SAN BUENAVENTURA, Bolivia – The Tacana people, denizens of Madidi National Park, located in the heart of Bolivia’s Amazon region, are betting on tourism to help them assert their role as protectors of the rainforest.
“We coexist with nature,” said the president of the Tacana People’s Indigenous Council, which represents one of the native communities living in Madidi National Park.
On May 22, Deputy Tourism Minister Ricardo Cox marked World Biodiversity Day by turning over to the Tacanas a visitor welcome center, several walkways and a sightseeing tower in the middle of the jungle.
The Tacanas see in the touristic promotion of the lush rainforest landscapes a chance to “show the world” how they coexist in peace and harmony with nature.
Following an hour-long raft cruise along the Beni and Tuichi Rivers, visitors arrive at the heart of the park and are treated to spectacular natural displays, such as the one provided by the flight of “parabas,” a type of parrot endemic to the area.
“(We want people) to see how we live in harmony with nature,” preserving the local vegetation and river basins just like “our ancestors have (done)” for centuries, said Noe Marcos Macuapa, mayor of the community of San Miguel del Bala.
“It is part of a cosmovision, this harmonious coexistence, this knowledge,” he added, surrounded by members of a people for whom the knowledge of all the forest life is a key identifying trait.
Ranging from the pampa lowlands and deserts to the tropical rainforests of the Tuichi River and mountains nearly 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) in height, Madidi National Park – located in far northeastern Bolivia – covers almost 19,000 square kilometers (some 7,300 square miles) and is home to more than 8,000 plant and animal species.