Towards a protocol for community monitoring of caribou body condition
AbstractEffective ecological monitoring is central to the sustainability of subsistence resources of indigenous communities. For caribou, Arctic indigenous people's most important terrestrial subsistence resource, body condition is a useful measure because it integrates many ecological factors that influence caribou productivity and is recognized by biologists and hunters as meaningful. We draw on experience working with indigenous communities to develop a body condition monitoring protocol for harvested animals. Local indigenous knowledge provides a broad set of caribou health indicators and explanations of how environmental conditions may affect body condition. Scientific research on caribou body condition provides a basis to develop a simple dichotomous key that includes back fat, intestinal fat, kidney fat and marrow¬fat, as measures of body fat, which in autumn to early winter correlates with the likelihood of pregnancy. The dichotomous key was formulated on "expert knowledge" and validated against field estimates of body composition. We compare local indigenous knowledge indicators with hunter documented data based on the dichotomous key. The potential con¬tribution of community body condition monitoring can be realized through the continued comparative analysis of datasets. Better communication among hunters and scientists, and refinement of data collection and analysis methods are recommended. Results suggest that specific local knowledge may become generalized and integrated between regions if the dichotomous key is used as a generalized (semi-quantitative) index and complemented with other science and community-based assessments.
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