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Wai Wai choose conservation economy for traditional Amazon territory
Date:10/4/2007

develop a management plan and structure that will bring economic benefit to the Wai Wai while protecting part of the largest remaining swathes of pristine rainforest on Earth.

The Wai Wai have confirmed what the Government of Guyana has always espoused; that is, settling Amerindian land claims is one way of protecting the environment for future generations, said Hon. Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues. Who is better placed to protect the environment than those who have been doing it for time immemorial.

By making their homeland a Community Owned Conservation Area, the Wai Wai will join and benefit from Guyanas National Protected Areas System and an endowment trust being established by the government of Guyana. CIs Global Conservation Fund and the German government are major contributors to the endowment fund.

The Wai Wai homeland is part of the Guayana Shield, a huge stretch of Amazon rainforest across six South American countries. The region provides habitat to jaguar, blue poison frog, cock of the rock, scarlet macaw and other Amazon wildlife.

CI is promoting the value of the Wai Wai tropical forest for carbon sequestration, clean watersheds and other ecosystem services it provides. Cutting and burning tropical forests contributes 20 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, and the worlds burgeoning carbon market means developing countries such as Guyana could benefit from the market value of standing rainforests that absorb atmospheric carbon. In addition, the Wai Wai homeland is the headwaters of Guyanas largest river, the Essequibo, effectively making the Wai Wai protectors of the nations largest source of fresh water.

This shows the power of giving land rights to indigenous populations, because they know whats best for their communities, CI President Russell A. Mittermeier said. The Wai Wai could have sold off the timber and other natural assets for a one-time payoff,
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Contact: Tom Cohen
tcohen@conservation.org
703-341-2729
Conservation International
Source:Eurekalert

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