MAAP #60: Gold Mining Increases in Buffer Zone Of Tambopata National Reserve

In the previous MAAP #50, we presented an analysis of the extent of gold mining deforestation in the southern Peruvian Amazon as of September 2016. Here, we partially update the data for the area within the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve.* We document the increase of 1,135 acres (460 hectares) of illegal mining deforestation during the last 8 months, from September 2016 to May 2017 (see red in Image 60). That brings the total deforested area in the buffer zone to 10,970 acres (4,440 hectares) since 2012.


Image 60. Data: Planet, MAAP, SERNANP
Image 60. Data: Planet, MAAP, SERNANP

*The buffer zone does not form part of the respective protected area, thus it is not under the jurisdiction of the Peruvian national protected areas agency, SERNANP. However, the illegal activities that are being carried out in the buffer zone are putting the conservation values of the protected area at risk, and are under the jurisdiction of other entities in the Peruvian government.

Exploring the Amazon with photographer Jessica Suarez

Exploring the Amazon with photographer Jessica Suarez, photo of Jessica SuarezThe morning is cool and a rainstorm seems inevitable today as clouds hang low over Villa Carmen Biological Station. Today is one of my last days as an artist-in-residence with Amazon Conservation and I’m anxious to retrieve my camera trap that I left a month ago in a dip in the trail on one of my favorite hikes. Trail nine is steep, gaining several hundred meters of elevation in under a kilometer. As I hike, macaws and parrots keep me company from tree tops, dropping fruit as they eat and chatter. As soon as I reach 800 meters I suddenly realize that I am hiking through clouds. This section of forest with its tall trees cloaked in mist is just magical. 

I make my way up to the small mirador and watch as waves of clouds move through the space obscuring and then revealing the bluish-green mountains and the confluence of rivers below. I spend time filming for my 360 video project, attaching the camera to trees hoping to relay the experience of this special scene. My primary project for my artist-in-residency is to pair 360 video with photos, camera trap images, audio and writing to re-create an immersive experience of what it’s like to be in the Amazon rainforest. As David Attenborough says, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no will care about what they have not experienced.” My hope is that this project will help others experience a bit of this amazing rainforest that has completely besotted me.

Exploring the Amazon with Jessica Suarez, Margay cat
Margay captured on a camera trap April 4, 2017, trail 9, Villa Carmen Biological Station.

As I sit and spend a few more moments absorbing the beauty of this place, a mixed flock of birds flit between branches above me. I start photographing them and identify stunning Paradise tanagers, and even a Masked tanager, a new bird for me! Finally, I wind my way down from the mirador to the dip to discover what wildlife my camera trap has seen over the past month. I can hardly wait to hike back to the station to see what images will emerge.

As I return to my cabin, the wind has picked up and thunder rumbles nearby. I quickly cover my backpack and pull out my rain jacket and as I descend the trail, the rain arrives refreshing and clean. Halfway down the trail I hear the familiar whimper of capuchin monkeys. One large fellow eyes me warily before disappearing all the while calling out to his troupe.

Later when I put the camera trap card into the computer, I am swept away with pictures of jaguars, margays, pumas, jagarundis, pacas, agoutis, opossums and giant armadillos. While I hope one day to see some of the animals in person, it is enough to know they are out there, walking these same trails I did, protected and safe. 

Protecting the sacred rainbow mountains of Peru

Protecting the sacred rainbow mountains of PeruThe “rainbow mountains” of Ausangate have become a popular tourist destination for their unique colorful appearance. The Andean mountain range is striped with colors ranging from turquoise and lavender to maroon and gold due to millions of years of weathering of its unique mineral composition.

In addition to being a geological marvel, theProtecting the sacred rainbow mountains of Peru Woman Ausangate mountains are also an important cultural element for local Peruvians, as the mountain range is believed to be the deity of Cusco and considered to be holy. In the month of April, one week before Corpus Christi, the festival of Quyllur Rit’i (which translates in the native Quechua language to “star snow”) brings together the local indigenous people of the Andes as a celebration of the stars. The mountains are inhabited by llama and alpaca herding communities, and constitute one of the few remaining pastoralist societies in the world. 

However, this magical place and its inhabitants are currently not an area that is officially protected by the government and this unique ecosystem in the Andes-Amazon is threatened by human destruction. To safeguard Ausangate, we partnered with the local government to create a conservation area of 311,456 acres that will protect this national patrimony. The process is expected to be finalized in late 2017 and we have been able to promote this region through a variety of social media efforts, photography galleries, and more. To see more of this beautiful region, follow our Facebook page.

Letter from our ED: Why the Amazon Still Matters

In the 1990s, deforestation in the Amazon was a big news story. While now less prominent in the mainstream media in the Letter from our ED- Why the Amazon Still MattersU.S., protection of the planet’s richest forest is more critical than ever, especially as we seek to halt global climate change.

This week, El Comercio, Peru’s leading newspaper, published an alarming story based on Amazon Conservation’s forest monitoring program showing the rapid devastation caused by illegal gold mining across wide swaths of southern Amazon forests. Unsustainable agricultural expansion, illegal logging, and large infrastructure projects also threaten this great wilderness. If current rates of deforestation continue, it is estimated that more than half of the Amazon may be destroyed or severely damaged by 2030. This would be an incredible loss for the planet and affect us all, as the rainforest stores 80 to 120 billion tons of carbon, stabilizing the world’s climate, and produces 20% of the oxygen we breathe.

Letter from our ED_HannahPortraitOur deforestation analysis also highlights what’s working in the Amazon. As reported by El Comercio, Peru’s Park Service in cooperation with other government entities, including the Army and Environmental Prosecutor’s office, successfully halted recent invasions by illegal gold mining inside the spectacular forests and rivers of the Tambopata National Reserve! Local communities also play a key role in protection, like the indigenous community of Matoriato which recently declared a 4,000 acre conservation area on their ancestral communal territory with our assistance. invite you to support these forest guardians whose work on the ground help save this global treasure.

Letter from our ED_HannahSignature

Hannah Stutzman, Executive Director

MAAP #59: Power Of “Small Satellites” From Planet


The company Planet is pioneering the use of high-resolution “small satellites” (Image 59a). They are a fraction of the size and cost of traditional satellites, making it possible to produce and launch many as a large fleet. Indeed, Planet now operates 149 small satellites, known as Doves, the largest fleet in history. The Doves capture color imagery at 3-5 meter resolution, and will line up (like a string of pearls) to cover everywhere on Earth’s land area every day.

Image 59a. Source: Planet
Image 59a. Source: Planet

Over the past year, MAAP* has demonstrated the power of Planet imagery to monitor deforestation and degradation in near real-time in the Amazon. A consistent flow of new, high-resolution imagery is needed for this type of work, making Planet’s fleet model ideal. Below, we provide a recap of key MAAP findings based on Planet imagery, for a diverse set of cases including gold mining, agriculture deforestation, logging roads, wildfire, blowdowns, landslides, and floods.**

*MAAP has been fortunate to have access to Planet imagery via the Ambassador program.
**Note: In the images below, the red dot () indicates the same location across time between panels.

Station Profile: Wayqecha Cloud Forest Birding Lodge

Just 3.5 hours northeast of Cusco—via a spectacular drive through the snow-capped Andes—Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station and Birding Lodge is one of the world’s best sites to explore the lush cloud forest ecosystem bordering Manu National Park. Situated where the eastern slopes of the Andes meet the Amazon lowlands, the cloud forest absorbs moisture from passing clouds and is often blanketed in mist and fog. The constant supply of moisture allows […]