Washington, September 13 (ANI): In a new study, scientists have found that even a simple road can turn subsistence communities into commercial hunting camps that empty rainforests of their wildlife.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the IDEAS-Universidad San Francisco de Quito at Ecuador's Yasuni National Park.
The researchers, in the park, found that the presence of a single road in a protected area and the subsidies provided by oil companies to local people can fundamentally change how indigenous communities use their resources by providing both access to deeper parts of the forest and a cheap means of getting meat to nearby wildlife markets.
"We've found that a road in a forest can bring huge social changes to local groups and the ways in which they utilize wildlife resources," said WCS and USFQ researcher Esteban Suarez, lead author of the study.
"Communities existing inside and around the park are changing their customs to a lifestyle of commercial hunting, the first stage in a potential overexploitation of wildlife," Suarez added.
"A simple, seemingly inoffensive road can have far-reaching effects on a landscape and its people," said Dr. Avecita Chicchon, Director of WCS's Latin America and Caribbean Program.
"It provides hunters with more access to a wider range of forest while providing a low-cost transportation route to markets. More importantly, it plugs communities more easily into the larger economic world while creating increased demand for numerous species of animals. It is the road to unsustainability," he added.
In the study, WCS scientists measured the levels of wild meat sold in a market in Pompeya, located about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) outside Yasuni National Park, between the years 2005-2007.
The wild meat market emerged shortly after the construction of the road.
Although road access was strictly controlled, the oil companies operating this concession provided free travel along the road for hunters from local Waorani communities, according to the study.
The availability of cheap transportation is the biggest factor in determining the large amount of wild meat making it to market from Waorani communities.
In fact, the road's very existence prompted many Waorani to abandon their semi-nomadic lifestyle; three Waorani communities now live along the road.
Between the years of 2005 and 2007, the researchers recorded more than 11,000 kilograms (24,000 pounds) of wild meat moving through the Pompeya market each year. (ANI)