Community-Based Reforestation in the Amazonian Cloud Forest to Protect Andean bears

Overgrazing and burning has significantly reduced high-elevation forests throughout the Peruvian Andes, posing a threat to the endemic species that call these cloud forests home, such as the Andean bear. This bear, also called Spectacled bear, is Latin America’s only native bear species and plays a critical role in the health of the Amazon by naturally dispersing seeds. However, this species has been deemed a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List, so protecting their homes is of utmost importance — especially now, as climate change compounds these effects by driving more species upward in search of cooler and wetter conditions, which in turn reduces food sources for the bears even further. 

To develop the baseline conservation status of Andean bears in the upper Manu region, we installed 30 camera traps on the trails of our Wayqecha and Manu (previously called Villa Carmen) Biological Stations. Andean bears are easily recognized by their face markings that are unique to each individual, similar to a human fingerprint. 

Leading our field activities for this project at Wayqecha Conservation Hub is Ruthmery Pillco, an Indigenous Peruvian botanist from a village outside of Cusco and a trilingual speaker of Spanish, English and Quechua. Field research is also being supported by Ukuku, our new conservation working dog, whose name comes from the Quechua word “bear”. Ukuku was rescued and trained in scent detection, and with her help, the team has found scat samples from three bears in the field. From the samples, we have been able to determine what the bear consumed, and samples were taken for future DNA analysis. 

Through interviews with local communities and field assistants, as well as an in-depth literature review, we identified 60 species of plants consumed by the Andean bear in the region. Of these 60 species, we have learned that the bear prefers those in the Bromeliaceae (14) and the Ericaceae (10) botanical families. Based on this data, 15 species of trees and shrubs were selected to be propagated in our large native tree nursery. A total of 22,000 seedlings of the bear-favorite species identified above will be nurtured and grown here to prepare them for final planting in the reforestation areas. 

To determine where the reforestation areas would be, we identified a total of 50 acres of forests degraded by unmitigated agricultural expansion and fires in two Andean highland communities: Juan Velasco Alvarado and Jajahuana. Since then, reforestation efforts in these areas have begun through community-led efforts, and will continue to take place in the appropriate planting seasons up until January 2022.

Lastly, given the cultural significance of the bear, we developed four radio spots in Spanish and Quechua to broadcast on local radio stations. Without reliable access to internet and cell phones, radio is still the best means of communication in highland communities. The length of these radio spots range between two to five minutes, and are being broadcast every day on two regional stations. The messaging of these radio spots covers many topics to raise awareness of conservation best practices, such as the prevention of forest fires, the importance of planting and not cutting down native trees, the Andean bear’s key ecological role in the health of the forest, and the ecosystem services provided by the forest thanks to Andean bears. 

Moving forward this year, we’ll conduct 50 more interviews with local and indigenous peoples to gather their traditional knowledge on the behavior of the bear in this region, and continue our community reforestation efforts to safeguard the habitat of this important species.


Special thanks to the Stadler Family Charitable Foundation and the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) for making this project possible.

MAAP #138: As Brazil Negotiates With World, Amazon Deforestation Continues In 2021

Expanding new 2021 deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon (Mato Grosso). Data: Planet. Click to enlarge image.
Expanding new 2021 deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon (Mato Grosso). Data: Planet.

Brazil is currently in high-profile negotiations with countries such as the United States and Norway for international compensation in exchange for improved action to address Amazon deforestation.*

While this may be a positive development diplomatically, on the ground extensive deforestation continues.

We recently reported that, in 2020, Brazil had the sixth-highest primary forest loss on record (1.5 million hectares) and a 13% increase from 2019 (MAAP #136).

Here we present a first look at 2021 Brazilian Amazon deforestation.

This early analysis is important because a) it provides real-time context for the negotiations, and b) these are the first areas that are likely to be burned in the upcoming fire season (see MAAP #129).

We first analyzed a new generation of early warning forest loss alerts, based on 10-meter resolution imagery (a major upgrade from the previous 30-meter alerts).* These alerts indicate the loss of over 175,000 hectares of primary forest thus far in 2021.

