Camanti: Turning a Former Mining Hotspot in Peru into a Recognized Conservation Area 

In 2019, we reported record high levels of gold mining deforestation in the southern Peruvian Amazon, with the Camanti area in the Cusco region representing one of the top three most threatened areas after La Pampa and Upper Malinowski. But this past week the protected area was officially established as the Camanti Sostenible Conservation Concession, which covers 38,172 acres (15,448 hectares).

The Camanti conservation area includes ecologically important cloud forest along a notable altitudinal gradient of 1,800 to 7,200 feet (550-2,200 meters) above sea level. As a result, it is home to unique plants and animals only found in small elevational ranges. Species found in the Camanti Sostenible area include the rare pacarana (Dinomys branickii) along with endangered and threatened species such as the jaguar, giant anteater, giant armadillo, black-and-chestnut eagle, and the Andean bear.

Because Camanti Sostenible borders the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, the establishment of this area hinders the advancement of illegal mining that threatened indigenous communities in years past. At its eastern side is the 2.6 million acre Bahuaja Sonene National Park, while to the south and north are 172,800 acres of protected forests that we established in 2019 and 2020, the Ausangate Regional Conservation Area and Señor de la Cumbre. Thus, Camanti Sostenible adds to a mosaic of conservation areas, indigenous territories, and local forests that provide a corridor of forests necessary for species to ensure connectivity, functionality and ecological integrity in one of the most biodiverse areas of the world. 


This recognition is possible thanks to the joint work of our sister organization on the ground in Peru, Conservación Amazónica – ACCA, the Camanti Sostenible Association, the technical team at the Forestry and Wildlife Administration of Cusco, and the valuable financial support of the Proyecto Amazonía Resiliente – SERNANP UNDP, and Andes Amazon Fund.


First Açaí Fair Celebrates Its Importance in the Bolivian Amazon

The season of açaí harvesting has begun in the Bolivian Amazon. To welcome its return our sister organization on the ground in Bolivia, Conservación Amazónica – ACEAA, celebrated at the department of Pando’s first annual Açaí Fair on April 13th.

 We’ve been working to strengthen and improve açaí harvesting for many years now, as the collection of açaí and other forest products is a key conservation and community development strategy because it can only grow in healthy forests, not in large-scale plantations. Thus, utilizing and improving the harvest of this renewable forest resource provides economic value to keeping forests standing.

The event included an açaí collection demonstration with Robinson Nacimento, a seasoned harvester from the native community of Trinchera in the Bolivian Amazon. To collect açaí, harvesters must climb trees up to 65 feet high and then carefully cut and descend with heavy bundles of fruit of up to 15 pounds. This is not without safety measures, as Misael Campos, the president of the Federation of Açaí and Amazonian Fruits of Pando (FEDAFAP) noted, “He’ll be following the Federation’s standards and security measures, like safety harnesses that we developed with institutions like Conservación Amazónica – ACEAA.” As Robinson explained the different equipment he used to harvest, he showed the harness that Misael referenced saying that, “It’s a  lifeline.” He also showed his bag to collect açai and a machete to cut the bundles of fruit from the branches.

To those not used to the açaí harvesting process, seeing Robinson scale the tree was a nerve-wracking experience. But Misael assured the group of his expertise and familiarity with the process, as harvesting is a regular activity for him. “The worry isn’t being able to retrieve the açaí. It’s that we won’t be able to eat all the berries that he collects!” He also emphasized that the Federation has been grateful to strengthen harvesting practices with help from institutions and nongovernmental organizations, such as ours. He also emphasized the potential to replicate the successes in safer and improved harvesting in other parts of the Bolivian Amazon, saying that, “We can apply this system to other zones as well…there are measures, there’s equipment. We as a Federation are available to share this experience, technology, and equipment that is advancing.”

Pando’s first Açaí Fair overall promoted the knowledge and processing of this key Amazonian fruit and brought together presenters and producers from the municipalities of Santa Rosa, Porvenir, Filadelfia and Puerto Rico. An array of açaí-based products were available to try or purchase, including different types of food and a variety of local crafts. The month of April is even recognized as the month of Amazonian fruits, and açaí has also been declared as part of the Pando’s natural heritage, as the fruit is highlighted for their economic potential and basis for the conservation of the Amazonian ecosystem. 

Learn more about how we partner with producers in Bolivia to improve the safety of harvesting and strengthen the productivity of forests.


Join Aya and take action for nature this Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day like 9-year-old Aya, who was so inspired to protect the Amazon rainforest and all its ecosystem services that her new environmental club’s first fundraiser was held to conserve the Amazon.

In her third-grade class in Oakland, California, Aya learned about the impact of climate change on the environment and animals. After hearing about the number of species and critical habitats being threatened, Aya knew she wanted to take action. Thus, she started a student-run Stopping Global Warming Club to protect the Earth. They recently held their first fundraiser — a bake sale to protect the Amazon rainforest — that was a huge success, raising $745 that was then matched and tripled to $2,235! 

The inspiration behind Aya’s desire to start the Stopping Global Warming Club arose from her love for animals. “In my opinion, I think a lot of animals are super cute, and hearing about natural disasters and animals dying out made me feel upset,” she recalled. Aya knew she wanted to be a part of a group of like-minded conservationists, but the environmental clubs she researched were geared towards teens or adults. Unfazed, she took matters into her own hands.When I looked online I saw clubs that are mostly for older people, like 18 or 21 year olds. And so I decided to start a club for younger people.”

