In a rapidly changing world, natural systems and their component parts are changing even faster. Wild plant and animal species suffer from the pace of change, and many even face extinction. It is urgent to learn more about these species, particularly the animals. We need to know their status, survivorship and role in the workings of the ecosystem if we are to plan adequately for their conservation and protection, and to manage wildlife more wisely for enhanced use of the services and products they provide.
This is the twin focus of the FAO Forestry Department's concern for Latin American wildlife and for the major ecological, economic and cultural implications of the role of wildlife. Work in the sector has involved an unbroken chain of cooperation between FAO Headquarters and the Regional Office, and between the Regional Office and scientists and technicians of the regional and national networks, institutions and interest groups, and user populations.
Dr Ojasti's readiness to help and his expertise and experience in the sector provided the occasion for the preparation of this vast, practical and well-documented introduction to useful and common wildlife in Latin America. The paper is considered a tool for everyday use for anyone with an interest in Latin American wildlife.
On behalf of the author, I should like to thank all the institutions and individuals who helped with this work, particularly the Latin American wildlife experts who generously shared their expertise, experience and ideas through interviews and/or questionnaires, contributing to this project in their various ways during the author's visits to their respective countries (see list overleaf).
All technicians, scientists and users in the field are invited to contribute their comments or suggestions to update and improve this endeavour to the FAO Forest Resources Division in Rome, Italy or to the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile; all communications will receive serious consideration.
Forest Resources Division