„Dbon Tjang Pjak Yo – assessment of mammal species abundance in the traditional settlement area of the indigenous tribe Naso along the river Teribe (Ziegler, J. 2015)“

Abstract : The project named “Dbon Tjang Pjak Yo” was carried out by the Naso organization „ODESEN“ (Organizacion para el desarollo del Ecoturismo Naso) in cooperation with the german conservation organization „F.A.W.N. Deutschland e.V.“ (First Aid for Wonderful Nature) between August 2014 and August 2015. The name „Dbon Tjang Pjak Yo“ means „Jaguar project“ in the Naso language and refers to the jaguar as the apex predator and umbrella species among wildlife in Panama. The Naso organization ODESEN has been fostering cultural and ecological preservation over the past ten years. Odesen runs an ecotourism lodge named “Wekso” on the ruins of the old military jungle training camp called “Pana Jungla” in an agreement with the National Environmental Authority (ANAM). The organization serves as an entry for visitors to enter and explore Naso culture and the fauna and flora in the region. Using camera traps the objective of the project was to document diversity in mammal species, specifically feline species (panthera onca, puma concolor, leopardus pardalis, leopardus wiedii, puma yagouarundi) and endangered species occurring in the traditional Naso homeland along the Teribe river. Most important the motivation of this project was to deliver the Naso tribe a record of their natural richness and biodiversity which the tribe could utilize in their fight against further hydroelectric development and for cultural, geographical and political recognition.

The camera trap videos were also used to record activity patterns and to find out whether proximity of human settlements and activity had any influence on a species abundance, behavior and activity. The UNESCO has rewarded the Naso for their stewardship over the area. It was one of the objectives of this project to prove the value of this statement, to find out about possible conflicts and about the Naso`s role in protecting or diminishing wildlife populations. While areas inhabited by humans tend to suffer a loss in wildlife diversity it was questioned whether the Naso culture allows a more or less sustainable way of coexistence between wildlife and humans. Taking into consideration the close interaction of the Naso culture with their natural environment recording wildlife in their ancestral homeland also served to promote cultural identification. Local guides played the most important role for the projects execution. Their knowledge was highly valued throughout the project and showed future possible employment opportunities linking conservation work with financial compensation. Camera trapping videos were shown to local students to educate the students on wildlife species and more importantly to generate an empathic relationship with animal species fostering future local efforts in conservation, sustainable development and cultural identification. 

2114 trapping nights were accumulated over a time span of 293 days at 73 different sites in 10 areas. The project documented 25 medium to large sized mammal species including all 5 feline species of Panama as well as a population of the endangered Baird`s Tapir with a relative abundance index of 3,6 per 100 trapping nights. Further analysis of data revealed that some species such as the White lipped Peccary as well as the Baird`s Tapir do not tolerate human activity. Both species were present in the Shey region. While the camera trap videos were used to build empathy with wildlife among Naso school children we also questioned the Nasos influence on wildlife abundance as well as the tribe`s attitude towards the large feline species Jaguar and Puma.