Crisis in French Guiana
Update, October, 2007: Two
historic conservation measures achieved in
French Guiana, protecting tapirs and
December 2006: Interview
with Pierre Forget on mangabay.com, outlining current environmental
crisis situation in French Guiana.
October, 2005: We
received some disturbing photographs from our TSG colleagues of
bushmeat for sale in the supermarket in Cayenne, French
Guiana. This South American country is an overseas department of
France and operates under France's wildlife laws, the latter which
do not actually recognize the tapir or peccary as protected species.
of the tapir in Northern French Guiana
By Benoit de Thoisy, TSG, French Guiana
|Free map of French Guiana courtesy
Wikipedia.com/CIA World Fact Book
The Guayana shield has been identified as an
area of high priority for conservation. Development and urbanization
in Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana have been historically restricted
to the coastal zones. The forests in the central and southern parts
of these countries have remained largely intact, providing one of
the last opportunities for the conservation of their biological
diversity, natural resources and human cultures through the establishment
of protected areas and sustainable development.
Located on the Eastern French Guiana is a French
administrative unit, covered by one of the largest remaining blocks
of Neotropical Rainforest with one of the lowest recorded rates
of deforestation in the world. Indeed, over 90% of the French Guiana
territory belongs to the government, which guarantees the protection
against large-scale private
deforestation initiatives, and explains the rather
good forest status in comparison with neighboring countries. Nevertheless,
the country still suffers from lack of political enforcement towards
conservation of natural resources. Only a small portion of the forest
is under strict legal protection, with less than 3% of the territory
classified as nature reserves. Wildlife conservation is restricted
to a few decrees of protection of some species; and to date still
no legal regulation of hunting is in course. Due to this quasi complete
lack of biodiversity management, direct threats on habitats and
species are increasingly growing with burgeoning logging activities
in the north of the country, as well as commercial and subsistence
hunting. In the center and southern regions, gold mining pressure
is increasing dramatically, eroding and
polluting watercourses, and creating an increasing
pressure on game species.
|Horrible proof that tapir poaching
occurs frequently in French Guiana: hunters discard a tapir
Logging is prevalent in a 70-km-wide forest
in the north of the country; logging roads and tracks provide uncontrolled
accesses for hunters to pristine forests, and significantly fragment
the habitats even though logging is still highly selective. The
patterns of fragmentation and hunting limit the possibilities for
restocking logged areas: the current management of logged forests
is unable to efficiently protect wildlife, with no plans for corridors,
refuges, source areas, etc.
The tapir is a major source of protein for traditionnal communities.
In French Guiana, it is also a marketable species, and represents
the largest part of bush meat legally sold in restaurants. This
activity is highly lucrative, and together with depletion of fauna,
it induces strong interethnic stress by intrusion of commercial
hunters in harvest areas of local communities.
We recently quantified hunting pressure in 4 sites in the North
of the country, where catchment areas are shared by several communities.
The "off-take model" (maximal threshold for tapirs: 3%
of the population) was used to assess the sustainability of the
harvest, and showed that in three of the four sites, the observed
off-takes were beyond maximal thresholds: the harvest of tapir may
not be sustainable.
is still a marketable species in French Guiana ... we are
working on [putting a stop to] this. At the same time, this
is what I found in the newly opened first hypermarket of Cayenne.--Benoit
de Thoisy, French Guiana,
Nevertheless, some large and pristine forest areas are remaining
in French Guiana, and should provide a unique opportunity to conduct
field surveys in remote populations. But the tapir is also more
and more vulnerable, and an active conservation plan has to be urgently
undertaken. Together with technical studies on the field, important
components of our action included educative and lobbying activities.
Awareness is developed in schools, with conferences, boards, didactic
games. At the legal level, initiatives are in course with politics,
habitat managers, local communities, hunters, tourism operators,
to remove the species from the list of game and marketable wildlife,
old laws and definition of harvest quotas are in the process of
revision and should be updated. First modifications of regulations
are expected in 2006.
For more information, please read:
Forget's article in Tropicnet, Jan, 2006 (1.5 Mb PDF)
online blog discussing the bushmeat crisis in FG (links off