Conserving wildlife and wild places takes many forms. Research is important to understand what is going on with a species. Conservation stewardship activities are vital to slowing down and reversing harm to plants and animals. Education plays a valuable role in explaining to people why wild things and wild places are important. But another aspect of EPIC’s work is the focus on having pride in the actions taken to protect nature, and also pride in the local nature itself, that is part of a community’s identity. Pride is about celebrating our unique role in nature and our relationship with it, along with sharing the successes in creating sustainable ecosystems and economies. Pride supports satisfaction and continued actions, and it is infectious so that more and more people gain that sense of pride from others.
In the small village of Boukan Chat, Haiti, there is a farming community that coexists with the endangered Black-capped Petrel seabird, and they are proud of their work which is a global example of sustainability.
With possibly fewer than 2,000 petrels remaining in the world, this species faces threats to its nesting areas due to deforestation, predation by non-native predators like rats, and global climate change. EPIC and the international conservation team working here, offset negative impacts to petrels through wide-ranging activities such as nest monitoring research, predator trapping, and sustainable farming and watershed education. As a result, farmers are producing high-yield crops, protecting soils, conserving water, and planting trees, which is paying off with improved food security and a more reliable income.
But all of this is only part of the solution. Seeing the beauty and uniqueness of the petrel has created personal connections and pride in the work done to enhance the lives of the people and the petrel. This is celebrated annually in the spring through the Black-capped Petrel Festival that shines a spotlight on the petrel and marks a day when wildlife and wild places are featured through a parade, music, film-showing, and a soccer match. The petrel mascot leads the festival and is central to youth education programs that teach future farmers. In addition, EPIC has engaged local artists to paint petrel-themed murals on cisterns and blank walls around the community. These images are inspiring and aspirational, further defining the positive relationship the Boukan Chat community has with nature.
During the most recent Black-capped Petrel Festival, two new murals were unveiled on walls within the local farmer’s market. Once again, they depict the unique role that the forest and the petrel play in making the Boukan Chat community special. The art and events that surround it promote pride in the hard work and willingness of this community to adapt to new ways that create a life where nature and people are on a team together, so that both can survive and prosper.