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The TCO Itonama

The inhabitants of the TCO Itonama are grouped in communities along the Blanco and the Iténez Rivers. Communities along the Blanco River include Puerto Chavez, San Borja, Bahia La Salud, Cafetal, Santa Rosa and La Soga, while those along the Iténez include Buena Vista, Versalles and Mateguá.

PD-ANMI Iténez

The aim with land categorized as a Departmental Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management (ANMI) is to work towards compatibility of conservation of biological diversity and sustainable rural development of the local human populations. The PD-ANMI constitutes a mosaic of ecosystems of singular importance, zones of traditional systems of soil use, zones for multiple uses of natural resources, and zones of strict protection.

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ECO-TOURISM IN BELLA VISTA AND THE ITÉNEZ RIVER BASIN: SOME THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

:. Where is Bella Vista?

mapa itenezThe small village of Bella Vista is in the Iténez basin in the Bolivian Department of Beni. It is in an area protected by Bolivian law, named "Departmental Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management" Iténez - or, abbreviated in Spanish, the PD-ANMI Iténez.

A Departmental Park is a protected area administered by the local Department, while an ANMI is a designated area in which protection is combined with sustainable use of the natural resources. Some 77% of the Iténez reserve is also Indigenous Land (abbreviated as "TCO" in Spanish).

The area around Bella Vista is called "TCO Itonama" and contains 12 indigenous communities situated on the banks of the rivers Blanco and Iténez. Home to around 200 families, Bella Vista is the main population centre within the Iténez reserve. It is located where the Blanco and San Martín rivers converge. The Blanco is a white water river and is an important habitat for commercially-sized fish, the San Martin a clear water river characterized by an abundance of aquatic birds, giant otters and caiman. It is very important for subsistence fishing.

:. Tourism in Bella Vista

Ecotourism is a growth activity across the world, and provides the best option for tourists interested in conservation. The huge biodiversity of tropical forests and rivers in the Iténez basin makes it an important and appealing destination for eco tourists.

In spite of being a relatively new park, the PD-ANMI Iténez contains areas of intact forest, huge natural savannahs and a wide variety of landscapes that shelter an immense wealth of aquatic resources. It therefore offers a wide range of opportunities to observe flora and fauna as well as the local customs of the indigenous people.

excursionistas

:. What can you see?

The Iténez basin has a high number of endemic species of fish, birds and mammals. The flagship species of the Iténez River are the pacú (a big fruit-eating fish; Colossoma macropomum) and the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis, known locally as “londra”). However, the area is also known for its populations of caiman (Caiman yacare, known locally as “lagarto”) and black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), Bolivian pink river dolphins (Inia boliviensis or “bufeo”), turtles (Podocnemis unifilis and P. expansa), tucunare (Cichla monoculus) and an amazing variety of aquatic birds – including herrons, kingfishers, and cormorants. Dolphins are frequently seen breaking the surface to breathe as they swim along the rivers, caiman are often visible in the shallows, and the giant otter’s diurnal and social nature makes it easier to spot than its European cousins. And it is advisable to take a bird identification guide for trips along the river to enable you to identify the many species you will see.

But even ecotourism can have negative impacts. In the specific case of the giant otter, too much pressure could reduce the quality of the habitat, and excessive observation could in extreme cases adversely affect the otters´ reproduction. That is why ecotourism in the Iténez basin must always be carried out responsibly.

:. Guidelines for responsible tourism


Follow the rules provided by the authorities of the PD-ANMI Iténez.
Don´t approach any of the animals. In particular, giant otters will periscope if you try to approach them, and this indicates that they feel threatened.
Keep quiet at all times. Use binoculars to observe the animals.
Don´t take any “souvenirs”.
Don´t buy any handicrafts made of animal waste products that are not certified.
Don´t leave any litter.
Don´t take animals away from the area, as a pet or for any other purpose.
Don’t fish large quantities of fish. Only use local “lineada” and “anzuelo” to catch piranhas to eat; return other species to the water.

:. Local handicrafts

Bella Vista is famous for an abundance of local handicrafts made of natural rubber and wood, etc. You should also try local products harvested in the forest - such as chocolate, almendra (brazil nuts), and fruits.
Recently, fish and caiman leather has started to be used to produce handicrafts. These handicrafts bear a special seal, or stamp, to certify that they are the result of sustainable wildlife use.

:. Local hunting and fishing

TucuraréBella Vista is one of the places where local indigenous people and farmers can make sustainable use of caimans. This means that local hunters can kill and remove a certain amount of caiman (of the species Caiman yacare; it is illegal to hunt black caiman) each year and get a reasonable price for them in national markets. Legal hunting normally takes place in August and September. There is still no zoning system available, but park authorities are working on this in cooperation with local hunters. It is leather from these legally hunted caimans that is used in the production of handicrafts.

In Bella Vista, subsistence fishing and hunting are permitted. Meals consist largely of local animal and fish products, though beef is
increasingly consumed by local people. If you do not want to eat local meat or fish, you can always request beef or chicken. When you are a vegetarian, you can ask for a vegetarian meal.

:. Facilities in Bella Vista

There are several hotels in or very near to Bella Vista
Hotel Tucunare (next to the village) tel. +591 3 886 9100 - http://www.amazon-tours.com
Hotel El Pescador (in the center of the village)
Hotel Doña Clara (in the center of the village)
Hotel de la Prefectura (behind the primary school)
There are a handful of restaurants in the village. Check around the central plaza!

The local authority is a submayor (“agente cantonal” in Spanish). Bella Vista is part of the municipality of Magdalena.

The Iténez park is administered by the Department of Beni. There is a local park coordinator, a chief of park rangers, and ten park rangers who protect and control the area. They can provide information about the park, and should be informed about all your outdoor activities. Their office is on the outskirts of Bella Vista, behind the primary school. We advise you to drop by their offices when you are in Bella Vista !

Asociación FaunAgua is a Bolivian based NGO that strives to protect aquatic species in danger of extinction, but also works on integrated river management, fishery management, education and other projects. FaunAgua believes that it is possible to find equilibrium between conservation and development, and local people are involved in all its projects. For more information write to faunagua@yahoo.com or www.faunagua.org