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Can Local Ecological Knowledge Contribute to Wildlife Management? Case Studies of Migratory Birds

Grant Gilchrist
Mark Mallory
Flemming Merkel

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Abstract

Sound management of wildlife species, particularly those that are harvested, requires extensive information on their natural history and demography. For many global wildlife populations, however, insufficient scientific information exists, and alternative data sources may need to be considered in management decisions. In some circumstances, local ecological knowledge (LEK) can serve as a useful, complementary data source, and may be particularly valuable when managing wildlife populations that occur in remote locations inhabited by indigenous peoples. Although several published papers discuss the general benefits of LEK, few attempt to examine the reliability of information generated through this approach. We review four case studies of marine birds in which we gathered LEK for each species and then compared this information to empirical data derived from independent scientific studies of the same populations. We then discuss how we attempted to integrate LEK into our own conservation and management efforts of these bird species with variable success. Although LEK proved to be a useful source of information for three of four species, we conclude that management decisions based primarily on LEK, in the absence of scientific scrutiny, should be treated with caution.

Key words

Arctic; Inuit; LEK; local ecological knowledge; marine birds; population declines; TEK; traditional ecological knowledge
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087