Pantanal park rangers: Trained to preserve our Pantanal



Posted on 12 August 2010  | 
GPS use practice in the mountains of Santiago
© Giovanny VERA / WWF BoliviaEnlarge
Santiago de Chiquitos, a community in Roboré known as the Prelude to Heaven that protects the Tucavaca Valley, was the place chosen for the course “Training to Preserve our Pantanal”, which involved the participation of 22 park rangers and technicians from the Otuquis National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area (PN-AMI Otuquis), the San Matías Integrated Management Natural Area (ANMI San Matías) and the Tucavaca Valley Municipal Reserve, all protected areas of the Bolivian Pantanal. The goal is to strengthen the capacities of the conservation team of these protected areas of the Bolivian Pantanal through trainings on specific topics in order to strengthen their participative management.

This was done through an intense 5-day course that included classroom- and field-learning in three strategic topics selected by the staff of the protected areas: Conflict resolution, GPS use and georeferential maps, and environmental management, all led by experts with extensive experience in these topics.

Arrival and course
The course started on Sunday, June 13, in the Beula Hotel in Santiago, which served as headquarters for the next five days. The park rangers of the Pantanal started to arrive from places such as Santo Corazón, San Matías, Candelaria, Puerto Busch, Santa Cruz and Puerto Suárez. Friends who met again after a long time greeted each other affectionately, as well as those who met for the first time. It is worth noting that all the park rangers were born in the Bolivian Pantanal and have experienced living in the area.

During the first days, the training was focused on environmental management and included the explanation of the Environmental Law, environmental management in protected areas, environmental inspections, and practicing the topics that were reviewed. The park rangers could recognize the activities and practices realized every day, improving their skills and capacities in order to enforce the law in the protected areas.

The topics of communication, negotiation and conflict resolution were addressed by a team from the UNIR Foundation during the next two days. These were days of intense theoretical work where the assistants could learn about the aspects of negotiation, such as the following:
• Every negotiation involves an interaction or exchange between the parties with the purpose of obtaining something from them while giving something to them at the same time. Thus, it is important to define the parties involved in the negotiation.
• Every negotiation has the purpose of solving a difference by means of an agreement.
• On every negotiation, the parties need to have clear goals and the limits within which concessions can be made and an agreement can be reached.
• On every negotiation there must be a correlation of forces as balanced as possible.

Similarly, there were theoretical practices on negotiation and conflict resolution, using communication as a basic tool to reach agreements that benefited all the parties. There was also a negotiation simulation, where the park rangers formed two groups, sat on a table with the purpose of settling their differences and reaching an agreement that fulfilled the interests of both groups. According to PN-ANMI Otuquis park ranger Miguel Alegre, through these practices “we learn new tools and tactics to talk and settle our differences using agreements”.

To make this meeting even more entertaining, the Pantanal Cup was held Thursday afternoon with a game of indoor football between ANMI San Matías and PN Otuquis. It was a tough game on which the players defended their goals and attacked trying to score the winning goal. The winner of the athletic competition between the protected areas was ANMI San Matías, whose players had the privilege to lift the Pantanal Cup, a rotating trophy that will go to the winners of each tournament to be held in the future.

The last day of training was marked by the practice of GPS use with a trip around the mountains of Santiago, where they marked the covered route and the sites of interest that they found. The more experienced park rangers already had some experience using a GPS and maps, however, now we had the presence of recently hired park rangers who had no experience using these tools. “I knew about GPS, but I did not know how to use it in the way that we learned today”, said Narciso Soliz, a new ANMI San Matías park ranger.

According to the opinión of WWF field officer Victor Hugo Magallanes and the technicians who gave the classes, the five-day course in Santiago de Chiquitos was very helpful for the park rangers, as they received practical and permanently applicable information, which will help them improve their capacities and obtain better results on their tasks as the people in charge of the protected areas in the Pantanal.

The park rangers who participated in the event had similar opinions, and also emphasized the importance of sharing this training experience with their colleagues in other protected areas from the same region that experience similar conditions and problems and could apply everything that was taught on the course. “We thank WWF’s interest in supporting us in order to improve our work and benefit us with their experience”, said a park ranger, joining the signs of gratitude and joy shown by everyone when they received their certificates of participation in the course.
GPS use practice in the mountains of Santiago
© Giovanny VERA / WWF Bolivia Enlarge
The course “Training to Preserve our Pantanal” involved the participation of park rangers and technicians of the Otuquis, San Matías and Tucavaca Valley protected areas.
© WWF Bolivia Enlarge

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