Experts: ‘Include indigenous views in jaguar conservation’

From 25-29 October, 2021, the Royal Anthropological Institute hosted a major interdisciplinary conference on Anthropology and Conservation. Experts and partners of our project Operation Jaguar spoke about the importance of including local and indigenous views on jaguar conservation.

Header photo: Jaguar © Carlos Navarro

Jaguars are the largest feline of the American continent and a valuable symbol for many indigenous cultures. However, jaguars are increasingly endangered, primarily due to habitat loss, human wildlife conflicts and wildlife trade. Through our project Operation Jaguar, we want to combat the poaching and illegal trade of jaguars.

Current efforts to protect jaguars are predominantly informed and influenced by Western perceptions and scientifically rooted conservation approaches. Conservation organizations have often overlooked and failed to acknowledge the importance of local and indigenous views and knowledge on jaguars.

More than half of world’s biodiversity lies in indigenous territories

Biodiversity conservation can only be properly achieved through the inclusion and equal power allocation to all involved stakeholders. Since more than half of world’s biodiversity lies in indigenous territories, it is crucial to consult and integrate local Indigenous Peoples’ narratives and ecological knowledge to successfully protect ecosystems and cultural diversity.

Indigenous knowledge

A wealth of different worldviews inform conservationists and other stakeholders about the bond that traditional societies have cultivated with specific species and landscapes. Furthermore, it is important to understand the evolution of indigenous knowledge based on the environmental, economic and social changes that Indigenous Peoples have experienced in the last decades within their landscapes.

Culturally sensitive conservation strategies

The willingness to investigate and account for these local connections with the landscape is key to design culturally sensitive conservation strategies building healthy and respectful partnerships. The power of collaboration is ultimately what creates motivation to carefully protect our ecosystems.

Panel ‘The Power of the Jaguar’

During the RAI Anthropology and Conservation conference, experts and partners of Operation Jaguar participated in a panel called ‘The Power of the Jaguar’. In this panel, anthropologists,  conservationists, sociologists and filmmakers engaged in an open dialogue about fundamental principles and perspectives that are vital for the protection of jaguars with an active leadership role of local communities and indigenous peoples.

The output of this discussion helps us assess ways in which both social and ecological sciences and methodologies can mutually support each other in the protection of jaguars and connected human cultures.

Article in conservation journal Oryx

The international journal of conservation Oryx wrote an article following the panel on jaguar conservation in their March ’22 issue: ‘Multidisciplinary team highlights the importance of Indigenous and local communities for jaguar conservation’.

New understanding of jaguar conservation

Liliana Jauregui, senior expert environmental justice at IUCN NL and Lucia Guaita chaired the panel. Jauregui: ‘All knowledge, traditional or scientific and from different disciplines is needed in conservation. For this event, we had the privilege of bringing together a unique and diverse group which opened new avenues into the understanding of jaguar conservation, starting from the perception of traditional societies. They share both their forests and cultural spaces with jaguars.’

About the panel ‘The Power of the Jaguar’

The panel took place digitally on 28 and 29 October and included the following speakers:

  • Vanessa Kadosoe, NeoWild
  • Dr. Melissa Arias, University of Oxford
  • Maria Fernanda Puerto Carillo, Proyecto Sebraba
  • Dr. Barbara Arisi, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Dr. Glenn Shepard,Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi
  • Prof. Felipe Sussenkind, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Simon Velez Gonzalez, Canoa Films
  • Cristina Argudin Violante, University of Southampton
  • Dr. Lewis Daly, University College London

The panel sessions – respectively led by Dr. Silvio Marchini (University of São Paulo) and Dr. Anthony Cummings (University of Texas at Dallas) – addressed themes like the value of jaguars, the monitoring jaguars also through community engagement, and the role of anthropology in jaguar conservation.

More information about the conference can be found on the website of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Recordings of the panel sessions

Part 1

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Part 2

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Liliana Jauregui
Liliana Jauregui
Senior Expert Environmental Justice
Marc Hoogeslag
Senior Expert Nature Conservation