Help the Guna of Panama Save Turtles

Jan 3, 2013 by

Indigenous Music to Save Turtles

The Guna have been doing conservation the right way for hundreds of years

It is only appropriate that their music be the music of other animals: Guna tradition upholds the value of other species and lays the foundation for a harmonious relationship between man and nature. Luckily for the rest of the world, the indigenous Guna are the stewards of one of the world’s disappearing treasures: leatherback sea turtles.  Thousands of these enormous creatures nest in the 4km of beach of Guna village of Armila, Panama, making it one of the world’s most important nesting sites for this critically endangered species.  As over-exploitation causes the leatherback to disappear from the Pacific ocean, this incredible extraordinary concentration is made possible by the Guna’s culture, which prohibits the consumption of sea turtles or their eggs.  Instead, Armila’s residents allow their ancient kin (as tradition still calls them) to nest in peace.

But times are changing.

Both turtles and the music face an uncertain future.  Population growth and diminishing availability of fish have brought the human-turtle relationship to a critical head.  Western influences are wearing away at the Guna culture, and long-held taboos that prohibit the exploitation of turtles are going with it.  New financial pressures on families means that certain elements of their culture, such as the town’s unique musical tradition, are being left behind.  If their needs are not addressed, both the music and the turtles may succumb to the same fate of their counterparts elsewhere: gradually (or rapidly) fading away.

This campaign emerged from the combined effort of Armila’s Sea Turtle Commission and the local music group, Gammibe Gun Galu, along with the support of the local, state, and federal government, to simultaneously safeguard their culture and their precious population of sea turtles. 





What We’re Doing

Your donation will be directly used to form the base of a sustainable, multifaceted conservation project in the town of Armila.  These amounts represent the amount necessary to launch this project; any additional funds raised will continue to flow directly into the community.

Reclining in his hammock and fiddling with his handmade flute, Santiago Campillo, the leader of Armila's folk music group Gammibe Gun Galu, explains: The songs we play are the songs God taught to each animal so that they could greet him with music when he visited mother earth.”  This rhythmic, soothing music he references, reminiscent of singing birds and lumbering tapirs (a cuddly-looking relative of the rhino), embodies the spirit of the Guna culture.

Reclining in his hammock and fiddling with his handmade flute, Santiago Campillo, the leader of Armila’s folk music group Gammibe Gun Galu, explains: The songs we play are the songs God taught to each animal so that they could greet him with music when he visited mother earth.” This rhythmic, soothing music he references, reminiscent of singing birds and lumbering tapirs (a cuddly-looking relative of the rhino), embodies the spirit of the Guna culture.

$1000 to jumpstart a sea turtle monitoring program in Armila.

Science forms the necessary base for any successful conservation program.  Local young people and commission members are poised to do the work.  They just need the equipment so they can produce data so that the national government and the global community will recognize the importance of their beach.  Your donation will pay for tagging equpment, scales, measuring tapes, ponchos, notebooks, and turtle-safe headlamps for researchers and students.

$2,000 (matched 2:1 by The Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama) to start a community-run aquaculture project in Armila.

Fish, Armila’s primary source of protein, are becoming scarce due to climate change and population growth.  Residents have already begun to eat species that they have never resorted to before.  To keep the pressure off the turtles and ensure a stable source of protein through the coming years, the community wants to follow the lead of other Panamanian communities by cultivating tilapia.  The government has agreed to provide consultants, training, feed, and baby fish; however, Armila has to raise the money needed for a cement tank so that the tilapia don’t pollute their river.

$1,500 to produce Gammibe Gun Galu’s first recording.

Through sale of their first professional recording, Gammibe Gun Galu, the nation’s most respected Guna music group, will be able to raise sufficient funds to meet their regular needs AND the needs of Armila’s conservation efforts.  They need this initial capital to turn their high-quality recording into a high-quality product that taps into markets that digital downloads can’t reach.

$900 to print and ship the first 250 copies of “Gammibe Gun Galu,” which will be sold in stores and at shows, with 100% of profits benefiting the group.

$500 for preloaded USBs to be distributed throughout the nation.  Handheld speakers are the “it” music playing device in the indigenous nation of Guna Yala.  With USB’s, people will be able to listen to a recording of their own music rather than just blasting Jennifer Lopez (no offense J-Lo), which will positively impact the preservation of their music throught the nation.

-$100 digital registration of CD for sale online

These projects will be managed by the Sea Turtle Commission of Armila, the family-run musical group Gammibe Gun Galu, and the environmental agency ARAP.  Donations will be managed by 501(c)(3) Ocean Revolution, with 100% of funds raised going directly to the community.  If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to this project, please contact morrison.mast@gmail.com.

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