Protecting the Heart of the Amazon
We are responding to the conservation and human rights crisis in the Amazon headwaters with a combination of measures intended to protect biodiversity while promoting strong stewardship and sustainable livelihoods in local indigenous communities. We are committed to working in the most vulnerable areas, where illegal activities and community exploitation often go undetected, despite the logistical challenges, dangers, and high-costs of working in such remote areas.
The Amazon headwaters of Southeastern Peru contains some of the most remote and intact forests in the entire world. Healthy jungle ecosystems support a full spectrum of Amazonian flora and fauna, and over a dozen different indigenous tribes including some still living in isolation from the outside world. The region’s core is made up of two of the most important protected areas for both biodiversity and indigenous cultures anywhere on the planet: the Alto Purús and Manu national parks. The parks are surrounded by other protected areas including four reserves for isolated tribes, and dozens of titled communities representing 10 different tribes in various stages of contact with the outside world. Living in small familial villages, they survive mainly on subsistence activities like hunting, fishing, and tending small gardens. Together these conservation areas and indigenous lands comprise a massive 25 million acre (10 million hectares) mosaic of protected lands roughly twice the size of Costa Rica called the Purús – Manu Landscape. It is truly one of the largest and wildest ecosystems left on Earth.
While still largely intact, Purús – Manu is threatened by several deforestation drivers including both illegal and official road construction, drug cultivation and production, and the expanding agricultural frontier. In addition, illegal gold mining is devastating areas of Madre de Dios department to the south, causing rapid deforestation and contamination in protected areas and indigenous lands.
For the past two decades, the Alto Purús National Park and surrounding had been the center of Peru’s illegal logging trade, specifically Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata) among the world’s rarest and most valuable hardwoods. While still a major problem, the amount of illegal logging has dropped in recent years due to a combination of improved en situ enforcement of protected areas and oversight of timber exports.
About Upper Amazon Conservancy
UAC’s founder Chris Fagan became committed to protecting the Alto Purús region in 2002 when he spent a month with local communities studying their land use strategies. Concerned with the human and ecological impacts of rampant illegal mahogany logging, he returned in subsequent years to document and raise awareness to the logging and to develop a regional conservation strategy. In 2006, he founded UAC as the only NGO focused specifically on protecting the cultures and forests of the remote watersheds around the Alto Purús National Park. In 2011, he founded the Peruvian NGO, ProPurús, which now employs a dozen Peruvians.
Our success is directly related to the trust-based relationships we have with local people, developed over the past 25 years when members of our staff first began working in the region. Local people are the key participants in all of our activities, as we believe that the future of this remarkable region ultimately depends on their success as protectors and stewards. We employ members of our partner communities, partly to provide them with valuable experiences and skills needed to become future leaders for their tribes.