Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories Prove to be the Best Defense against Deforestation for the Western Amazon

Washington, DC, July 27, 2021. A new analysis by Amazon Conservation’s Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) shows that protected areas and indigenous territories offer the best defense against deforestation for the Amazon Rainforest.

Through Amazon Conservation’s latest Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) analysis, the organization studied how land use designations in the four countries of the western Amazon – Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru – impacted primary forest loss in 2020. 

The primary finding solidifies the importance of protected areas and indigenous territories as key mechanisms to fight deforestation.

“The results speak for themselves,” says lead author Dr. Matt Finer, Director of Amazon Conservation’s MAAP. “They strongly show that protected areas had the lowest recent deforestation across the western Amazon, closely followed by indigenous territories. Protected areas in Ecuador and Peru and indigenous territories in Colombia were especially effective.” 

The results showed that, across an area of 229 million hectares (568 million acres), lands designated as protected areas, covering 43 million hectares, had the lowest rates of primary forest loss, followed closely by those designated as indigenous territories, covering 58 million hectares. 2020, a year marked by the COVID-19 global pandemic, presented a peak in forest loss in the Amazon as well as a flip in this overall pattern, with indigenous territories having less primary forest loss than protected areas. This increased forest loss in protected areas last year was primarily due to intense forest fires in Bolivia.

Areas with other land use designations had deforestation rates that were two times higher than in protected areas and indigenous territories.

“This data helps reinforce that protected areas and indigenous territories are doing their intended job in safeguarding these irreplaceable forests and the region’s ecological function and services,” says John Beavers, Executive Director at Amazon Conservation. “However, in addition to creating protected areas and helping indigenous peoples reinforce their territorial rights, greater investment is needed to protect them from increased deforestation threats and to build these areas’ resilience in the face of climate change. Strengthening ongoing management and their ability to adapt will provide the continued conservation needed to help the Amazon survive.”

To see the full study, visit


About the Amazon Conservation Association 

Amazon Conservation is a pioneering Alliance of local conservation organizations — Conservación Amazónica-ACEAA in Bolivia, Conservación Amazónica-ACCA in Peru, and Amazon Conservation in the United States  — working towards a thriving Amazon. The organization’s holistic approach focuses on protecting wild places, empowering people, and putting science and technology to work for conservation. Visit for more information.



Los Amigos’ 20th Anniversary: Scientists Tell Us Why Los Amigos Matters

Photo of Los Amigos Wildlife Conservation LabThis year marks the 20th anniversary of our Los Amigos Conservation Concession. When Los Amigos was established in 2001, it was the first private conservation concession in the world. Located in the Los Amigos watershed in the department of Madre de Dios in southwestern Peru, the 360,000-acre concession borders the world-famous Manu National Park, and is a mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including old-growth Amazonian forest, palm swamps, and bamboo thickets. Wildlife is abundant, including 12 globally threatened species, 11 primate species, and over 550 bird species.

Since its establishment, scientists and researchers have conducted studies at the station addressing botany, conservation biology, geology, hydrology, and zoology, among others. Additionally, many field courses have been held at the station with students from Peru and around the world.

See what they have to say about Los Amigos:


New Wildlife Conservation Laboratory Launched at Los Amigos Biological Station will Monitor Wildlife Health, Zoonotic Diseases Risks

Photo of Los Amigos Wildlife Conservation LabOur Los Amigos Biological Station, located in the Peruvian Amazon, has inaugurated a new conservation technology lab that will conduct advanced wildlife tracking, conservation genomics, safe pathogen screening, and toxicology monitoring of key species in the Amazon. This targeted biodiversity monitoring will enable us to gather key information on zoonotic diseases and transmission risks, helping support government health agencies and protecting local people – and, in our globalized world, people everywhere – from diseases that cross the human-wildlife interface. 

By safely taking DNA samples of wildlife and domestic animals in the region – without harming or killing any animals and following strict security protocols – scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Laboratory will monitor the health and disease status of a range of species, including frogs, snakes, and monkeys. To achieve this, some of the scientific activities carried out at the Laboratory will include sample biobanking, expanding barcode of life reference libraries for the Amazon rainforest, field testing pathogens and environmental contaminants, and developing sequencing solutions for population monitoring of key species. 

Los Amigos Wildlife Conservation LabThe Laboratory will also create a conservation technology “makerspace,” that is, a space for inventing new technologies, innovating current ones to be used for conservation, and piloting novel models. For instance, the first custom device researchers will work on will be a wildlife GPS tracking device much more lightweight, low-cost, and long-lasting than the ones currently in existence. The device will take advantage of a new long-range forest mesh network and have wildlife microchip reading stations, enabling scientists to track down wildlife movement in a similar way that toll roads track cars through the EZ-Pass system. 

With the addition of this Laboratory, we are creating a community-based model for monitoring biodiversity and wildlife health that can be replicated on a global scale, by using the novel approach of the In Situ Lab (ISL) initiative. “What is great about In-Situ Labs like this is that it’s not a top-down effort,” highlights Dr. Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa, lead scientist in the project, “The lab will engage with and be adopted by local partners thanks to the affordability and ease-of-use of the technology and methodology being developed in the field.”

Another innovative aspect of the Laboratory is that all methods on how to acquire data and conduct analysis data created at the lab will be openly shared on and Github for other scientists to use. The data produced at the lab will also be freely shared in other public online repositories, such as the public data servers BOLD and NCBI, all coordinated through the In Situ Labs project website

This initiative, launched in October 2020, is a collaboration between several academic and nonprofit organizations, including Amazon Conservation, Conservación Amazónica – ACCA, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Field Projects International, Washington University in Saint Louis, and the LOEWE-Los Amigos Wildlife Conservation LabCentre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics at the Senckenberg Museum. This project is made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and to Amazon Conservation Association. 

With the finalization of the Laboratory’s construction, these partner organizations will now launch pilot projects to develop protocols and methodologies. The initiative aims to create a model for a decentralized, community-based One Health laboratory network within two years. 

For more information about the Wildlife Conservation Laboratory or if you’re interested in visiting our Los Amigos Biological Station, please contact