MAAP #204: New Road Construction in Ecuadorian Amazon Enters Waorani Indigenous Territory

MAAP #204 analyzes a new road project entering the western sector of the Waorani Indigenous Territory, located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

This road would cross 42 kilometers of primary forest from the Nushiño River to the community of Toñampade, bringing the potential of opening new deforestation fronts along the route.

Although this road project was managed, approved, and promoted through the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador (NAWE) the Waorani Organization of Pastaza (OWAP) presented a complaint to the Ministry of the Environment in March 2023, requesting that construction be suspended until the protection of the ecosystems is ensured. In July, an assembly convened by the NAWE was held to discuss the project, and an agreement was obtained that both Waorani entities would provide territorial monitoring and control.

This report analyzes the current state of the road, focusing on deforestation caused by the construction and what actions are being carried out by Waorani organizations to monitor the project.

Click here to read the full report. 

This report is part of a series focused on the Ecuadorian Amazon through a strategic collaboration between the organizations Fundación EcoCiencia and Amazon Conservation, with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

MAAP #202: Protecting Strategic, Free-flowing River Corridors in the Ecuadorian Amazon

MAAP #202 presents a model river conservation strategy proposed by the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute that is designed to protect strategic free-flowing river corridors with the intent to conserve freshwater resources and their surrounding riparian forests, encourage sustainable economic alternatives, and preserve free-flowing ecological connectivity at the basin scale.

Their protection and management are an urgent national priority as only a few high-quality and ecologically intact Andean-Amazon watershed corridors in Ecuador remain. The strategy proposal targets strategic corridors that have three major characteristics:

  1. Free-flowing rivers with no dams, diversions, or channel modifications, and no mining or dredging
  2. High-quality rivers that are a reference for water quality and have exceptional natural and cultural values
  3. Forested riparian buffer zones to preserve the quality and integrity of the river corridor, enhance the ecological connectivity between protected areas, and preserve habitat throughout critical transition zones

The Base Map illustrates two proposed pilot projects in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon:

  • The Jondachi-Hollín-Misahuallí-Napo River Corridor which would protect 193 km of a free-flowing river draining two national parks.
  • The Piatúa River Corridor which would protect 46 km of free-flowing rivers draining another national park


Click here to view the full report 



Massive Planned Deforestation in Amazon of Suriname: MAAP #203

The environmental news platform Mongabay recently reported that, according to their review of official documents, the government of Suriname is preparing to clear large tracts of Amazon rainforest for agriculture.

This news is alarming because large-scale agriculture is not historically or currently a deforestation driver in Suriname, so these new plots would likely trigger unprecedented forest loss in one of the world’s few remaining countries dominated by primary rainforest.

Intertwined with this issue are additional reports indicating that groups of Mennonites are planning to relocate to Suriname. This news has also raised alarms given the extensive deforestation caused by Mennonites in the Amazon regions of both Peru and Bolivia.

Here, in MAAP #203, we build off of Mongabay’s initial analysis to estimate the impact of these proposed agriculture plots.

First, we estimate 467,000 hectares (1,15 million acres) in the proposed new agricultural plots to both the Ministry of Agriculture and Foundations backed by private land developers. Additional analysis of the government documents indicates that the actual total could rise to 560,000 hectares.

Next, we estimate 451,000 hectares of threatened primary forest in the proposed agriculture plots.

This would result in a shocking amount of primary forest loss for a country that has experienced an average annual deforestation of just 6,560 hectares over the past 21 years.

Read the full report here.

Donor Q&A: Inspiring Change as a New Year’s Resolution for Amazon Conservation

As we embark on a new year, we hope your restored energy and fresh beginning bring with them a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration for our planet. For those who are passionate about the environment and the conservation of the Earth’s most vital ecosystems, the Amazon stands as a beacon of both beauty and urgency. Retired conservationist Charles Duncan and retired family doctor Laura Blutstein recently shared what inspires them most about Amazon Conservation – the sheer scale and impact of the work. 

As donors since 2019 who have traveled to some of the world’s most biodiverse birding paradises, Charles and Laura have seen firsthand the growing impact of humans on the Amazon. Laura highlights the need for fast and large-scale action, urging, “We have to act now before it’s too late. Protecting the Amazon is securing a healthy future for humanity.” 

After a 15-year career in the conservation of migratory birds, Charles can attest to the need for a pragmatic approach to conservation. For him, the scale and approach of Amazon Conservation’s work gives him confidence in his support: “It’s that overarching strategy of science, community action, and on-the-ground activity that says to me, these people have thought about this. If I can add my grain of sand to the mountain they’re building, I want to do that.”

Read on to learn more about what has inspired Charles and Laura about Amazon Conservation’s work. Supporters like them not only make our work on the ground possible, but their dedication to our organization also continues to inspire us year after year to innovate and examine how we can further maximize our impact at scale. 


Can you tell us a little background about you? 

