My friend James and I, had always maintained that local ecological knowledge (LEK) has a great place in the wildlife mangers’ repertoire. We very effectively demonstrated this in Eravilulam National Park, but there were not many takers for our views on wildlife management. In fact many a times we were jeered, for our pro-indigenous community slant. Against this context, I was pleasantly surprised to read a recent paper in Biological Conservation by Turvey ST, Fernández-Secades C, Nuñez-Miño JM, et al Is local ecological knowledge a useful conservation tool for small mammals in a Caribbean multicultural landscape?, highlighting the importance of LEK.
The authors were studying the ecology and behavior of Hispaniolan solenodon () and the Hispaniolan hutia (). Very little is known about the status, behavior and threats faced by these animals. To their surprise and delight, the researchers found that local people had a wealth of useful information about both species, and were able to identify them from photographs and even identify causes of death. The scientists were bowled over by the LEK.
The researchers write "Our results demonstrate that LEK can represent an important conservation tool for determining status and threats for a much wider range of species than the large-bodied charismatic or economically significant taxa that have been the primary research focus of most previous interview-based studies,"
So, doubting toms of the forest department go ahead and read the paper and include the views of the indigenous communities in your management plans. It is the most cost effective way of getting to know about your area, on par with scientific research.
Biological Conservation, Volume 169, January 2014, Pages 189–197