|Cesar and Marcos spot a tractor in the distance, part of the
machinery Merry's cooperative has brought into the park
to facilitate mining. Such heavy machinery is illegal in
Madidi, unless an environmental license has been granted.
|During a workshop with park guards to discuss the role
of science and research in the region, they show me a
ceramic piece they found while on patrol, and attempt to
find its likeness in a book on archeology in Bolivia.
|Now two years into the Monitoring Programme, Karen is
training the park guards to input their monitoring records
into an Excel database, and then to analyze and write up
the information to be used as a management tool.
|Park guards measuring the volume of water
that Madidi produces. This is the indicator
that they are most passionate about, mainly
because declining water levels is a concern
of local communities as well.
One indicator that they are especially passionate about is that of water levels, which they measure with scientific precision, even in freezing cold, quickly running waters. They are eager to show the local communities how the water levels are decreasing in areas where out-of-control fires from slash-and-burn farming have eroded landscapes, something they’ve observed over the years, both as locals living in the region and as park guards. As one of the park guards said during a meeting earlier in the week with Karen, “There’s no point in collecting this information if we aren’t going to disseminate and use it.” But in many ways, the programme is still in its infancy, and its utility for management and community relations has yet to be demonstrated.
As the rain poured down and we huddled ever closer together, I thought what an interesting mix we made – two park guards, two scientists, one miner. Arguing, laughing, shivering, snoring, cuddling. We were all in that truck for different reasons, we’d all been brought to the region for different purposes, but in the end we were all just trying to do our best with the roles we had taken on, and see how they fit together along the way.