As part of the outreach programme in South America, WDCS has partnered with the Natutama Foundation. They are a grass roots NGO based in Puerto Nariño, in the Colombian Amazon and work in close cooperation with a local indigenous community. Together, Natutama and WDCS are improving communication with local communities and creating a culture for conservation within them. This requires a long term shift in attitude and approach to wildlife and resources and a greater understanding of threats to them. It also needs involvement of the local community and a will to change behaviour patterns in order to conserve and protect wildlife and habitats.
The community-based conservation model developed by Natutama has resulted in some significant successes for wildlife conservation in the Puerto Nariño region. There is now an increased awareness and concern for more careful management of natural resources in the Amazon and an understanding of how this can benefit their own lives as well as the wildlife.
The location of this project in Puerto Nariño is important as it is on the border area between Colombia, Peru and Brazil. The potential to influence Amazon areas beyond Colombia is clear. WDCS and Natutama are currently exploring opportunities for working with communities living near the border in Peru and Brazil where there are huge threats to wildlife (including hunting river dolphins and manatees). It is an area of great natural beauty and is home to many important natural resources.
Our experiences working in Puerto Nariño over the last few years have shown us that locally-led conservation actions are clearly a very effective way of ensuring Amazon habitats and ecosystems are sustained and protected. In the long term we would like to roll out this community based conservation model throughout the Amazon region. In this manner, WDCS and Natutama can help instill a culture of conservation within the communities, not only for the short term, but for many generations to come.
Some of the key project activities include:
• Promote conservation values and practice with children and their communities through regular educational outreach work.
• Facilitate the preservation of traditional knowledge of animals and plants through education amongst indigenous populations
• Deliver regular community events to promote the heritage and sustainability of the Amazon
• Increase independence of fishermen and educators to forge a culture of conservation among local communities and visitors to the area
• Develop leadership amongst local educators and fishermen
• Deliver conservation messages and strategies through local tourism
WDCS also partners with the Omacha Foundation in Colombia. Omacha is a well-established national NGO with an Amazon conservation programme. Omacha was instrumental in organizing the 1st workshop in Bolivia in order to create the regional Action Plan for South American River Dolphins. They play an important role in networking with others throughout the region working on river dolphin conservation. Omacha’s main focus involves working with NGOs and individuals to develop national action plans for river dolphins in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.
Educational and well managed river dolphin watching schemes are also of particular importance to the organization. Not only does it provide a way for Amazonian communities to generate income from tourism, it also provides more incentives for the governments to implement conservation policies for river dolphins throughout the region.
Omacha also promotes sustainable fishing practices in the Amazon through the negotiation of fisheries agreements with communities and local authorities. There is a serious danger of habitat degradation and the ultimate collapse of important fisheries throughout the region. Their aim is, therefore, to promote sustainable fishing and to conserve the fisheries in the Amazon for many years to come.