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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Campaigning for Partnerships in Harpy Eagle Conservation Amongst Indigenous Communities in Panama
José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research    ShareTo spend a day traveling by boat or on foot in Panama’s Darien is always an experience to be savored. Andrew Heath and I spent two fantastic weeks there, visiting all 12 villages of the Sambu Shire to campaign for support of a cooperative agreement between the Embera and Wounaan people and The Peregrine Fund.

Signing formal partnership with an <br />Embera/Wounaan community leader.
Signing formal partnership with an
Embera/Wounaan community leader.
We established formal contact with the Embera and Wounaan communities early in 2001. Until now, their participation has been limited to finding the nests of Harpy Eagles and other raptors, and some field assistance.

We established formal contact with the Embera and Wounaan communities early in 2001. Until now, their participation has been limited to finding the nests of Harpy Eagles and other raptors, and some field assistance.

Our current efforts directly integrate the indigenous people of Darien in research so that they learn about the natural history of the eagles, protect them, and teach their knowledge to others. We are convinced that combining indigenous and scientific knowledge is indispensable for the conservation of the Harpy Eagle and other birds of prey.

Our new objectives also include a training program for field research technicians and an educational program that incorporates Embera and Wounaan cultural values and builds upon these to generate long-lasting positive attitudes towards raptors and their conservation. A project of this kind necessitates a formal written commitment from both parties.

Embera/Wounaan woman and child.
Embera/Wounaan woman and child.
The traditional Embera and Wounaan political structure requires that the approval of an agreement be a multi-step process involving an initial consent by the general authorities (which they have already granted us), then by the local authorities (heated but fruitful debates in two different villages that lasted endless hours of swatting mosquitoes), and finally by the general populace (a meeting that will include more than 600 people). We are preparing for this last “mass” meeting, traveling and engaging people to explain our activities and goals. This is our campaign; we must gain their support.

From our past experience of meetings in the villages, and from what I have seen during this trip, the main meeting will prove to be a staggering challenge! Meanwhile, Andrew and I enjoyed the exuberant wildlife and vegetation of Darien, and learned a bit more about the Embera culture. This is how an Embera elder came to teach us their name for the Harpy Eagle: Neumiajú (pronounced: Neh-oo-mee-ah-hoo).

To be continued . . .


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