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Anthropologists to discuss Amazonians' role in conservation

The contributions of indigenous peoples to conservation in the Amazon River basin will be the focus of a conference organized by the Department of Anthropological Sciences at Stanford on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Anthropologists who have lived and worked with indigenous Amazonians in the tropical forests of Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela will participate in panel discussions that begin at 1:15 p.m. in Annenberg Auditorium in the Cummings Art Building. They will discuss Amazonians' involvement in existing conservation projects and the potential for future involvement. The conference is free and open to the public.

The first panel will discuss current problems. "In many cases, the very same forces that threaten the biodiversity of Amazonia also threaten the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and thus the cultural diversity of the region," said Stanford Professor William Durham, one of the organizers of the conference.

A second panel at 2:45 p.m. will focus on "ways in which indigenous peoples, largely through hunting and agricultural activities, maintain or even augment certain facets of biodiversity," he said. "This is exciting work because it shows that human activity need not necessarily erode the richness of species in the Amazon, for example, but may actually enhance it."

A third panel at 4:30 p.m. will focus on the future of the region and its peoples, especially whether conservationists can integrate traditional knowledge of Amazonians into their efforts and whether their combined efforts are likely to turn around the current pressures on forest resources.

The panelists will include anthropologists from about 10 universities, including Stanford. The conference is the first of three organized by the Department of Anthropological Sciences to commemorate the 50th anniversary year of the university's School of Humanities and Sciences.



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