This project aims to monitor amphibian and reptile biodiversity during the stream restoration process to ensure that microhabitats remain to support population numbers. This project also has a secondary aim: in designing a conservation initiative based on a project that comes from within the community itself, we hope to foster more stakeholder collaboration and provide a platform in which the indigenous Maroons can be better heard as participants in the protected area designation process.
Twenty years ago, the stream near the Maroon village was a key water source for the community until a small group of Maroons attempted to turn the region into a fish pond which they hoped would serve as a tourist attraction. The stream became clogged and resulted in a marsh about one square kilometre. Last summer, an indigenous Maroon farmer, whose goats grazed in the area, noticed a turtle in the water. Becoming fascinated with the water source he approached me for help in restoring the stream and learning about the biodiversity. Another motivating factor is the increasing water shortages the community faces as the dry season gets longer (the community relies on rain water).
I had some camera traps and GoPros from my doctoral fieldwork; together, myself and two other farmer, decided to set them up around (and in, in the case of the GoPros) the stream to see what we could discover.
At first, we were underwhelmed with our findings. The villagers did not believe the farmer when he said there was a turtle in the stream. He was eager to garner interest in the project; he was also one of the village historians and a member of the Maroon Council and was therefore aware of the likely chance that conservation efforts would deny them access to their ancestral land.
We caught a glimpse (look very closely) of the turtle on camera. Villagers would come to the house I was staying in and ask to see the footage!
We have secured funding from Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund and Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust to monitor amphibian and reptile fauna (herpetofauna) that is in the stream. In particular we aim to:
The project, though separate, will feature on the Countermapping Cockpit GIS map - supported by National Geographic
Another result of this initiative is the creation of a community-based conservation NGO: Maroon Conservation Project.
Run by the farmer who first saw the turtle and a number of villagers, MCP will be able to bid for future conservation grants that will enable to them to carry on work of this nature. Formalising their efforts in this way allows for greater sharing of open-access data and gives indigenous Maroons a voice in future conservation efforts in the area.