On 19th April 2013, Leo Cayaban and Chris Poonian implemented a workshop at the 22nd Annual Philippine Biodiversity Symposium of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines, entitled ‘Learning from the experts: the Science of Local ecological Knowledge – The value of local ecological knowledge in Biodiversity Research and Conservation’.
The use of science in facilitating the effective management of natural resources cannot be overstated enough. This is all the more true when taken in the context of biodiversity conservation in the world today. Besieged by issues ranging from a changing climate, increasing population pressure and changes in consumer patterns, biodiversity conservation (or a lack thereof) has never been more important (or relevant) to human life.
Given the importance of science in biodiversity conservation, just how safe or reliable is the use of local knowledge? For instance, is there any scientific value to be derived from the thoughts of an impoverished forest dweller who never even had a formal education but whose entire existence revolved around the forest in question?
This year’s symposium with the theme: “Biodiversity and Cultural Values of Conservation Areas” dares to touch on the issue of both value and culture; two nouns that are borderline subjective at best, and immeasurable at their worst. Having a workshop that explores both the merits and limitations of using local knowledge as a scientific tool in conservation is therefore not only relevant but is in perfect step with the symposium’s greater theme.
The workshop was very-well received and we discussed many important issues about working with local communities for mutually-beneficial conservation action, including: gaining trust, pilot surveys, analysis and limitations, collaboration with social scientists, testing validity and integration into management and monitoring.