Everyone loves birds: Using indigenous knowledge of birds to facilitate conservation in New Guinea

William H. Thomas

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    One of the greatest barriers confronting programmes that attempt to conserve both indigenous life and biodiversity is the confusion over the relationship between tradition and biodiversity. Because indigenous practitioners do not typically communicate in the genus and species parlance of Western science, it has been difficult to integrate indigenous knowledge within conservation planning. However, indigenous naturalists have been accumulating their knowledge unencumbered by the philosophical shifts of Western thought, developing a dynamic view of nature that incorporates connectedness, disturbance and recovery as a normal course of events in the natural world. Since Western science has only recently moved toward this non-linear view, the indigenous view of nature has, in a sense, been ahead of the emerging scientific consensus. Communication between conservationists and indigenous peoples can be facilitated by using indigenous knowledge of birds to identify the impacts of tradition upon biodiversity. Because indigenous peoples have a long-range perspective on the effects of human activity on avian diversity, they can provide a perspective vital to conservation planning. The Hewa of Papua New Guinea describe their traditions and traditional activities as playing a significant role in shaping the environment by creating a mosaic of habitats of varying diversity. While the current lifestyle of the Hewa may not necessarily be a template for future sustainability, the Hewa view of the natural world provides insights into the potential of indigenous peoples to conserve their resources.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEthno-ornithology
    Subtitle of host publicationBirds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9781136543845
    ISBN (Print)9781844077830
    StatePublished - 6 Aug 2012


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