04/05/2018 : Conservation of the biodiversity in tropical forest through the sustainable coexistence between man and animals in Gabon from 2009 to 2014.
Com o Dr. Juichi Yamagiwa (University of Kyoto - Japan).
Juichi Yamagiwa is the 26th President of Kyoto University. He is a world-renowned researcher and expert in the study of primatology and human evolution. He was awarded Doctor of Science from Kyoto University in 1987. After holding positions at the Karisoke Research Center, Japan Monkey Center, and Primate Research Institute Kyoto University, he has been Professor of Graduate School of Science at Kyoto University since 2002. He was Dean of Graduate School and Faculty of Science from 2011 to 2013 and has been a member of the Administrative Council of the University from 2012 to 2013. Dr. Yamagiwa has also served as President of International Primatological Society from 2008 to 2012, and as the Editor in Chief of Primates, a quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal of primatology published by Springer Science+Business Media from 2010 to 2014. In Japan, he serves as the president of Science Council, the president of the Association of National Universities, and the member of Environmental Policy Committee of Ministry of Environment. Dr. Yamagiwa’s passion for fieldwork research frequently made him travel to Africa, such as Rwanda, Republic of the Congo, and Gabonese Republic, where he discovered an abundance of new findings related to gorillas, through his unique viewpoint of evolution.
The Role of Primatology in Conservation of Biodiversity
The Japanese primatologists contributed to conservation of primates and their habitats from the beginning of their fieldwork in 1948. Based on the appeals of the Primate Research Group, the Japanese Government legislated Japanese macaques at several habitats as national treasure and included their habitats in the National Reserves and Parks. After the establishment of the Primate Society of Japan (PSJ) in 1985, the president of PSJ had routinely sent letters to the central and local governments to demand that stronger conservation measures be taken for the Japanese macaques.
At Yakushima, our study site was included in the National Park in 1964. But the level of protection was low and logging was not restricted. We formed a group of primatologists and demanded repeatedly that the protection level of our study site be raised. We also organized several NGO’s with local citizens to consider the appropriate way of achieving conservation with local development. Our study site was included in the first level of protection and hunting was prohibited in 1982. The high-level protected area (21% of forest), including our study site, was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.
However, despite our conservation efforts and habituation methods without provisioning, crop damage by macaques increased at Yakushima. The farmers tried a variety of methods to keep the macaques away from cultivated fields. But they were not successful and the local governments decided to shoot the macaques. We discussed with farmers the best methods to keep them away without killing them. Kagoshima University and Kyoto University made a joint project to examine a new system of protection using an animal sensor. We organized international and national symposia to discuss the problems of crop damage by macaques with the local government and local farmers. Primatologists and university students made a population census and estimated the number of macaques surviving in the coastal area including all cultivated fields at Yakushima. Furthermore, we protested the decision of Kagoshima Prefecture to expand a road in our study site in 1993. This plan would have damaged the forest and prevented the vertical distribution of plants and the movements of animals. Many local people joined our protest and supported us, and finally Kagoshima Prefecture decided to suspend the project in 1998.
Human pressure also increased in the habitats of the great apes. Deforestation, cattle encroachment, and hunting for bush-meat have posed a large threat to wildlife everywhere. Itani and Nishida requested that the Tanzanian government create a national park at Mahale to protect chimpanzees in their natural habitats and demanded the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The Mahale Mountain area was designated as the eleventh Tanzanian national park in 1985. Moreover, the Japanese primatologists played important roles in the establishment of the Luo Scientific Reserve at Wamba in DRC for the protection of bonobos, the Ndoki National Park in Congo for the protection of gorillas and chimpanzees and the Kalinzu Reserve in Uganda for the protection of chimpanzees.
I had learned from Dian Fossey that continuous conservation efforts and long-term field studies were vital to supporting a healthy population of gorillas at Karisoke Research Center. But her murder in 1985 also taught me the importance of harmonious relationships with the local human community; although it was the most effective way to save gorillas at that time, her “active conservation” provoked the hostility of local people.
When I resumed my fieldwork on wild gorillas in eastern DRC in 1986, I tried to extend my lessons and experience at Karisoke to the new study sites. I implemented two policies in my research project: 1) to conduct long-term studies with Congolese scientists, and 2) to raise the awareness of local people on the need to conserve gorillas and their natural habitats. Fortunately, I became associated with two gifted colleagues, and joined the establishment of an NGO called POPOF (Pole Pole Foundation), consisting of people living near the park, as an external adviser in 1992. I thought that the most important requirement for research on gorillas and thus their conservation was to work with local people, since the major obstacle to achieving conservation was conflict: conflict between gorillas and humans and conflict between groups of people in struggles for life.
POPOF tried to mitigate the increased conflicts between the local people and the park authorities. A tree nursery, a handicraft center and a school for women and children were established for community-based conservation education. POPOF played an important role in the spread of conservation knowledge and in the reduction of poaching during the civil war in 1996 and 1998. I established POPOF-Japan (a branch office in Japan) in 1994 to support the activities of POPOF in Kahuzi. We invited the members of POPOF to Japan to participate in several conferences and symposia on conservation of natural environments and eco-tourism in 2001. They visited Yakushima and discussed community-based conservation in the World Heritage Sites with guides and local NGOs.
Ecological anthropology has also played an important role of conservation. Although it has so far developed as a human ecology in a broad sense, it has come to include the scope of conservation. It is now regarded as a combination of the three types of ecology, namely cultural ecology, historical ecology and political ecology. The first ecology seeks to understand how and to what extent the hunter-gatherers depend on the central African forest. It is important to describe their unique forest culture in detail and to shed light on the relationship between their culture and the forest environment. The second ecology aims to interpret the ecological system of an area as the interdependence between humans and nature with a long history of interactions. We should evaluate positive effects of human activities on forest conservation. The third ecology attempts to elucidate the relations between the microscopic aspects of the lives of forest people and the community of the broader world, in particular their relations with macro-level political and economic systems. The forest people are not just a group of vulnerable people buffeted by the raging waves of globalization, by forces such as the market economy, destruction of the environment, and nature conservation movements. It is necessary to understand how the forest people are coping with these forces and to identify the ways in which they can maintain their autonomy.
It is important to increase the participation of rural populations in forest conservation and management. This may activate local economies and act as a brake on the migration of people and their heavy reliance on bushmeat. Although eco-tourism is a promising method for sustainable use of natural resources in the protected area, habituation of great apes may increase the risk of disease transmission from human to apes and may weaken the viability of their population. Due to the genetic proximity of non-human primates to humans, transmission of animal-borne diseases to humans is also becoming a great risk when a number of primates are put on sale. Interdisciplinary studies between natural and social sciences are urgently needed to establish peaceful and safe relationships between human and non-human primates.
Based on these recent knowledge and requests on conservation, I have conducted the SATREPS Project on “Conservation of the Biodiversity in tropical forest through the sustainable coexistence between Man and Animals in Gabon from 2009 to 2014. I will introduce it briefly and would like to consider with you on the appropriate conservation strategies of biodiversity in tropical forests.