Wild spaces. Wildly vulnerable.
April 18, 2023
The list of wild things in the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is long.
Sure, I have seen the turtles (cute as they are), and revered the crocodiles (from the safety of the boat), and heard the monkeys (howling from the treetops). But, the list of wild things in the Bosawás I have never seen is far longer.
I have never seen a jaguar. Or a sloth, or a howler monkey or an anteater. Though we have heard speak of all of the above from those who have patrolled the forests and lived in the midst of its wild things for generations.
And what we hear (and what studies confirm) is that the numbers of many species have drastically reduced over time. Jaguars, for example, need large spaces to hunt and their presence (or absence) can serve as a signal of the state of the larger forest. Human encroachment and illegal slash and burn means a depleting forest, and with it, depleted natural prey, depleted biodiversity.
Tropical forests like the Bosawás, with their wildlife and their wild spaces, cover roughly 10 percent of the Earth’s land but are host to at least half of all living species. For the Indigenous Peoples who live amongst their majesty, such forests are also the source of livelihoods and the foundation of cultural identities.
As forests are over-extracted, protected areas are violated, and wildlife habitats are devastated, the critical role of rainforests as habitat for endangered species does not dissipate in step. The need to absorb carbon dioxide does not decrease; the importance of producing rainfall all around the planet does not drop, and the necessity for the production of oxygen – the very air we breathe for our survival – does not diminish.
And yet, the interest of outside agencies to preserve and protect the biodiversity of the Bosawás – the largest tract of tropical forest outside the Amazon – has waned. Miskito Indigenous forest rangers once acknowledged as stewards and protectors of the land and tasked with patrolling, protecting, and preserving the richly biodiverse territory are no longer funded or supported by the government. In the absence of enforcement and investment, the Bosawás and its inhabitants, its wildlife and its wild spaces, are left wildly vulnerable.
Despite the formal acknowledgement of the land and resource rights of the Indigenous inhabitants, the rights of the Miskito and Mayagna peoples to benefit economically and spiritually from their lands go largely unrespected by encroaching settlers, extractive industry, and government agencies. Threats to the land they call home threatens to render irrelevant the very rights that have been exercised, granted, and achieved.
We all share a common interest with the Indigenous people who call the Bosawás home: conservation of the wild spaces that secure not only community livelihoods and cultural identity, but that are also crucial for the future of the planet for all people. And, left unchecked, despite formal designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve, it has been estimated that over 30% of the Bosawás reserve has been cleared.
Without preservation support in critical areas such as the Bosawás, a loss of biodiversity at the hands of forest destruction and the ongoing threat of climate change looms over all life on Earth
And while here in Canada, we tend to both rely on and respect park rangers to carry out conservation activities, in the absence of such programs in the Bosawás, resourced locals with knowledge, training, a conservation strategy, and necessary support could fulfill this role.
While endangered species face disappearance, bird migration patterns alter, and climate changes, the people dedicated to their land, their history, their territory, remain. Your support of a well-managed Indigenous Forest Ranger program brings the Jaguar back to the Bosawás. It brings some protection back to the planet.
Bosawas Central America and the Caribbean Climate Change In The Field Indigenous Peoples Nicaragua