Record Details

Henfrey, T. B.
Ethnoecology, Resource Use, Conservation And Development In A Wapishana Community In the South Rupununi, Guyana
University of Kent
Canterbury, England
Tapir Bibliography
Anthropological work in human ecology and ethnobiology supports the greater involvement of indigenous and other non-western peoples in development and conservation. However, there is still a shortage of data that can form the basis of practical action in these respects. A case study of Guyana confirms this, showing that debate over indigenous involvement in national development is largely rhetorical. Field research on Wapishana ethnoecology and cultural ecology was undertaken in Guyana over twenty-two months in 1997-1998 and 1999-2000. Wapishana people in Guyana collectively occupy a variety of habitat types within the forest-savannah ecotone, mostly maintaining subsistence based lifestyles which entail high levels of dependence on local biodiversity and ecological processes. There is evidence for regulation of human exploitation of the natural environment via symbolically encoded restrictions on behaviour. Wapishana hunters collectively demonstrated a broad and detailed knowledge of the ecology of several animal species and other aspects of the local ecology. Comparison of ethnoecological data with the ecological literature showed them to be largely compatible and correspond closely in detail. Limitations of the ethnoecological data set included incomplete lists of food species for particular animals, and a shortage of useful information in subject areas such as population dynamics and social behaviour. Ethnoecology thus can complement, but not replace, conventional scientific approaches to the study of ecology. Ethnoecology has current applications in subsistence, can generate hypotheses concerning human effects on local ecology relevant to management planning and amenable to testing by scientific methods, and also incorporates practical skills that can be applied to the collection of biological data. Wapishana thus have an interest in, and possess a body of skills and knowledge that may be applied to, biological conservation. Ethnoecology provides a methodology whereby equitable and mutually beneficial relationships may be formed between indigenous groups and the scientific community.