Jacinto Teheran was just a teenager when he started hunting wildlife in the biodiversity-rich forests and rivers of Colombia’s Orinoquia region.
“I've been everything -- a fisherman, a farmer, and a hunter, I hunted jaguars to sell the fur. Northern tiger cat skin was also worth a lot of money,” recalls the 60-year-old resident of Puerto Carreño, a small town on the northeastern border with Venezuela surrounded by a multitude of rivers, forests, and savannas.
The ecosystems in the area are home to thousands of species, which in recent years have suffered declining populations due to overfishing and hunting. Since 1981, it has been illegal in Colombia to hunt jaguars for international trade. Both the jaguar and northern tiger cat are on the Red List of Threatened Species kept by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
It was only when Teheran started working for Colombia’s Omacha Foundation 16 years ago that he began to realize the impact his hunting was having on the area.
Omacha is a non-governmental organization that protects freshwater biodiversity in the Orinoquia and Amazonia regions. The Foundation owns a natural reserve called Bojonawi (‘otter’ in the Sikuani language), which protects river dolphins, howler monkeys, tapirs, foxes, and many other species.
Now, instead of hunting, Teheran brings researchers and tourists by boat into Omacha’s reserve. He has also collaborated as a local researcher in several university-level research projects.