Brazils Pantanal, a vast wetland situated in the center of South America, has become the next frontier for leading-edge eco-tourists in search of ever more exotic flora and fauna. "Its where people go after theyve been to Africa," says Shannon Bouton, a Ph.D. student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan.
This month, Bouton is publishing the results of her unique study of a wading bird colony in the Pantanal in the February issue of Conservation Biology, the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. The article, co-authored with Peter C. Frederick (University of Florida), is titled "Stakeholders Perceptions of a Wading Bird Colony as a Community Resource in the Brazilian Pantanal." Unlike other research projects that consider only the biological effects of tourism, Bouton has combined her biological research with a study of how the colony serves as a resource for the local community. Her practical suggestions for meeting the twin goals of managing and developing tourism and conserving the colony have attracted the attention of top government officials and diplomats in Brazil and have made her study site at Porto da Fazenda a model for similar efforts in the region.
Today, as a result of those suggestions, local forestry police have posted a guard in front of the colony to control the behavior of tourists and fishermen. A local conservation group, Associação Ecológica Melgassense (AMEC) has established a staffed observation post that is occupied year-round to protect the birds and the forest. AMEC trains young people from the community as guides to take tourists along newly constructed trails at a safe distance from the colony and runs workshops for local children and adults so that everyone is aware of the biology of the birds, their importance to the community and how to behave so as not to disturb them.
Judy Steeh | EurekAlert!
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