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Introduction:

From 2017 until early 2020, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) collaborated closely with an NGO in Norther Bolivia to support conservation efforts within indigenous communities. The Bolivian Association for the Conservation of Andean & Amazonian Ecosystems (ACEAA) has extensive history with the people of the Tacana II Indigenous Territory, and sought expertise in engaging students and teachers in their conservation goals. We collaboratively developed a series of activities and curriculum-based projects that would be locally relevant and simple for teachers to implement in remote regions.

Objective:

One of our primary goals was to increase students’ knowledge about wildlife in order to reduce common misconceptions about forest species and resource use. The connectivity and interdependence of forest species was also a strong point of emphasis through our activities.

Methods:

Guided walks with ACEAA biologists were a significant element of this program because they built on students’ existing cultural knowledge of the forest while providing an expert guide to deliver factual information. In addition, activities focused on the concept of a food web gave new significance to animals or plants that are often perceived as only having value for human consumption. For instance, species commonly hunted by humans are also prey for jaguar, and may be seed dispersers for important trees. They also worked on design projects and interviewed members of the community about historical changes in biodiversity. As a summation of their experiences of the curriculum and activities, students created community fairs to share messaging with friends and neighbors.

Results:

All four schools fully participated in and followed through on the various activity elements selected for their part of the program. In addition, the wider communities participated in the learning process and were very receptive to the project. It was incredible to see the diverse representations of nature presented through the end of the year fairs‒from wildlife dramas to art projects, from speeches to original songs. Each student was encouraged to showcase their nature connection experiences in a way that was personally meaningful.

Conclusions:

The activities caused reflection and discussion around the sustainability of their use of natural resources, mainly fishing and hunting. Common practices, such as throwing trash on the ground instead of disposing of it, have been challenged by students who want to see their communities become healthier. Students are also finding unique ways to reuse the waste around their homes and repurpose it for positive uses.

Keywords:

Indigenous, Amazon, Coexist, Sustainable, Resources, Biodiversity, Knowledge, Traditional, Community, Activity

Peter Gilson

Presentation within symposium:

S-26 Learning together: opportunities and challenges of local communities, scientists and decision makers in conservation education

Engaging with indigenous Amazonian communities to promote coexistence with wildlife and sustainable harvest of natural resources

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