CURITIBA, BRASIL – Environmentalists are to campaign for the protection of the ancient sacred sites of tribal religions, as a way of saving endangered wildlife. Amongst those sites: the home of the peyote cactus. This surprising call was announced by the The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) during a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity last week.
The million-pound ‘Conservation of Biodiversity-Rich Sacred Natural Sites’ campaign springs from a recognition that many of the mountains, forests, islands, lakes and groves revered by indigenous peoples contain rare species that are threatened elsewhere. This is no accident. Ancient traditions and taboos surrounding the sites have often commanded respect for nature, prohibited hunting, or simply kept people away. Many of these sites are now under threat as the old religions fade and pressures from development and tourism increase.
The Chihuahua desert in northern Mexico, where the Huichoi people go on an annual pilgrimage to find the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii) is one of those sites. Peyote is the source of mescaline, the hallucinogenic alkaloid that allows them to communicate directly with their gods.
Also included in what UNEP director Klaus Toepfer Toepfer calls a ‘sacred quest’ are the sacred forest groves in India, The 'skull caves' in Kenya, a Mexican desert where it is believed the sun was born and the crocodile-infested swamp islands in Guinea Bissau where the Bijagos hold their initiation rites.
Sources: New Scientist news and Common dreams