Conservation value and special characteristics
Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park covers an area of approximately 65.400 hectares in the northeastern part of Minas Gerais State in Brazil. The Park protects one of the most impressive and important speleological site in the region, where karstic caves of astonishing size contain painted scenes dating back 10,000 years. The area covers two threatened Brazilian biomes – Cerrado and Caatinga – and contains a number of threatened species including Maned Wolf, Puma, and Ocelot. It is a key part of the Rio São Francisco watershed.
Given its location and historic low tourism affluence, there is a weak tourism structure and weak tourism “mind-set” in Peruaçu Caves National Park region. Government budget unpredictability for Protected Areas combined with a lack of perception from the municipalities, local business and communities regarding the tourism potential of the region make it harder to set up a system that could provide sufficient funds for the Park.
While current levels of tourism are moderate, there is significant potential to extend tourism capacities, particularly through community based services and activities. Community managed guesthouses (pousadas) are developing rapidly in the areas adjacent to the Park; guides from local communities take visitors on guided tours of the caves; and local indigenous groups make traditional crafts to sell. Peruaçu Cave is in the top 50 most visited national parks in Brazil (out of the existing 74 National Parks), with the number of visitors rising from 601 in 2012 to 8900 in 2018. The Park has well developed infrastructure in the form of buildings, signs and trails, which are not utilized to their full potential.
INC is working with Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park Management team, ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), and Ekos Brasil Institute, through its Peruaçu Fund to develop a sustainable financial plan for the park. INC is working to set up structures for capturing tourism revenue, through the development of concession arrangements that channels funding to the Park as well as a tourism strategy and marketing plan. One of IUCN’s working group members has developed a model structure and draft agreements to implement this arrangements. However, this model still needs to be adapted to the local legislation. In 2019, IUCN will work with ICMBio at the local and national scale to adopt this model. INC will also support investigation of other potential sources of revenue, such as micro-finance, PES, and corporate partnerships, to support implementation of improved sewage management systems and solid waste recycling, capacity building of community artisans, guesthouse managers and guides, and fire prevention and native vegetation reforestation.
Another potential activity developed during the INC Global Meeting in Brazil would be to recapitalize and restructure the existing fund in order to develop a mix of possibilities for the investment of the financial resources raised. A small proportion of the resources could be injected into an endowment and the interests would serve for the day-to-day expenditures for the Park management. Aside from that, another part of financial resources raised would go directly into projects.