Laura: “I am a retired family doctor and practiced locally for about 30 years and retired 10 years ago. I grew up with a love of the outdoors imbued by my parents and appreciating nature and physical activities outdoors. And then with retirement, we’ve been spending a lot of time birding.

Charles: “I have a doctorate in organic chemistry and taught chemistry, including a course called environmental chemistry, where we looked at a variety of energy issues, in particular. Along the way, I started bird watching, casually at first. Then that got pretty out of control, and I changed careers and started working professionally on conservation, particularly of migratory birds, for the last 10 years of my career working on migratory shorebirds across the entire Western Hemisphere, an enormous scale. I was fortunate enough to get to travel and meet a lot of people of wildly different backgrounds in that work. That, in turn, led to this growing understanding of what humans are doing to this good, green planet and the places where we could make a difference. Like Laura, I also retired about 10 years ago, and since then I have been doing volunteer work on a variety of bird-related projects and serving on the board of a few conservation organizations.  I was honored to be a co-author of my late friend Peter Vickery’s monumental book, The Birds of Maine.

Charles on favorite places to travel for birding: “We just got back from a wonderful 2 weeks in Guyana, which is not a country many people visit, but spectacular. We had a wonderful time. We went to Peru a few years ago, basically a 70th birthday celebration for me, and we had a great time there, including at two Amazon Conservation lodges. The base of this was a sabbatical year I spent in 1992-3 in Chiapas with Pronatura Sur, and I’m still in love with the people, places, and birds of Mexico.  So in short, I’ll say Mexico and northern South America – that’s a lot of territory!

Laura: “What Charles didn’t mention was that he was in Guyana in 2001 and hadn’t been back since then. And I remember him telling me how they climbed up onto some rise where they could see to the horizon, uninterrupted forests for miles and miles where there was no evidence of human activity, and how much that impressed him and how much he loved it. So I was a little worried about going to Guyana now, I didn’t know if we would experience that, but we did. We flew over a seemingly unending rainforest with no evidence of human activity. There was a little bit, a few gold mines, but not at the scale we’ve seen elsewhere. 


What initially inspired you to support environmental causes generally and to help conserve the Amazon rainforest more specifically? Why do you think it is important to protect it? 

Laura: “It ties a little bit back to what I said about how I grew up with a love of the outdoors inspired by my parents. Then gradually as an adult and through Charles’s influence too, I started to become more aware about losing beautiful places in the world, and then an increasing awareness about climate change and the link between that and the Amazon Rainforest.”

Charles: “In my case, it was that growing interest in birds and bird watching. Over a painfully short time frame, seeing a place that I used to love going to five years ago just got paved over. Seeing the pace of change over time, and, as Laura said, realizing that those local changes have an enormous global effect. What we see here on the coast of Maine is profoundly affected by whether there is illegal logging in a place far away from us and how all that connects. Now, fortunately, in our retired life, we have the ability to support groups like Amazon Conservation that are doing the things that we see as being so necessary and working towards those shared goals.”

How did you initially learn about Amazon Conservation? 

Charles: “I think our first serious introduction to Amazon Conservation was when we stayed in Wayqecha in 2018. Later on that trip, we went down to Los Amigos Biological Station. We had a wonderful time there getting to know the staff and a little bit more about the conservation work. So initially, it was just by being in the lodges, and then you guys have done a wonderful job staying in contact with us as donors, and from a development point of view, nurturing that interest for us.

Laura: “Perusing the website and Instagram feed, I saw a lot more I didn’t know about the projects. The website is really good. It’s like a textbook of how to do conservation, with concrete examples.”  


Why did you choose to support Amazon Conservation? What makes Amazon Conservation special to you?

Laura: “One big reason is that it’s a highly rated organization with low overhead, as highlighted in your recent posts.”

Charles: “That’s crucial to us. If we’re even thinking about supporting an organization, that’s step one, so congratulations on those ratings.”


Do you have a favorite program or initiative that stands out to you?

Laura: “One of the interesting things we encountered at Los Amigos was a project training rangers to use drones to monitor the forest. I don’t know if that was a project that you guys initiated or if the rangers came and said hey, can we stay with you and do this training, but it was fascinating. I was also perusing your Instagram page and saw this post about Mennonites illegally logging and farming in the Amazon, and there were these amazing photos showing the tracks of land that had been destroyed.”

Charles: “For me, less than a specific project – and there are a number of them that are fabulous – it’s the wisdom of the overarching approach. That we’re going to have good science, that our work is going to be science-driven and we’re going to generate new science as needed. We’re going to empower communities so that it’s not some outsider group that is taking action that doesn’t help the local community. Instead, we’ll give that local community the motivation to continue the project and to be supportive of it, rather than feeling that Amazon Conservation somehow is a competitor for their lands. And thirdly, actually taking action that is driven by that science. Those three components that you articulate on the website are super important. It’s that overarching strategy of science, community action, and on-the-ground activity that says to me, these people have thought about this. If I can add my grain of sand to the mountain they’re building, I want to do that.”


