Canadian caribou are coming back thanks to Indigenous-led stewardship
Canadian caribou populations are largely in decline, having dropped to almost half of their historic levels. But a herd in British Columbia is thriving thanks to Indigenous conservation efforts, as a study by Western and Indigenous scientists shows.
“This work provides an innovative, community-led paradigm shift towards conservation in Canada,” says lead author Dr. Clayton Lamb, “While Indigenous peoples have long actively managed landscapes, this approach is novel. at the level of collaboration among Western scientists and Indigenous peoples to create positive outcomes on the earth and put an endangered species on the path to recovery.”
Indigenous communities make up just under 5% of the world’s population, but they are responsible for protecting 80% of the world’s biodiversity and far more land than is covered by national parks and forests. Not only do Indigenous communities have a knowledge of stewardship that dates back millennia, but these efforts are deeply rooted in their culture. Thus, the integration of Indigenous efforts is not only beneficial to natural landscapes, but is also a way to re-empower these historically excluded communities.
Environmental and government organizations have helped execute a conservation strategy led by West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations for the Klinse-Za caribou herd in the mountains of British Columbia.
These efforts included landscape-scale measures to ensure the caribou population was self-sustaining over long periods of time, while using more immediate tools to reduce predation and protect mothers and calves. As a result, the caribou population has tripled over the past decade, from 38 individuals to a pack of 110.
According to co-author and Saulteau First Nations member Carmen Ricther, “We are working hard to get these caribou back. Each year, community members collect sacks and sacks of lichen to feed the mother caribou in the enclosure while other members live on top. of the mountain with the animals. One day we hope to bring the herds back to a sustainable size.