We then investigated the most urgent (large alert clusters) with even higher resolution (3 meters) satellite imagery from Planet.

Below, we present a series of high-resolution imagery videos showing key examples of 2021 Brazilian Amazon deforestation.



Primary forest hotspots 2021 (thru April 4). Data: UMD/GLAD, MAAP.
Primary forest hotspots 2021 (thru April 4). Data: UMD/GLAD, MAAP.

Forest Loss Alerts

The alerts indicate the loss of 175,330 hectares of primary forest in the Brazilian Amazon between January 1 and April 4, 2021.

The Base Map illustrates where this deforestation has been concentrated.

Note the heavy concentrations in the states of Mato Grosso, Pará, and Amazonas, followed by Rondônia and Roraima.












High-resolution Imagery Videos

Mato Grosso

Planet Link



Planet Link



Mato Grosso

Planet Link



Planet Link


Munduruku Indigenous Territory (Pará)

Planet Link



For more information on the negotiations between Brazil and both the United States and Norway, see the following links:

As climate summit unfolds, no Biden-Bolsonaro Amazon deal forthcoming

Brazil’s Bolsonaro, under U.S. pressure, vows climate neutrality by 2050

Joe Biden’s billions won’t stop Brazil destroying the Amazon rainforest

Brazil demand for U.S. to pay upfront stalls deal to save Amazon forest

Brazil needs $10 bln a year in aid for carbon neutrality by 2050, minister says

‘Negotiating with your worst enemy’: Biden in risky talks to pay Brazil to save Amazon

Brazil’s promises to slash forest losses ’empty’, researchers say ahead of Biden summit

Brazil must cut deforestation 15-20% a year to reach 2030 goal, says vice president

Norway nixes support until Brazil reduces Amazon deforestation
Business Day




The early warning forest loss alerts used in this report are produced by the University of Maryland (GLAD).  They are the first alerts based on 10-meter resolution imagery obtained from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite. Previous alerts were based on 30-meter resolution imagery obtained from NASA/USGS Landsat satellites.

To identify the deforestation hotspots, we conducted a kernel density estimate. This type of analysis calculates the magnitude per unit area of a particular phenomenon, in this case forest cover loss. We conducted this analysis using the Kernel Density tool from Spatial Analyst Tool Box of ArcGIS. We used the following parameters:

Search Radius: 15000 layer units (meters)
Kernel Density Function: Quartic kernel function
Cell Size in the map: 200 x 200 meters (4 hectares)
Everything else was left to the default setting.

For the Base Map, we used the following concentration percentages: Medium: >10%; High: >15%; Very High: >25%.




We thank A. Folhadella (ACA) for their helpful comments on this report.

This work was supported by NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) and ICFC (International Conservation Fund of Canada).


Finer M, Mamani N (2021) As Brazil negotiates with world, Amazon deforestation continues in 2021. MAAP: 138.

Download PDF of this article >>



Recovering Paco Ponds and Gardens at Manu Biological Station

Since last year, we have been busy making improvements for researchers and ecotourists at our Manu Biological Station (previously called Villa Carmen) in the Peruvian Amazon. In addition to vegetable garden and trail recovery, since November 2020 we’ve been in the process of locating areas for construction and adaptation of ponds for Piaractus brachypomus fish or “paco” as they are commonly called. Responsibly raised, this type of high-protein fish helps generate sustainable livelihoods in the Peruvian Amazon and acts as an important food source for local people. We are using these sample ponds at our biological station to teach visitors the importance and conservation value of this species in the region and provide them the experience of “fishing” for their own dinner.


The idea for this initiative began with a local association of aquaculturists (called Asociación de Acuicultores de Primavera Alta y Primavera Baja) when they saw the need to lower the costs of running sustainable fish farms to make them better alternatives to other forms of livelihoods that may destroy the rainforest. We’ve been working with local and indigenous communities in Peru for 2 decades, helping establish over 200 fish ponds for sustainable use.


