Nature Canada’s work in Panama and Mexico
In Panama, the Upper Bay of Panama—Rio Bayano estuary has been declared a globally significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention. This declaration, made in October 2003, gave Nature Canada an extra incentive to get involved in projects that would engage and strengthen local communities in the region.
Unsustainable land-use practices threaten the livelihoods of local people and the ecological integrity of these very special sites. Long-term conservation will only be possible if the people who live in or adjacent to the sites take an interest and get involved in protecting them.
Nature Canada’s Mexico and Panama projects set out to help participating communities diversify their economies (principally through ecotourism), and accordingly reduce poverty by enhancing conservation-based business opportunities.
The Project and its Successes
Nature Canada has helped launch pilot projects in two Panama communities that offer adult skills development, training, and environmental education. As a result we have seen an increase in interest and skill in ecotourism in these two communities.
In the Mexico project, local participants received English-language skills and training as naturalist guides. They are now more able to earn a living as an ecotourism operator or guide and to support and steward the environmental values and natural beauty of the region. Several of the people Nature Canada trained are now leading international tours for the annual TOH Yucatan Bird Festival.
In both countries, globally significant ecosystems including the Important Bird Areas of the Río Bayano mangroves in the Upper Bay of Panama and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (“Sian Ka’an”) in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula require immediate conservation attention. Both sites provide critical habitat for a diverse array of species. Nature Canada has worked for several years in partnership with Panama Audubon Society and Amigos de Sian Ka’an in Mexico to support very important local conservation initiatives in these countries.
There have been other environmental and economic successes.
Nature Canada supported an effort to provide garbage/waste management workshops in our target communities. Increasingly, the communities have ramped up activities that cater to local ecotourists in an environmentally friendly way. Exchanges between tourism cooperatives in the region are building connections and capacity, allowing operators to share the lessons they have learned.
In 2013, Nature Canada secured the funds needed to help our Panamanian partner, the Panama Audubon Society, mount a legal and public awareness campaign to protect Panama Bay. In 2014, Nature Canada and nature lovers across the Western Hemisphere cheered when the Panamanian Supreme Court agreed to grant legal protection for Panama Bay — perhaps one of the most important links in a chain of sites upon which millions of migratory shorebirds depend.
Our conservation efforts in Panama & Mexico were made possible with the generous support of Nature Canada members and the Canadian International Development Agency.
Read more about Nature Canada’s other international conservation efforts here.