nancy Ma’s Night Monkey (Aotus nancymaae), IUCN conservation status upgraded from Lower Risk (Lc) to Vulnerable. The exhibition presented in English and Spanish the main ecological characteristics of the three species and their importance for their ecosystems. In addition, it shows their main threats such as deforestation, hunting for consumption and illegal trade.
4) Conservation outreach campaign in Leticia: By the time we wrote this report we had just started the campaign in Leticia. Nonetheless, the art exhibition at the Museum of the Banco de la República has been a success, attracting a variety of audiences. The exhibition has been promoted in the local media (radio stations and mailing list of the Banco de la República). We will give talks in Spanish to schools, tourist groups and in English for foreign visitors.
ISSUES RAISED AND RECCOMMENDATIONS MADE
Rufford grantees conference: During the panel discussion on Day 1, we approached the discussion bearing in mind the following points: i) The IUCN conservation status of ecosystems and/or species each grantee works on. ii) The biodiversity threats identified in their study area. iii) Government entities that they believe should act to reduce threats and how these entities should proceed. iv) Description of positive experiences/outcomes of their conservation projects funded by RSG. v) What they believe conservationists should do to improve the protection of biodiversity in Colombia. The results and recommendations are summarised in Table 1.
Workshop: As a result of the Rufford Meeting, the Colombian Primatological Association established a complete document that will serve as the basis for the final version of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Primates in Colombia. The final document will be finished by September 2017. Once this document is approved by the Colombian Ministry of Environment, environmental authorities will have guidelines and protocols for the management of primates on a national level. This also will give the primatological community the tools to better enable law enforcement to successfully enforce conservation actions that protect primates.
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