We have already begun recovering our paco ponds at Villa Carmen. After purchasing 600 young fish from local sources, we proceeded with creating the proper living conditions, to help the  young fish adapt to the smaller pool. Three months later, they will be transferred to a larger pool so they can continue to grow. Thus, it is estimated that in 8 months there will be pacos sustainably raised for consumption by visitors and local workers at our biological stations. 


Additionally, we are working on recovering other areas aside from paco ponds, including gardens for bird watchers, our famed traditional medicine plant garden, as well as adding endemic flowers and yuccas to our vegetable garden. Click here to learn more about our Manu (previously called Villa Carmen) Biological Station and come visit us.




Amazon Conservation Partners With Tech Giant SAS to Fight Rainforest Deforestation

Our real-time satellite monitoring efforts recently discovered that deforestation across the nine countries of the Amazon reached an all-time high in 2020. Over 5.6 million acres of irreplaceable forests were lost, an increase of 17% over 2019. The effects of this rampant deforestation are many: loss of habitat and potential extinction of wildlife species, increased incursions into indigenous territories, more human contact with species that can transmit zoonotic diseases, and exacerbation of the effects of climate change.

To step up our fight against deforestation, we are joining forces with SAS, the world’s leading data analytics software developers. Through SAS’ global social innovation project, the company has been using crowd-driven artificial intelligence to help track, and ultimately stop, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest since last year. So far over 845,000 square kilometers (around 280 million acres) of the rainforest have been analyzed by the general public to date, providing essential data for machine learning.

Now, we will tap the power of the crowd and AI to help automate the process of determining whether deforestation is natural or human-made. This matters because the quicker the cause, source, and legality of the deforestation can be assessed and delivered to local authorities, the faster they are able to take action on the ground to stop permanent damage to the forests. Our MAAP team is working closely with SAS to prioritize this automation in key protected areas and indigenous territories across the Amazon that are highly-threatened, enabling local communities, police, and prosecutors to have hard evidence of deforestation in real-time.

Our Executive Director John Beavers highlighted the importance of this public-private partnership: “This crowdsourcing effort not only helps us put a much needed tool in the hands of local people who can stop deforestation, it provides an opportunity for people to learn about what’s happening on the ground and take action.”

Read more on our partnership with SAS in their latest Earth Day press release. 




Creating a Best Practices Guide to Açaí Harvesting

The Amazon’s ecosystems provide an array of vital services to the region and the world as a whole, as they are home to millions of people who rely on the forest for their livelihoods. Many communities derive income from the açaí berry, the popular “super food” often found in juices and smoothies. Açaí is harvested each year from April to November, complementing the harvest of Brazil nuts that takes place from December to March. 

Thus, to encourage safe, sustainable harvesting of açaí, we worked with five associations of açaí producers in Bolivia, belonging to the Bolivian Departmental Federation of Açaí and Amazon Pando Fruit (FEDAFAP), to compile standardized, best practices for harvesting açaí . This led to creation of the Best Practices for Harvesting Fruit of Açaí (Euterpe precatory) guide in Spanish.

The illustrated guide is divided into five essential parts spanning nearly fifty pages. The first section covers the acai fruit and its uses, the second gives planning advice for its management, the third section discusses best practices for harvesting the fruit, the fourth about the food’s quality, and the fifth covers safety.

Through this guide, it is one way to increase local communities’ capacities to sustainably manage these highly productive forests in the Amazon.

See the full guide here: 


We thank our local contributing organizations who worked with us to make this guide possible:

  • Association of Harvesters, Producers and Processors of Amazonian Fruit from Trinchera (ARPTFAT)
  • Association of Collectors and Producers of Amazonian Fruits of Petronila Pando (ARPFAP)
  • Comprehensive Forestry Association of Agricultural Producers of the Jericho Community (AFIPA-CJ)
  • Comprehensive Association of Harvesters, Producers and Processors of Fruit of Abuna (ASICOPTA) 
  • Comprehensive Association of Harvesters and Producers of Amazonian Crops (AIPROTCA).
  • During this process, the leadership of the Inter-Institutional Platform for Connection of Amazon Fruit Products (Picfa Pando) was essential for coordinating with Departmental Secretary for the Economy (SEDEPRO Pando), as was the contribution of the institutions that provided technical support to Departamental Federation of AçaíHarvesters and Amazonian (FEDAFAP), Conservación Amazónica-ACEAA, CIPCA-Norte Amazónico, WWF Bolivia and the Bolivian National Food Safety and Quality Service (SENASAG).


