Pride in Pawi Author: Christopher Camacho

Once a month, in a small conference room in downtown Port-of-Spain, a group of passionate, dedicated and hardworking individuals gather to share strong coffee and serious conversation. "So tell us," they turn to me with quizzical eyebrows, "How's it going?"

I clear my throat, and dutifully give my monthly report on my project's progress. Heads are nodded, notes are taken and ideas are mulled over. It's a positive meeting, and all leave feeling headway has been made. The project, ‘Pride in Pawi', freshly out of its first phase, is the brainchild of the Guardian Life Wildlife Fund and the members of the Trust regularly meet to consult on its operations, and aid the project team with problem-solving advice. The last steering committee meeting in April 2011 saw the wrapping up of the project's first phase with great success, and well… Pride.

The pawi, an endemic species to Trinidad, is critically endangered (at an estimated count of only 250 left), and the GLWF has long been its chief national advocate and protector. In April 2010, the Fund launched the ‘Pride in Pawi' project, which sought to join with major funding partners for an ambitious community outreach program targeting the rural areas where the Pawi is known to be found. With help from the UNDP and the Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Programme the Wildlife Fund began the re-engagement with its old allies and contacts in the villages of the North East, in order to begin the arduous process of creating a system of knowledge and protection for its chosen mascot.

The Promise of the

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Pride In Pawi: Preserving a National Treasure

The Trinidad Piping Guan or Pawi, Pipile pipile, is endemic to Trinidad and is globally among the most endangered cracids. With a population of approximately 230, its conservation status is listed as critically endangered.

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The project began by targeting 5 communities surrounding the precious last known habitat of the Pawi and assisted in the creation and training of Core Groups of conscientious and caring citizens in a coordinated effort to conduct research and collect data on this elusive and enigmatic creature. To further develop the communities capacity, educational seminars were held in each area, teaching the growing numbers of participants a host of skills including environmental management, First Aid training, forest safety, GPS and scientific data collection techniques. As the training programs went on, the groups became enthusiastic to begin their own role as pawi guardians, passing their new skills onto others in their communities and eager to gather more information on what they began to think of as their shared natural resource.

The Fund partnered with the University of the West Indies' ‘Pawi Study Group' under the guidance of Fund member Dr. Howard Nelson, and equipped community members with the necessary tools to begin collecting data in order to create a new study on what is still a fairly misunderstood and unobserved animal. The results began to be seen sooner rather than later. "We've seen the most remarkable things!" says Kevin Muhammed, a patroller from Grande Riviere, where the Pawi is sighted regularly, "We've been observing behaviour that is totally unprecedented in the former research."

Patrols ran from November 2010 through to the project's year-long mark, April 2011, and GPS and recorded data on pawi sightings were found in 3 of the 5 communities; Blanchiseusse, Brasso Seco and most notably in Grande Riviere. These detailed notes on diet, behaviour, and location were gathered by the project team regularly and processed before being handed over to our partners at the Pawi Study Group to be further analyzed and compiled to aid in the updating of the records of Pawi activity throughout the country.

As the project draws to its close and the knowledge base within the communities grows, exciting new opportunities begin to arise. Following in the example laid by earlier conservation movements in Trinidad, namely the Leatherback Turtle initiatives in villages like Matura and Grande Riviere, locals talk excitedly of the possibility of leading eco-friendly excursions into and along the forest trails housing this rare and elusive creature.

Already the Asa Wright Nature Centre conducts similar tours amidst the forests of Madamas for bird lovers who fly down from all over the world for a chance to spot one of the last remaining Pawi. Equipped with forest, first aid and birding training, the newly created "Pawi Guardians" will be poised to become expert guides for these ornithological enthusiasts, bringing culturally and environmentally sustainable economic benefit to these remote communities. Like the Leatherback's experience over the last 25 years, the Guardian Life Wildlife Fund hopes that the Pawi too can become the rallying point for a nationally led campaign to protect the ecology of the virgin forests of the North East. Its waning cry a call to both young and old to stand up and protect the raw natural beauty of its, and our, country.

Mark Webster, the Project Manager of ‘Pride in Pawi', sums up (with great Pride) the successes of the yearlong project. "In the end I think some of the key things coming out of the project so far would have to be the awareness created in the communities through the workshops and other activities, the capacity built within communities in terms of patrols and Pawi knowledge, and very importantly the data collected that could be useful on an ongoing basis." And he's right. A project that sought to help the pawi, has rippled effects that extend out to society at large. The Pawi themselves have found new protectors in the form of the newly founded ‘Pawi Guardians'; the community gains from the new skills learnt through the course of the project; and the country gains from an increased knowledge and understaning of one of our precious treasures.

So successful was the project that renewal of funding is already being negotiated with the UNDP to continue and expand the scope of the project beyond the original 5 communities. As a member of the team that has participated in this project, I am extremely proud of the work we have accomplished and look forward to continuing to grow and nurture the message of the Guardian Life Wildlife Fund further: Pride, in our Pawi.