How scientists and local communities can work together to save species
What works and what doesn’t? Our panel of conservation leaders share their experiences working with local people to protect precious habitats and endangered species. Presented in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
Free and open to the public. RSVP (for free) below.
Wednesday, November 6th 5:30-6:30pm
Union South 1308 W Dayton Street Madison, WI 53715
The short story: the people of Sumaco have started to express interest in becoming actively involved in conservation and ecotourism. They have asked for assistance on how to set up a community-managed reserve.
So, in partnership with local leaders, we hope to help to provide the community of Sumaco with a complete training in 2020 that would give them the information and tools they need. More details about this are on the project launch page.
Beautiful and Biodiverse
The location here is key. Sumaco is in a biodiversity hotspot: the eastern slope of the Andes mountains.
This area’s lush forest is not only beautiful, but it is home to both the endangered mountain tapir and the well-known and vulnerable Andean bear (also known as “spectacled bears”).
The location is also significant because of “landscape connectivity:” the idea that animal populations can thrive best when they can move freely from one habitat area to another. Sumaco lies in the heart of three large protected areas (Sumaco-Galeras National Park, Cayambe-Coca National Park, and the Antisana Ecological Reserve).
There may be new ways that people here could manage their lands, allowing large animals to pass through more safely. This could really help their numbers increase.
You can see more information about the project (the role of the local government, the training we’re planning to provide, how you can help, and more) on the Andes 2020 project launch page.
Thank you to everyone who supports Community Conservation. You help us spread the impact of people-focused conservation work like this around the world. Thanks to you, we can assist communities like Sumaco!
See this unique new art space showcasing Rob’s eco-friendly found object outdoor art. While you view the fascinating pieces, you can enjoy light refreshments, hear from some of Rob’s friends, listen to live music, and learn how Rob’s vision and work continues on.
We hope you can join us! Free and open to the public.
We don’t want you to miss the updates, how-to’s, and successes that we’re sharing on our Facebook page. That’s why we’re giving a black howler monkey poster to the next 25 people to start following us on Facebook, starting at 2pm on 9/16/19!
The unique poster’s black howler monkeys (“baboons”) are beautifully detailed, and many other amazing species of Belize are pictured around the edges – toucans, frogs, butterflies, and more. It was originally created for Community Conservation’s very first project, The Community Baboon Sanctuary.
We have a lot of them to give away, so tell your friends. And don’t worry – we’ve had them for a little while so you won’t be creating any printing costs that would otherwise go to our projects on the ground.
The eastern slope of the Andes Mountains has some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. It is home to endangered mountain tapirs, Andean bears, and more types of beautiful tropical birds than you can count.
As a PHD student, April Sansom (now Dr. April Sansom, Community Conservation’s Executive Director) became friends with many of the farmers living and working in this beautiful place. The project she coordinated, “Proyecto PLAN,” brought together the local dairy farming community of Las Palmas, who voluntarily agreed to adopt new practices that would help protect the unique environment around them.
Las Palmas, Ecuador is located in a sensitive and threatened watershed bordering the Antisana Ecological Reserve. It is critical that this watershed remain healthy, so one goal of this project was to protect the forest around the Quijos and Cosanga Rivers, which ultimately flow into the Amazon drainage system.
The dense forest is also excellent wildlife habitat, home to many endangered species and also many endemic species not found anywhere else on earth.
Making change together
As part of Project PLAN, April connected the dairy farmers, non-governmental organization workers, and university personnel from UW Madison. The team discovered a win/win: a way for the farmers to make their existing fields more productive so that they could support their families without having to cut down any forest.
With assistance from the technical team from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the farmers designed their own experiments in their pastures to determine the best forage mixes (a forage mix is what farmers plant in their pastures for their cattle to graze). Better pastures allowed farmers to generate more milk on the same amount of land, which decreased pressure on the surrounding forests. Also, the farmers began rotational grazing, which further improved their pastures. The farmers were happy to try out these new practices, and were even happier with the results.
This more nutritious pasture for the cows allowed the protection of several hectares of secondary forest. Keeping more acres of forest uncut helped keep the watershed healthy and increased wildlife habitat.
The project continues
In June of 2019, April visited Last Palmas again to see how the dairy farms are doing. She was happy to discover that the farmers are still using the practices they learned during Project PLAN.
Sayler Erazo, one of the principal farmers involved, was able to remove 14 hectares of forest from production. On these 14 hectares, he replanted forest trees and allowed secondary forest to continue growing. Those 14 hectares are still forested today.
This project shows the power of working directly with local communities when trying to protect species and habitat. It’s often a long-term process, but the results are also long-lasting.
Is there more to do in Las Palmas?
While in Ecuador, Dr. Sansom also discovered an opportunity to assist a neighboring community to protect habitat. We’ll be sharing more about that project as it comes together.
For the past several months, we have been in Nepal, working to catalyze a new community-conserved wildlife corridor for tigers, elephants, and other species.
Historically, tigers and elephants were distributed throughout the lowlands of Nepal. Until the 19th century, a dense lavish green forest called “Charkose Jhadi” connected the southern forests of Nepal to the forests in India. Now there is poor connectivity between the forests and protected areas of India and Nepal, which presents a major threat to wildlife conservation.
Our primary goal is to create a viable corridor from Chitwan National Park in central Nepal to the eastern border of Nepal, so that wildlife can travel freely.
