In pre-Columbian times, the Zenu Indians established drainage systems in the wetlands of the Colombian Caribbean that enabled them to exploit this rich ecosystem in a sustained manner. Modern inhabitants of the region are, however, exposed to a regimen of periodic flooding that limits their productive activities. In addition, they are surrounded by large cattle ranches that occupy almost all the land and are responsible for the disappearance of forests that sustain the wild fauna. These peasants employ a classification system for the fauna that favors the criterion of habitat over that of morphology to distinguish categories of animals. Secondary forest animals inspire carnival dances, folk tales, poetry, and songs, while insects and other invertebrates are barely represented in the oral tradition. Fishing provides the principal source of protein for many families, but there are no mechanisms to control the use of large nets that exhaust the resource. The capture of reptiles such as iguanas, turtles, and crocodilians is intensive and is not based on studies that determine the state of the populations and the impact of hunting activities. The author draws attention to the need to take into account local representations of animals in programs aimed at conserving the wetlands and their fauna. She discusses the popular nomenclature, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding the fauna of a wetland region of the Colombian Caribbean to assist in the design of programs for the sustainable exploitation of the resources of this ecosystem, vital to the survival of local fishermen and peasants.

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