What would you say to other environmentally-conscious people who want to make a difference in the Amazon and help fight climate change?

Laura: “We have to act now before it’s too late. Protecting the Amazon is securing a healthy future for humanity.”

Charles: “I think that Amazon Conservation is absolutely on the right path. Nothing novel to add there, but I would say to our friends, as we already have, that there is a group where your investment of money or time can yield high returns by being part of this very, very well-thought-out and incredibly well-motivated activity, at a scale that matters. We’re talking about 120 million acres. It’s just a staggering size. That sense of scale is really important.”

Laura: “And obviously there are individual things that people can do – like decreasing the use of single-use plastics, working on your carbon footprint, etc. – that’s something that takes the world to make an impact. But it’s good to start at home.”

What You Made Possible in 2023

2023 was a year full of overwhelming support and enthusiasm for the Amazon, and thanks to the generosity of individuals like you, we’ve been able to scale up our work on the ground and across the Amazon basin to help keep biodiversity, local and indigenous communities, and vital ecosystems protected. From strengthening local forest-based economies to directly addressing nature crimes, we are thrilled to share some of the accomplishments you’ve helped make possible. From all of us at Amazon Conservation, we thank you for your commitment to making a difference.

MAAP 200th: 8 Years of Fighting Deforestation and Fires

In March 2015, Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Program (MAAP) launched its first-ever report taking a look at the escalating gold mining deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. Over the past 8 years, MAAP has continued to provide vital information via the latest technology to raise awareness and inspire solutions to protect one of the planet’s most vital ecosystems. 

2023 marked our 200th MAAP report, highlighting the current major deforestation drivers across the Amazon, including roads, agriculture (both small and large-scale), cattle, and gold mining. Additionally, newly available data reveals the Amazon is still home to abundant carbon reserves in these core areas.

Thank you to our supporters and funders who have helped us carry out our MAAP work across the Amazon basin for the past years and helped us achieve 100% coverage of the Amazon in real-time.


Stopping Illegal Deforestation on the Ground

Through our Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Program (MAAP), we’ve been able to work with indigenous groups, local communities, and government agencies across the Amazon to share vital information on nature crimes and illegal deforestation. This year we supported 5 major government interventions against illegal gold mining in both the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon. For example, on June 6, 2023, the National Police, the Navy, and the Specialized Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of Madre de Dios in Peru carried out a field intervention against illegal mining in the Indigenous community of Barranco Chico thanks to the information provided by MAAP. Roughly $11 million worth of mining tools and equipment were destroyed, resulting in one of the largest illegal mining raids in Peruvian history. 


Helping Sustainable Producers Get Market Access 

This past year, with support from our Bolivian sister organization Conservación Amazónica-ACEAA, the producer federation FEDAFAP, which represents 8 producer associations and hundreds of local families, closed a major deal with the Bolivian Food Company (Empresa Boliviana de Alimentos) — one of the top food distributors in the country — to become their açaí suppliers. This supply agreement for 253 tons of açaí pulp is a big win for the communities we support, as they can now sell more of their production in bulk directly to end buyers, eliminating intermediaries and minimizing production waste. This success is one of many for our initiative to build a forest-based economy in the southwest Amazon in Peru and Bolivia, which aims to support local people in improving their quality of life through sustainable production while elevating regional economies and protecting forests.  


Combatting Nature Crimes Locally and Regionally

Our sister organization Conservación Amazónica – ACCA, with the support of the Amazonía Que Late Network, has launched Peru’s first Amazon Legal Clinic: a service dedicated to helping empower local people to actively participate in legal processes against environmental and forest crimes. The Amazon Legal Clinic provides free legal advice, representation, and assistance in criminal and administrative matters for local people who want to file a deforestation claim or report a forest crime in the Ucayali, Loreto, San Martín, Amazonas, Cusco, and Huánuco regions. This transformative initiative will provide those affected by forest crimes (e.g. illegal mining, deforestation, illegal logging, or wildlife trafficking) with access to the support they need to report the crime and initiate swift action on the ground.

At the regional level, in 2023 Amazon Conservation helped establish the Nature Crime Alliance, a global multi-sector initiative to fight environmental crimes across the globe. This joint initiative led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) will help facilitate collaborations with NGOs and local governments to raise political awareness, implement financial commitment, and strengthen operational capacity to initiate solutions to nature crimes.


Launching the Thomas Lovejoy Laboratory

Thanks to funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Fiddlehead Foundation, our Manu Biological Station inaugurated the Thomas Lovejoy Molecular Biology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change Laboratory in September, created in memory of renowned scientist and former Amazon Conservation Board Member Thomas Lovejoy. 

This new facility will provide resources for molecular studies including barcoding, metabarcoding, and environmental DNA using Nanopore® technology, mercury analysis, and respirometry and thermal tolerance. The building will also contain a photography room, a terrace for events, a digital herbarium, semi-permanent collections of insects and fish, and the Tom Lovejoy garden full of edible and attractive plants for birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.