Pemon perspectives of fire management in Canaima National Park, Venezuela

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Abstract

Recent research on the ecology of fire has challenged the view that the use of fire by indigenous peoples is detrimental to ecosystems and wildlife in protected areas. However, in Canaima National Park and World Heritage Site in southeastern Venezuela, since 1981 managers have employed a costly fire control program to eliminate savanna burning by the Pemon indigenous people. Here I present the results of the first study on Pemon perspectives of fire management in the park. I show that savanna burning is an important tool in indigenous land management and plays a key role in preventing large catastrophic fires. Pemon knowledge of fire also raises questions about conventional interpretations of environmental change in the park. Lastly, I recommend a fire management policy that seeks to integrate local ecological knowledge. This will require: (a) greater openness from scientists and resource managers to understanding Pemon rationale for the use of fire, (b) clarification among the Pemon themselves of their own views of fire, and (c) research partnerships among scientists, resource managers and the Pemon in order to encourage understanding of Pemon ecological knowledge of fire, and to assess its true impact in the Canaima National Park.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-343
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Ecology
Volume35
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007

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