Expedition launched to expand knowledge of Colombian Amazon’s biodiversity

By Ovidio Castro Medina

La Chorrera, Colombia, Jan 27 (EFE).- An expedition aimed at discovering new species and identifying productive and sustainable biodiversity-based alternatives has gotten under way in the Colombian Amazon, a region sealed off from science for decades by the nation’s longstanding armed conflict.

The “Bio, Alto Rio Igara-Parana” expedition, a collaboration between the Colombian government’s Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and the Amazonian Scientific Research Institute (Sinchi), will focus its efforts on the vast and remote southeastern department of Amazonas.

“The Amazon is a high-priority region due to its great environmental importance for Colombia and the world,” Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Arturo Luna told Efe, recalling that his department earmarked nearly 400 million pesos ($89,000) to fund the expedition.

He was among those on hand on Thursday to inaugurate the expedition in La Chorrera, Amazonas, an indigenous territory located in the heart of the jungle and near the Igara-Parana River, a tributary of the Putumayo River.

La Chorrera is home to a natural reserve inhabited primarily by members of the Witoto, Bora, Ocaina and Miraña indigenous communities.

It also is known for serving at the start of the 20th century as the headquarters of Casa Arana, a rubber company run by Peruvian businessman Julio Cesar Arana that forced the indigenous people of that area to work as slaves under brutal conditions.

The story of Casa Arana is told in Peruvian-born Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s 2010 novel “El sueño del celta” (The Dream of the Celt) through the eyes of Sir Roger Casement, an Irish nationalist who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat and documented the atrocities perpetrated against the native population.

Referring to the role indigenous communities will play in the months-long expedition, Luna said “no one knows this territory better than the communities themselves … they even (have more knowledge) than the researchers.”

He added that they will be able to draw on their connection to the region and its wildlife dating back centuries to guide the scientists to the places inhabited by different species of fish, mammals and other animals.

All of that knowledge will help with obtaining “highly valuable information for conducting research on the country’s biodiversity,” the minister said.

For her part, Sinchi Institute Director Luz Marina Mantilla told Efe the expedition will be an opportunity to conduct a thorough cataloging of the area with the assistance of local residents.

She also noted that it would mark the beginning of “an exchange … between traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge. We have 15 researchers here today from Sinchi, and 19 with the indigenous researchers,” who she said were trained to carry out specific tasks based on the particular expertise they possess of the area.

Mantilla said the researchers are conducting their work in partnership with the Zonal Association of Indigenous Councils and Traditional Authorities of La Chorrera (Azicatch).

The expedition will look to fill in existing gaps in researchers’ knowledge of strategic areas of the Colombian Amazon and contribute to building an inventory of the country’s biodiversity through biological collections, as well as bridging the divide between scientific knowledge and the traditional knowledge of the Ocaina, Bora, Muinane and Witoto indigenous peoples. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button