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Securing a Missing Link in the Amazon

Peru

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  • Jaguar. Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

Home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest on Earth, the Amazon is legendary for its great biodiversity that contains millions of species, many still undescribed. However, during the past few decades, nearly 20% of its lush forest has been lost, removing a staggering amount of habitat needed by the area’s unique wildlife to survive.

Rainforest Trust and local partner Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) are working to protect the missing link that will create a combined 7.8 million-acre tri-national corridor that will safeguard a massive swath of critical Amazon rainforest habitat across Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. This critical missing link will be secured by working to expand the current Airo Pai Community Reserve along with other regional protection efforts, protecting more than 1.3 million acres of the mega-diverse forests of northwestern Peru from threats such as illegal logging and oil exploitation.

Biodiversity

  • The Endangered White-bellied Spider Monkey. Photo by Pete Oxford
  • The Giant Otter. Photo by Kenny Ross

The western Amazon basin teems with biodiversity. A rapid biological inventory done by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History in the area reported between 3,000 and 4,000 species of plants, more than 90 amphibian species and 550 species of birds.

Among hundreds of mammal species in the region, the Endangered White-bellied Spider Monkey has experienced a population decline of at least 50 percent over the past 45 years due to hunting and habitat loss. These threats are causing similar declines for other wildlife, including the Endangered Giant Otter that primarily resides in large, slow-moving rivers, streams, lakes and swamps in the region. Also found within this ecosystem, species classified as Vulnerable include the South American Manatee and Yellow-spotted River Turtle.

Challenges

Though recognized for its high levels of biodiversity, this area faces serious threats from illegal logging, oil exploitation and agricultural encroachment. The Airo Pai Community Reserve expansion contains no permanent logging concessions, oil or gas plots, but these activities are taking place near the boundaries of the proposed expansion. It is critical that protective measures be put in place now to prevent future encroachment.

Communities

  • Photo by Alvaro del Campo, The Field Museum

The reserve expansion will incorporate involvement from resident indigenous communities to strengthen the protection and management of the entire Güeppí region of northwest Peru. Only one community exists within the proposed expansion of Airo Pai, a small Secoya settlement named Puerto Estrella. The Secoya people are believed to be one of the most ancient groups living in the Amazon and are strong proponents of conservation initiatives. This ongoing community support is vital to the long-term success of the Airo Pai Community Reserve.

Landscape

Located in northern Peru’s Amazonian lowlands, much of the Airo Pai Community Reserve is part of the Napo Moist Forest ecoregion and experiences extensive rainfall, ranging from 63 inches to nearly 120 inches per year. This ecoregion is also known to contain some of the richest plant and animal communities in the world.

Solutions

To protect this vast area of Amazonian lowlands from further exploitation, Rainforest Trust will work with CEDIA and local indigenous communities to increase Airo Pai Community Reserve by 1.3 million acres and implement an integrated surveillance and control program that includes highly trained forest guards.

The newly expanded reserve will safeguard wildlife and indigenous communities, creating a 7.8 million-acre tri-national corridor that connects Yasuní National Park in Ecuador, Gueppi National Park in Peru, La Playa National Park in Colombia, and a mosaic of interlinking communal reserves.