Published: Monday 15 July 1996

Deer populations of Brazil have been on a steady decline due to loss of habitat and poaching by colonists. In the largest reservation of the South American continent in central-west Brazil, Xavante Indians occupy a natural area of 229,000 ha, bordering the Rio das Mortes, a principal tributary of the Araguaya river in the state of Mato Grosso.

This reservation, known as the Rio das Mortes Avante Reservation of Pimental Barbosa, stands as a model of preservation of natural areas through the use of-indigenous, traditional empirical knowledge. It shelters four species of deer - marsh deer, pampas deer, red-brocket and grey-brocket deer. Ninety per cent of the area's physiology is intact, but deer is one of the main diet of the Xavante and therefore it is hunted throughout the year.

A study carried out in 1991-93 found that hunting was concentrated in 30 per cent of the territory for many years and mainly two species of deer, the marsh and pampas deers were affected due to hunting. The tribal council voted against a hunting ban for certain species, and hunting was restricted to the borders of the territory or kept at a distance from the overhunted area. A rotative hunting system and tax exemption incentives will also be introduced. These initiatives have improved conditions for the recovery of the deer populations.

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