With support from local communities and indigenous peoples, scientists discover dozens of new species in Guyana’s rainforest

Biodiversity

This BBC article about the discovery of 30 species in the rainforests of Guyana takes special care to acknowledge the important contribution that local communities and indigenous peoples make to scientific discoveries such as these:

Without expertise and logistical support from local residents, navigating the remote Kaieteur National Park, the oldest protected area in the Amazon, and the Upper Potaro region would have been near impossible.

“People on the ground know a lot more than you going in [to the field],” says Ms Williams. “They know a lot about the area, the biodiversity, its uses… it is part of their lives and livelihoods.”

However, more could be done to widen participation in academic knowledge-making:

“Academics have used our knowledge of our lands and living things in them to promote themselves and the general science,” says Laura George, governance and rights coordinator of the Amerindian People’s Association in Guyana.

“It is time that they acknowledge indigenous peoples as the first and true scientists.”

One way to involve indigenous science, suggests Ms George, is to give space in official reports for local names, such as Camaliya, the word for Tepui swift in the Patamona language of Chenapau.

Another, she says, is providing more opportunities in higher education.

“While the report makes mention of residents who contributed to the expedition, there is no substantial sustainability to support indigenous peoples in being recognised or towards becoming ‘academic scientists’.”

“These researches must support outcomes that support and respect indigenous peoples as the true and first knowledge holders and the true protectors of the lands.”

Read more in the complete BBC article.

See also: a Global Wildlife Conservation press release about the biodiversity survey, and a WWF report [pdf] of the survey findings.

[Image credit: Andrew Snyder]

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