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New forest ranger corps activated in Nicaragua to combat illegal activity in Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve

Indigenous groups work with Global Wildlife Conservation and partners to protect local communities and critical wildlife habitat

For immediate release
October 28, 2015

Global Wildlife Conservation and partner Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, have teamed up with indigenous groups in Nicaragua to combat the illegal, expanding cattle ranching frontier and widespread poaching that is threatening wildlife habitat and indigenous communities. Newly trained teams of forest rangers were deployed this month and set off last week to monitor the Corn River area.

“If nothing is done, the natural reserve system in southeastern Nicaragua will be effectively destroyed by the invading ranchers within 10-15 years,” said Wes Sechrest, GWC chief scientist and CEO. “Throughout their history, the indigenous Rama and afro-descendant Kriol communities that inhabit and historically conserved this region have never dealt with a threat on the same scope or scale as the cattle ranching frontier. We are giving them the skills and equipment needed to systematically document the invasion, and working with them to develop strategies for using that rigorous data to halt the destruction.”

The Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve is a critical cog in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor for many rare species. It is one of the three most important regions in the world for the survival of the Endangered Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii). Yet nationally, more than 75,000 hectares of forest are cleared illegally in Nicaragua each year, with the majority of trees felled in Nicaragua’s two largest reserves, Bosawás and Indio-Maíz. Three additional protected areas have disappeared since 2000 in Nicaragua.

The majority of Indio-Maíz consists of the traditional lands of the Rama and Kriol people, and the cattle ranching invasion directly threatens their cultural survival and traditional livelihoods. Since earlier this year, GWC has been working with four select individuals in each of three areas (Indian River, Corn River and Graytown) to provide the training and tools they need to run a sustainable forest ranger program. The forest rangers will collect data to identify the places most severely threatened by cattle ranching, record environmental disturbances and ultimately help improve law enforcement.

“The territorial assembly of the Rama-Kriol territorial government is the maximum authority in the majority of the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve, and they directly represent the communities whose culture and food security are under threat by the advancing cattle ranching frontier,” said Armando Dans, GWC associate conservation scientist and Panthera grantee. “They have the final say in the reserve, have the most to lose, and are some of the most passionate conservationists in Nicaragua. It is both logical and ethical to ally ourselves with them, and work together to engage the regional and national level environmental authorities in this fight.”

This year GWC and Panthera have held a number of inter-institutional meetings in coordination with MARENA and the Ecologic Batallion to define the threats to the area, create a program database and develop plans for how the pertinent natural resource institutions will respond to data collected by forest rangers. GWC and Panthera have also equipped the rangers with the basic equipment the teams need for patrols, conducted field training with forest rangers in the Indian River area, and held a workshop to educate them on relevant environmental and indigenous laws and conventions. Three to six patrols will be deployed each month.

“This program is such a wonderful example of how local involvement in resource conservation can truly make a difference in the future health of ecosystems that are key to peoples’ survival,” said Sandra Hernandez, Panthera’s country coordinator for Nicaragua.

The Rama-Kriol Territorial Forest Ranger Program received generous funding this year from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders-Central America Program, a 2015 Disney Conservation Fund grant, a Global Forest Watch Small Grant, along with a Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Jaguar Research Grant from Panthera.

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Photo: GWC Associate Conservation Scientist Armando Dans trains forest rangers in the Indian River area. (Photo by Chris Jordan)

Global Wildlife Conservation
Global Wildlife Conservation protects endangered species and habitats through science-based field action. GWC envisions a world with diverse and abundant wildlife and are dedicated to ensuring that the species on the verge of extinction are not lost. The global organization brings together scientists, conservationists, policymakers and industry leaders to ensure a truly collaborative approach to species conservation. Learn more at www.globalwildlife.org

Contact Lindsay Renick Mayer, at lrenickmayer@globalwildlife.org, for additional information.

About the Author

Lindsay Renick Mayer

Lindsay Renick Mayer

Lindsay is the associate director of communications for Global Wildlife Conservation and has a particular interest in leveraging communications to inspire conservation action. Lindsay is passionate about species-based conservation and finding compelling ways to tell stories that demonstrate the value of all of the planet’s critters, big and microscopic.