1 Tahrcountry Musings: Wildlife Management- Lessons from Indigenous Community

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wildlife Management- Lessons from Indigenous Community

Canadian wildlife authorities recently learned that indigenous wisdom is often better than modern computations. 
For many centuries the Cree, an indigenous group of people living in the James Bay region of northern Quebec have lived in harmony with their environment taking what they need and nothing more. They hunt a variety of animals including beaver, bear, and moose, killing just enough to feed and clothe them.  

The Cree used to rotate the territories over which they hunt, and killed only adult animals. This ensured that the animal populations always remained stable. The Cree were the only people who hunted in the region.
In the mid 1980s, following pressure from sport-hunting and fishing groups, the Canadian authorities relented and granted access to the region to sports hunters. Wildlife managers also believed that the move would relieve the pressure on hunting grounds further south.

 Canadian authorities relied on aerial surveys to monitor moose numbers in hunting territories and were happy with their arrangements.

 By the late 1980s the Cree people became concerned about the moose numbers and told the authorities about their apprehensions. Using their time tested system of monitoring moose populations, based on moose sightings, tracks and faeces the Cree had detected a significant decline in population. The authorities’ cold shouldered the concerns and insisted that the moose population must be stable because the 'catch per unit effort' (average number of moose caught by hunters in a particular time period) had remained the same over the years.

 But by early 1990s the authorities were forced to concede that there indeed was a problem. It became very clear that a severe crash in population had occurred. The drop was a staggering 50%. The scientists conceded that opening the roads for hunting had opened up opportunities for the forestry sector as well, enabling them to clear cut the forest and leaving the moose with less cover to hide in. The moose became easy targets. Since 'catch per unit effort' remained stable, the authorities were lulled into a false sense of security.

 It became very apparent that the traditional methods of monitoring and managing moose, used by the Cree hunters, were a better measure of moose population. These methods rely on more variables and have a greater complexity the scientists grudgingly conceded.

 Today the Canadian wildlife authorities have learned their lesson. They work closely in tandem with the Cree, listening to what they have to say, and respecting their intimate knowledge of the environment.

1 comment:

Savitha Chandran said...

This is cool