This Earth Day Matters More – How you can prepare for it

1) Know What’s at Stake

  • As an ecosystem, the Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Over 3 million species live in the rainforest, and over 2,500 tree species (or 1/3 of all tropical trees that exist on earth) help create and maintain this vibrant ecosystem. More and more, biodiversity is at risk.
  • There’s a reason why the rainforest is so essential: 70% of South America’s GDP is produced in areas that receive rainfall or water from the Amazon. The Amazon influences rainfall patterns as far away as the United States.
  • COVID-19 and the global pandemic had a devastating effect on the local and regional economies, and on Amazonian nations’ ability to defend protected areas and indigenous lands. Now is the time to help the region build a more sustainable future.

2) What We’re Doing

  • We track deforestation in the Amazon in real-time. Recentlywe reported that the Amazon lost nearly 2.3 million hectares (5.6 million acres) of primary forest loss in 2020 across the nine countries it spans. This represents a 17% increase in Amazon primary forest loss from last year. See how we do this in the Washington Post.
  • We’re creating conservation areas that protect key spaces and genetic diversity, creating a mosaic of interconnected landscapes. Learn more about our latest conservation area.
  • We’re advancing scientific research on the ground, opening a new laboratory at our Los Amigos Biological Station that studies and monitors biodiversity in the region. The knowledge gained from this research will help us better protect these areas.

3) Some ways you can help





Amazon Conservation Board Member Bruce Babbitt Spearheads Amazon Protection Plan

photo of bruce babbitt
Bruce Babbitt

Bruce Babbitt, the former Governor of Arizona and a longtime Board Member of Amazon Conservation, is spearheading the development of the Amazon Protection Plan, which is a set of policy recommendations to the Biden Administration regarding his campaign pledge to invest $20 billion USD towards protection of the Amazon rainforest. This coming Earth Day, President Biden will host a Leaders’ Climate Summit, led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, to discuss emissions reductions, green energy investments and similar topics with world leaders.


The Amazon Protection Plan, which was delivered to Mr. Kerry in January, was a series of recommendations proposed by the Climate Principals, a bipartisan coalition of seven former U.S. officials. The plan focuses on four key aspects: mobilizing funding for conservation from private and public sources, building forest-friendly policies into trade agreements, requiring companies disclose and manage deforestation risk in their supply chains and portfolio investments, and strengthening international diplomacy around forest conservation. 


One of the Climate Principal’s suggestions was for President Biden to organize a conference at the White House to urge corporate leaders to help finance the reduction of at least one billion tons of greenhouse gases in the Amazon by 2025. Another was the expansion of “debt-for-nature” exchanges and to negotiate with governments in the Amazon. Bruce Babbitt also noted that “meaningful environmental provisions in trade agreements” may be the single most impactful action to control deforestation, as the rising deforestation rates are a major threat to the stability of the Amazon. Scientists say that the Amazon’s “tipping point”, where it will no longer be able to generate its own rainfall and support its forest ecosystems, is at 25% deforestation. Estimates place the current deforestation level of the Amazon at 17%, and its tipping point at 20-25%. If the tipping point is surpassed, the largest rainforest on Earth could become a dry grassland and greatly impact the biodiversity found there.


“The Amazon rainforest is absolutely essential to the world,” says Bruce Babbitt. “It stabilizes the Earth’s climate and rainfall, sustains many tens of millions of people and is home to more wildlife than anywhere else on Earth. Because the Amazon holds so much carbon and that carbon gets released when the rainforest is destroyed, protecting the Amazon must be an essential part of solving the climate crisis.”


View the full proposed Amazon Protection Plan here. For more information on the Climate Principals, visit their website.