Wild Animals in the Garden: Conserving Wildlife in Amazonian Agroecosystems

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Abstract

In this article, I draw on field research in the Peruvian Amazon to evaluate the impact of individual and regional land–use practices (hunting, forest–clearing, and fallowing) on wildlife survival. More broadly, I examine the symbolic and practical significance of the garden as a metaphor for wildlife conservation. I focus on Tambopata Province, a region containing diverse wildlife and a variety of “gardens,” from swidden fields to national parks. Field data on wildlife presence in swidden gardens reveal the attributes of an anthropogenic fauna: adaptable, fast–reproducing species, including rodents, peccaries, brocket deer, and armadillos. Larger mammals, including most primates and carnivores, are greatly reduced by hunting. Multivariate analyses show that wildlife abundance and species diversity are more strongly shaped by regional land use and community–level hunting practices than by individual “gardeners.” In Tambopata, multiple interest groups stake claims on the forests and wildlife within protected areas, leading at times to violent conflict and/or redrawn boundaries. The garden metaphor is ultimately misleading for conservationists, as it conveys a false sense of benign mastery and control over nature and other humans.

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