The project is based on the concept of conservation through sustainable use. Instead of spending large amounts of money on enforcement, the goal is to reduce illegal harvesting of crocodilians through legal and responsible management. The project focuses on empowering communities through capacity building, valuing traditional knowledge, and generating new biological and socioeconomic data to influence public policies
The Lake Cuniã reserve is a Brazilian federal sustainable use conservation unit, located in the state of Rondônia, western Brazilian Amazon.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Black alligator Melanosuchus niger , Caiman Caiman crocodilusProducts in trade
Meat and skins
Overview of the problem
Illegal harvesting was carried out by locals of the reserve as well as surroundings communities, primarily in revenge for human-wildlife conflict.
The anti-IWT initiative
The Coopcuniã cooperative, composed of Lake Cuniã reserve residents, is responsible for the project, which began in 2004. Coopcuniã receives technical support and advice from various federal and state government institutions, such as ICMBio, IBAMA and EMATER, plus universities.
Rather than spending a large amount of money on law enforcement, the goal of the project is to promote sustainable, legal and responsible management of crocodilians. The project is based on the concept of conservation through sustainable use, as the meat of Amazonian crocodilians fetches high prices in exotic meat markets, meaning the species are key economic resources to local communities. The project is also generating biological and socioeconomic data to influence wildlife protection policies that tend to be limiting for communities to generate income from wildlife.
Inclusion of gender, age and ethnic groups
Everyone in the communities has the same right to be part of the project. There are special incentives for youngsters to participate and, in 2019, there were about 100 people from the communities involved, of which 40% were women.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
The project aims to turn illegal harvesting into legal management.
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
A new Brazilian Federal Normative Instruction was introduced to improve the policy/regulatory wildlife management legal framework.
Decreasing the costs of living with wildlife
Legal harvest of problem animals.
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Providing equipment and a processing house for crocodilian meat in the community.
Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardshipFurther detail
A cooperative named Coopcuniã was established and managed by residents.
Improving education and awarenessFurther detail
The project focusses on empowering communities through capacity building, valuing traditional knowledge, and generating new biological and socioeconomic data to influence public policies
Has the initiative made a difference?
Before the project, crocodilians were perceived as a problem for the communities, meaning they were harvested illegally. Now they are seen as a resource and have become an icon for the reserve. Ultimately, attitudes towards habitat and species conservation have changed.
What works and why
Solutions to tackling illegal behaviour in the reserve must be led from the bottom-up, with communities deciding the best way forward. Once decisions are made, providing financial and technical support from external agencies is essential to achieving conservation goals.
Factors for success
Supportive national policy/legislation on sustainable use of natural resources
Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision
Clear and tangible benefits to local communities from wildlife (These may be financial and/or non-financial)
What doesn’t work and why
The main challenge is that the idea of conservation through sustainable use is based on profit, which means succeeding in the market place, so a robust commercial strategy is required in order to ensure project success.
Organisers, donors and partners
- Financial support provided by Biodiversitas Foundation
- Financial support provided the Brazil Bank Foundation to improve the crocodilian processing house
- Technical assistance provided by ICMBio, IBAMA and partner universities.
For further information contact Marcos E Coutinho (firstname.lastname@example.org).