Well, I’ve had some ‘feedback’ from some of my professional peers regarding my blogs: ‘Gee Dan, so good of you to sell out on your research in favor of war stories from the trenches!?’ OK – well, I guess the blogs were just a lot of fun to write so far (and hopefully just as much fun to read?) So here is one a little bit different from my prior blogs, that highlights a recent manuscript that was published by my colleagues and I.
Imagine a pristine and lush rainforest that has been virtually un-infiltrated by post-Colombian civilization. Does such a place exist? And if so, how has it maintained its unexploited state after all this time? Such a region in fact does exist. In the Department (state) of Amazonas, Peru, the territory north of the vast Marañon River is perhaps one of the few, if not only, final frontiers remaining on our planet. A true ‘Garden of Eden’ where people and wildlife live in harmony and the pristine habitat remains relatively unmolested.
The indigenous Aguaruna are perhaps one of the last indigenous communities to be ‘transitioned’ by Missionaries, despite years of attempt. Indeed, the Aguaruna are one of the groups that tend to be more reactionary to transition, resorting to rituals such as making Tsantas (shrunken heads) of their conquered adversaries. Remarkably, these ‘noble savages’ are at total peace with nature. While many indigenous cultures manage their natural resources in a highly sustainable fashion, the Aguaruna go one step further, revering the wildlife with which they share the region, with much of their folklore and culture revolving around birds. In fact, the Aguaruna even practice the art of taxidermy with birds, using kapok (Ceiba pentandra) fiber instead of cotton.
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My colleagues and I have recently published a timely monograph on the incredible diversity of birds inhabiting the land of the Aguaruna: the Pongos Basin. We found an overwhelming number of more than 450 species representing over 50 different avian Families. It is highly probable that the incredible avian richness in the 66 plus sites sampled north of the Marañon River is in part due to the ‘noble savagery’ displayed by the Aguaruna, preventing development from encroaching upon their lands.
Care to check out the manuscript? Click here.
– DB, 5/14/08