Making the corridor a reality
Working across this large landscape is a challenge, but the steps themselves are simple:
raising awareness of the corridor concept and wildlife conservation in southeastern Nepal, and asking community forest groups if they would like to participate
building the capacity of these groups to monitor wildlife in their forests by conducting trainings
creating a network of community forest groups who are coordinating wildlife management activities across the landscape
Meeting with Community Forest Groups
In this part of Nepal, local groups called “Community Forestry User Groups” work to manage and protect the forests they depend on for many resources, such as fuel wood and fodder.
At the end of May, our partners in Nepal met with ten of these groups who had expressed interest during our first trip to visit them. Happily, all ten groups have said that they want to be a part of the corridor and learn these wildlife monitoring skills.
The data the community forestry groups can collect would be extremely useful. Over time it will allow them to understand if wildlife in their forests is increasing or decreasing – information they need in order to make good wildlife management decisions.
Trainings are Underway
After meeting with the groups, we co-designed trainings for the people from the community forest groups to attend. Our partners in Nepal, Dr Dinesh Neupane, Dr. Arjun Thapa from SMCRF, and Birendra Mahato of Green Society Nepal, conducted two-day trainings with the community forest groups to introduce them to some basic wildlife monitoring techniques, including the use of camera traps.
Our community-based model is comprised of nine social stages. The stages progress as follows:
1. Initial discussions with community leaders and elders about the significance of their natural resources and realistic exploration of benefits that could be gained from conservation when voluntary and participatory (how rare are the species found here? what resources are currently being used by the community? is ecotourism possible? are organic agriculture methods an option in this area?)
2. Informal relationship-building in the community
3. Planning and executing participatory education(such as trainings and workshops)
4. The emergence of local conservation leaders(who often appear though the process of doing the trainings and workshops)
5. These local conservation leaders invoke support from fellow villagers(often, the majority of the village will support the effort)
6. Co-creation of a formal infrastructure and plans (examples: a community forestry area, or a new wildlife sanctuary where ecotourism replaces lost income from resource extraction)
7. The success of the new activities and lessons learned in the initial village spread through local networks of communication(e.g., hearsay; printed information from enlightened schoolchildren to their kin; inviting neighboring communities to visit the project; seminars and public events; informal and formal visits from target community members to other villages)
8. Interest in launching similar projectsspreads “horizontally” from the target village to other communities
9. Interest then spreads “vertically” through relationship-building, education, lobbying, and the desire to reproduce the project’s positive results for both the target species/habitats and the local communities (e.g., through governmental, non-governmental, regional, and international entities)
Dr. Teri Allendorf is working with communities to explore a new potential wildlife corridor in Nepal.
The vision: a corridor of safe habitat for large mammals and other wildlife, which will allow them to travel back and forth between large protected areas. This corridor would help many animals, including large iconic species like tigers and elephants, to thrive and increase their populations.
Dr. Allendorf has had productive meetings with community leaders in the area to assess whether communities would be interested in participating and learning about the issues that are important to them.
This type of conservation work takes time, but is ultimately the most impactful because local people are involved and co-leading the process from the very beginning.
The ten community forest groups that the team met with are interested in joining with this project and learning to identify and monitor wildlife species. Currently, we are waiting to hear back from communities on their suggestions for proceeding.
Dr. Teri Allendorf is currently in Nepal, searching for signs of the critically endangered pygmy hog and working with local mammalogists.
Local people have been finding small nests made by some mammal species, using fronds (which you can see in the photo above). Forest guards showed Dr. Allendorf the types of places they find these nests.
If signs of pygmy hogs living in this area are found, it will be an important discovery. Currently, pygmy hogs are thought only to remain in one limited area in India, with none remaining in Nepal. However, because the hogs are still found in adjacent landscapes in India and the correct habitat types exist in the study areas in Nepal, the nests are worth looking at closely.
So far, we haven’t found any definitive signs of pygmy hogs. However, while looking for pygmy hogs, we did see a nice pangolin burrow, which is a species of conservation concern. There are many awareness programs about pangolin conservation in Nepal, so hopefully they will be a conservation success story.
The work in Nepal hasn’t always been easy… vehicles and sandy dry river beds don’t always mix well. Thanks to our partners Birendra and Dinesh for the help getting us out!
Hopefully more possible pygmy hog nests will be found so we can help identify whether they were made by pygmy hogs, or some other mammal. If they are made by pygmy hogs, it would be exciting indeed! But as of now, the team has seen no definitive signs in this part of Nepal yet.
Dr. Allendorf is meeting with many interesting and impactful people during the search for pygmy hogs, as she works closely with communities in Nepal.
We are also happy to be partnering with Dr. Arjun Thapa from Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) and Birendra Mahato from Green Society Nepal.
The team also had the pleasure to meet Murti Devi Chaudhary, chair of the Mahila Jhatkhanda Community Forest in Saptari District, where the pygmy hog search is taking place. Women’s community forestry groups have a strong presence in Nepal but often receive less support and recognition.
While in Nepal, Dr. Allendorf is also working to connect communities and explore the possibility of a community-conserved wildlife corridor in the area. This is a continuation of the work Dr. Allendorf and Community Conservation’s late Founder Rob Horwich started years ago.
Stay tuned for more about the corridor in our next update!