Appendix H: Indigenous authors

How the indicator-species biodiversity methodology was co-designed with Indigenous Peoples and local communities

Like the Sherpas who climb Mt. Everest, jaguar tracking is a highly technical, and respected activity within Indigenous groups. It relies on years of knowledge of animal behavior, strong kinesthetic knowledge, traditional hunting skills, a supranormal degree of fitness, and technical woodsmanship.

But for over twenty years, the resources associated with this activity have been transacted through the charitable industry, with high overhead margins. Without judgment, this is not a good deal for the jaguar trackers. Organizations typically pay Indigenous and local trackers on a day wage, require them to supply their own equipment, and don't give ownership or credit for raw data (video and audio recordings) generated by tracking activities. Because it's a bad deal, these trackers have difficulty convincing their communities that these traditional conservation activities are sustainable in comparison to the modern alternatives; petroleum, mining, logging, urban work, or narco-trafficking.

This methodology was written to solve the economic problem of conserving biodiversity. To contribute an alternative, direct, climate market to Indigenous groups who conserve primary forests.

The ISBM is the translation of a successful 20-year IP and LC-led conservation program in an IUCN Red List ecosystem to financial markets. Translation occurred over the period of one year. Technology, biodiversity science, and market mechanisms were integrated to project activities with ongoing feedback. The intent was to scale activities, and fund associated livelihoods without disrupting IP or LC values or lifestyles.

The project began with unremunerated in-situ photo/video observations of jaguars and the endangered anteosos bear generated by Indigenous conservationist Jhony Lopez in the Columbian Amazo. The area was protected against narcotrafficking, petroleum, and mining interests by grassroots activism at the local, state, and national level by activism from Jhony, Fernando Lezama, and a committed group of local smallholders at a financial loss.

Figure 13: Jhony Lopez and students tracking biodiversity indicator species in the Putumayo Amazon

They formed Savimbo with Drea Burbank, an MD-technologist in 2022 and began to extend and characterize their biodiversity work with satellite mapping, a program for local youth to learn jaguar tracking and game cameras, taxonomic classification, and geocoding.

In assessing the species for the region, the teams of scientists researching this methodology often spent as much as a week actively searching for one specimen of a rare species before finding one. After testing multiple video cameras, the team found that even the highest quality jungle cameras last up to three or four months before the rainforest destroys their functionality and they need to be replaced. The cost of this equipment and the physical labor required needs to be controlled in order to make biodiversity projects economically viable in these locations. Placing the cameras is highly technical work that can only be done only by those who frequent these locations and understand the lifecycles of these species. We discovered that most major biodiversity nonprofits in the region were hiring the same trackers—and that this was a highly technical skillset for IP and LC requiring years of training.

It is only by on-the-ground experience in functional ecosystems that the team was able to recognize and manage the challenges of creating a biodiversity methodology that is feasible given the physical challenges of working in these territories.

With one-year co-development and ongoing community feedback, the project was expanded to enroll neighboring farms, map the home range of Jhony’s jaguars, and generate ever-fresh data.

In 2013 non-certified biodiversity crediting was initiated with Savimbo’s payments system. Word-of-mouth spread among neighboring farms resulted in local control of hunting groups, and generated interest from several neighboring indigenous reserves, then IP and LC internationally in Suriname, Gabon, and the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The ISBM is unique, because it is IP and LC-first, science and markets second, standard. We are also hopeful that this will give it an advantage in terms of scale, implementation, and outcomes.

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