A New Culture of Conservation

10/26/2009

Colombia creates important new National Park at the request of indigenous communities.

The Government of Colombia announced last night that it was creating a new national park at the request of the local indigenous community. This is a major step forward in the complicated relationship between conservationists and indigenous groups, Conservation International said today.

The Yaigojé Apaporis Park – which was announced today by the government of Colombia – was created to safeguard an area of more than 1,056,523 hectares (about 2,610,725 acres) of forest at the intersection of the Amazon Basin and the Guiana Shield, and will be managed by the indigenous groups who inhabit the Connecticut-sized area.

The area – which straddles the banks of the Caquetá River and its tributary, the Apaporis River – is home to the Tanimuka,  Letuama, Makuna, Yuhup, Barasano, Itana, Eduria and Tatuyo ethnic groups, and was previously classified as an indigenous reserve. However, this status – under existing Colombian legislation – did not provide the communities with the power to protect their land when a Canadian gold-mining company began prospecting in the area two years ago.

So the communities looked to a solution that would increase their rights to oversee the future of the land – the creation of a national park. They worked with Conservation International and the Gaia Amazonas Foundation to appeal to the country’s National Parks Unit to better protect the region’s resources.

Fabio Arjona, Executive Director of Conservation International in Colombia said: “The announcement is a hugely significant step forward for conservation, both globally and in Colombia. It has helped to break-down barriers that have existed between conservation and indigenous groups – who initially resisted efforts to increase protection in their forests because of concerns that it would reduce their ability to manage the lands as they wish to. But in creating this new park we have worked together to create an area that protects both the rights of indigenous people and this hugely important area of forest.”

The area’s lowland forests have great biodiversity and shelter unique and threatened species such as the black curassow (Crax alector), the brown wooly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha) and the endemic Apaporis river caiman  (Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis).

As managers of the new park, the indigenous communities can restrict gold mining and other activities. They will continue to be free to use the park’s resources for their daily needs and cultural traditions, as long as certain conservation standards are met. The National Parks Unit and Association of Traditional Authorities of the Yaigojé Apaporis (ACIYA) will work together to determine and enforce these standards.

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