Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Webcam networks, indigenous people and land purchase as a tool for conservation

19 June, 2009 - 13:27 -- John Burton

Meetings all day in London on Wednesday. First a very productive meeting with the Director of BIAZA (The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and Finetra, our consultants and sponsors for the hummingbird webcam in Ecuador. We are developing a network of webcams that will show how WLT's funds are being spent, and the reserves are developing.

The webcam meeting was followed by a meeting with Marcus Colchester of the Forest Peoples Programme. This is an organisation that lobbies on behalf of indigenous communities, and has been involved with the indigenous community rights in Paraguay.

There is clearly a huge overlap of interests in conserving extensive areas of forests for wildlife, and also for the indigenous communities. But just as there are synergies, there are also some potential conflicts of interest between wildlife conservation and the self determination rights of indigenous communities. Ultimately these issues can only be resolved through dialogue and consultation, which is the reason why as a precondition to any land purchase the WLT asks that these issues be taken into account, and why the WLT is providing financial support to NGOs that work with indigenous communities.

The field of indigenous rights is fraught with problems, partly because even defining indigenous communities can be difficult, and their legal rights vary from country to country; but the WLT believes that respecting traditional rights can play an important part in the long term conservation of many parts of the world. However, it is very easy to over-simplify the issues -- and each country has different issues. In Uganda for instances there are more than 5 different forms of land tenure, while tribal rights are defined by blood lines and ancestry in the US, and in India, tribal rights are based on yet another system. But it is my personal belief, that ultimately, by working together, conservation of the natural resources and wildlife is achievable.

To learn more about WLT's approach to land purchase, local communities and the rights of indigenous people, see our new web page Land Purchase as a Tool for Conservation.

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