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Case study:
Preserving wildlife, protecting cultures

Research impact case study: Preserving wildlife, protecting cultures

Pioneering research in the rainforests of Ecuador is playing a vital role in preserving wildlife and the culture of indigenous people by deterring potentially disruptive western industries.

Thanks to the intrepid fieldwork of our life sciences students and staff, new insect species have been discovered, hundreds of native birds and mammals have been recorded, and the community's ancient agricultural practices have been proven not to harm wildlife.

Professor Richard Preziosi
Professor Richard Preziosi

These vital discoveries have empowered the traditional Kichwa community in Payamino to continue their way of life, arming their local government with the evidence needed to discourage giant oil and gold companies intent on investigating in the region.

"Exploration could have a devastating effect on the community in Ecuador," explains Professor Richard Preziosi, chair of the Timburi research station.

"Our studies prove there is an urgent need for conservation, enabling local people to make a stand against rich industries and illegal hunting, something they did successfully with an oil company two years ago.

"The disruption caused by these events could wipe out the area's wildlife, and if modern western practices seep into the community, the people there risk losing their culture for good. We're helping to protect their way of life."

Since 2005 around 80 zoolology, plant science and genetics students a year have travelled to the remote tropical research station for scientific field placements. Permanently manned by the local Ecuadorian community and jointly managed by the University and Amazon State University, the solar-powered hut site is a two-hour truck drive and half-hour canoe ride from the nearest serviced town.

"Our studies prove there is an urgent need for conservation, enabling local people to make a stand against rich industries and illegal hunting."

Professor Richard Preziosi / Chair of the Timburi research station

Giant anteaters, pumas and jaguars are just a few of the large mammals to be identified by the University's camera trapping studies, with over 360 species of birds recorded and even an entirely new species of beetle discovered there.

As well as wildlife conservation, work at the site provides income to local people, which is, in turn, being invested in much-needed medical services and equipment, school supplies and water filtration systems.

According to the Payamino community president in a recent letter, the station is 'a thriving community project that has helped to keep oil companies and illegal meat hunting at bay, while enabling the community to preserve their culture'.

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