University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
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Case Study in Sustainable Development

Operation Wallacea - Cusuco National Park in Honduras. 

What is Operation Wallacea?   

Operation Wallacea is a series of biological and social science expedition projects designed to underpin the achievement of specific wildlife conservation aims. The expeditions have been running since 1995 in a remote corner of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, from 2003 in Honduras and will start in Egypt from 2005.

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The projects are run in conjunction with more than 70 academics from UK (eg. Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Nottingham, Essex, Portsmouth), US (eg. CUNY, Auburn, Pensacola), Irish (eg. Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin) and Australian (eg. Australia National University, Arthur Rylah Institute) academic institutions. The surveys have had a huge amount of scientific success with more than 150 papers (including a recent paper in Nature from the bat survey work in Indonesia) and academic dissertations having been produced, more than 20 new vertebrate species (eg. snakes, frogs, small mammals, bats, primates etc) having been discovered and species thought to have been extinct being re-discovered in some of the remote areas surveyed. In addition, more than 60% of the undergraduates who join the survey expeditions to gather data for their final Honours year dissertations are achieving Firsts for their field projects.

The main reason for doing all this research though is to identify areas worthy of protection (the second largest Marine National Park in Indonesia was declared as a result of the survey and lobbying work of Operation Wallacea) and to provide hard data on the effectiveness of conservation management programmes. In the short term though many of these areas need some financial assistance in order to buy time to develop the sustainable alternatives needed to fund effective management programmes and Operation Wallacea through the Operation Wallacea Trust has helped the forestry authorities in SE Sulawesi to obtain $1 million funding for an innovative management scheme on Buton Island, assisted the Wakatobi National Park to obtain $1 million to develop the Kaledupa reefs to be established as a model site in Indonesia for reef management and is currently completing an application for the protection of the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park in Honduras.

The Operation Wallacea Trust

The Operation Wallacea Trust (charity number 1078362) was formed to help support the community objectives of the Operation Wallacea programme. The Trust is chaired by the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP and helps disperse funds raised from private donations to community projects in the study areas. The Operation Wallacea Trust is also administering the $1 million GEF forest management programme for the forests of central Buton Island in SE Sulawesi.

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What and where is Cusuco National Park?

The 2004 survey of the Cusuco National Park cloud forest, which ranges from 1,200-2,100m above sea level, found a snake species new to science, a lizard previously thought to be extinct, new species of bats and small mammals to the country as well as massively increasing the previously known species lists for the National Park. The tree species lists have been increased by more 50% (indeed in some 20m X 20m grids nearly all the tree species were different), the butterfly list from 8 to 93 species, 68 species were added to the bird list and the bat records increased from 3 to 18 species.

What is the problem?

Cloud forestSadly, though, despite the Cusuco National Park being one of the best areas of cloud forest in Central America, the forest, with its huge tree ferns and specialist animal and bird species, is under serious threat. With the collapse of funding the number of guards now patrolling the Park has collapsed from 12 to just 3 and this is having a major impact on the extent of illegal logging and hunting in the Park. The data from the Operation Wallacea research teams is being used by the University of Nottingham and COHDEFOR (the Honduran forestry department) to apply for a $1 million grant from the Global Environmental Facility to provide temporary funding for the re-instatement of the patrols, develop a long-term monitoring programme for the Park to assess the success of the management programme and to develop the field courses for local university and schools training courses. However, such systems can only survive if the funding can be generated locally and the application is aimed at providing start-up funding to local communities in the buffer zone of the Park. The main ways of funding the Park will be from ecotourism and from enhanced value for the shade grown coffee produced by the buffer zone villages. Coffee which is grown as an understorey crop in the buffer zone (all agricultural activity is banned from the core zone of the Park) enables a number of the animal species found in the forests to still

survive. However, the collapse in world coffee prices (the local farmers were receiving 10p per pound of coffee in 2004) has meant that many farmers are moving to other crops such as maize and tomatoes which have a much greater impact on the remaining forest in the buffer zone.

How can it be made sustainable?

The proposal is to create village co-operatives through which coffee grown in each of the buffer zone villages would be marketed with the end user of ‘Quetzal coffee’ being prepared to pay a premium for the coffee if the costs paid are helping to protect the cloud forests of Cusuco. The coffee could be marketed as having a beneficial impact on the forests if each of the communities selling through this system signed an agreement to guarantee that they would control their own village members from continuing to log or illegally hunt in the core zone forests. Non-compliance with this condition would threaten the continuance of the contract allowing the village to continue marketing their coffee through this enhanced price system. Such an arrangement would provide a direct link between protection of the core zone forests and the economic development of the surrounding communities.


Next: CITES and Endangered Species


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