What harm can a simple road do in a pristine place such as Ecuador's Yasuni National Park, home to peccaries, tapirs, monkeys and myriad other wildlife species? A great deal, it turns out.
Specifically, it can turn subsistence communities into commercial hunting camps that empty rainforests of their wildlife, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the IDEAS-Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador have found.
A study by WCS field scientists in the park found that the presence of a single road in a protected area and the subsidies provided by oil companies to local people can fundamentally change how indigenous communities use their resources by providing both access to deeper parts of the forest and a cheap means of getting meat to nearby wildlife markets.
The study appears in the most recent issue of the journal Animal Conservation."We've found that a road in a forest can bring huge social changes to local groups and the ways in which they utilize wildlife resources," said WCS and USFQ researcher Esteban Suárez, lead author of the study. "Communities existing inside and around the park are changing their customs to a lifestyle of commercial hunting, the first stage in a potential overexploitation of wildlife."
In the study, WCS scientists measured the levels of wild meat sold in a market in Pompeya, located about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) outside Yasuni National Park, between the years 2005-2007. The study also examined the effects of a road constructed in 1992 by oil company Maxus Ecuador Inc. that traverses more than 149 kilometers (92 miles) into the protected area.
Between the years of 2005 and 2007, the researchers recorded more than 11,000 kilograms (24,000 pounds) of wild meat moving through the Pompeya market each year. While the amount of wild meat recorded in the study is still small with respect to other markets, the levels of recorded wild meat sold in Pompeya increased significantly over the study period, rising to over 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of meat per market day in 2007 from approximately 150 kilograms (330 pounds) per market day in 2005.
The majority of animals brought in by hunters were pacas (mid-sized Amazonian rodents), white-lipped peccaries, collared peccaries, and woolly monkeys comprising some 80 percent of the total biomass monitored.
Of the totals recorded at the market, more than 69 percent of the wild meat purchased in Pompeya was bound for restaurants and other markets in other towns, one of which was 234 kilometers (145 miles) away from the first market. Middlemen consistently increased the price of wild meat by up to 60 percent of the original cost paid to hunters. Secondary markets sell wild meat at prices up to two times the average prices of domestic animal meat.
Suarez and his co-authors warn that extractive initiatives in protected areas and wild lands require new governance systems with an emphasis on local participation and increased sensitivity on how development affects the social dynamics of indigenous groups.
John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Animal Conservation > Conservation Science > WCS > Wildlife Conservation > Wildlife Conservation Society > indigenous communities > monkeys > oil extraction > overexploitation of wildlife > peccaries > road construction > social change > tapirs > wildlife markets > wildlife pipeline
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