Pemon perspectives of fire management in Canaima National Park, Venezuela

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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 pages123
JournalHuman Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007

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