The Stopping Global Warming Club currently has 13 members ranging from 5-13 years old. One is Aya’s friend Mira, who initially joined the club because she wanted to make friends in the neighborhood: “But then I learned a little more about global warming, and then I liked it more than just making friends. I liked helping the environment.” Mira added that her favorite animal in the Amazon is a capybara, correctly recalling that it is the world’s largest rodent. Now, Mira is even creating a play to stop global warming, telling us excitedly that, “I wrote the script already!”

The group decided to host their first fundraiser in March to support an environmental charity. When a member suggested that it benefit the Amazon rainforest, Aya agreed, as she recognized the major effects that deforestation has on the planet. “Protecting the Amazon rainforest protects those that live there. But also when you cut down a tree, gasses get released which affects people and animals in other places,” she explained. “I chose to support Amazon Conservation because, first of all, it’s not just any organization. It doesn’t just protect the Amazon rainforest, but it also works with indigenous peoples who really know about the forest, who really know about the different animals and plants.” 

The Stopping Global Warming Club’s initial bake sale fundraising goal was $50, which can protect around 100 acres of forest for a year at Amazon Conservation’s Los Amigos Conservation Area. They ended up reaching and surpassing that goal — raising $745 which was then matched and tripled to $2,235. This significant amount can train 20 local members of a firefighting brigade in the Amazon on how to combat and prevent forest fires, which is essential during the annual and destructive fire season that’s already begun. 

To others who are inspired to protect the Amazon rainforest, Aya encourages them to do so, saying, “Even if things sound impossible, you should still try to do them and who knows what could happen.” Mira added that, “This is a good cause, and people should start protecting the Amazon.”

This Earth Day, we celebrate young conservationists like Aya and her friends, who have been inspired by the incredible ecosystem services the Amazon offers – like habitat and food for animals and local communities alike.  Real change and impactful conservation efforts are critical to the future of the Amazon so that the next generation will also be able to enjoy the many resources the forest provides for years to come. Amazon Conservation is working hard on the ground to ensure a sustainable future for the forest by supporting sustainable livelihoods deep in the Amazon and protecting biodiverse zones in the Andean-Amazon region. With its countless ecosystem services from fresh water, clean air, and climate regulation to health foods, medical treatments and vaccines, and carbon sequestration, the Amazon is truly the greatest forest on Earth. 



Thus, we hope that today – on Earth Day – you strive to be like Aya and her friends by taking action to protect the forest and its resources.




Make a Sustaining Impact this Earth Month with Amazon Conservation 

This year, Earth Day celebrates all the incredible resources that this beautiful planet provides us. We are taking Earth Day a few steps furtherand celebrating the greatest wild forest on the planet for the entire month of April! We encourage everyone to start taking action for nature and the Amazon this April, but we hope this will be just the start as our planet needs real impactful and urgent action each and every day.

This Earth Month, we are encouraging everyone to #InvestintheAmazon and all of the ecosystem services it provides to everyone from local communities in the Amazon to people all across the globe. From drinkable water and unmatched biodiversity to climate change mitigation and economic resources, the ecosystem services this forest provides are central for the health of the entire planet.

Here are a few ways you can start making your lasting impact this April and make a real difference beyond Earth Month:

  • Get a jumpstart on your commitment: Make an investment today!
  • Share why you support Amazon Conservation’s work for a thriving Amazon by tagging @amazonconservation and using #InvestIntheAmazon on social media.
  • But, most of all, ensure your impact is sustainable by signing up for our newly revamped Wild Keepers Monthly Giving Program.
    BONUS: All new Wild Keeper members in April will be entered in our Earth Month giveaway to win a special gift straight from the Amazon! Winner will be announced on May 5th via social media



Reforestation and Governance Protects Critical Water Sources For Local Communities

Apolo is the second largest municipality in the Bolivian department of La Paz and overlaps with nationally important protected areas, including the Madidi National Park (7,320 sq mi, 18,960 sq km) and Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve. Our sister organization on the ground in Bolivia has worked with this community since 2015 to protect critical water sources for local communities. This past month, Carlos De Ugarte, the Coordinator for Conservation Areas, presented a webinar with several highlights on the most recent phases of this incredible project, including the cultivation of 18,500 seedlings since 2016 and reforestation of over 3,000 trees.

Apolo has been highlighted by the Bolivian Ministry of Environment and local communities as a conservation priority due to the Paramarani mountain range located in its central region. Eight indigenous communities, including Apolo with its 6,000 inhabitants, depend on the Paramarani mountain range for their water supply, so protecting this area means preserving the environmental services this hydrological system provides. Thus, we implemented key conservation initiatives such as the reforestation of degraded areas, installation of protective fencing, training to combat forest fires, and the strengthening of local water committees.

To begin, local community partners and our team planted over 3,000 native plant species in the areas of concern, because reforestation helps increase the absorption of water to the ground which regenerates water sources and springs. Additionally, the presence of more plants reduces soil erosion as well as reduces contamination. Seedlings were cultivated in the Madidi National Park nursery, where we have raised nearly 18,500 seedlings since 2016. Between 2019 and 2020, over 1,000 species were planted around the Paramarani mountain range, and in 2021 over 2,000 were installed. This included reforestation with agave, which was carried out as a fire protection strategy because mature agave plants are notably tolerant to droughts.

Moreover, the team installed fences to protect water sources from pollution caused by humans and livestock and promote the natural regeneration of vegetation such as tree cover, shrubs, and grasslands. Protective fences were implemented around twelve water sources utilized by seven Paramarani communities, and around seven water sources used by six communities in the Altuncama mountain range. Organic farming was also promoted to protect water sources as the use of chemical products must be avoided as much as possible.

Lastly, our team assisted in governance strengthening initiatives, helping expand the Apolo Municipal Water Management Platform to ensure that this water management work is continued. In 2018, this coalition included eight out of the nine communities of Paramarani and the local government. In 2019, it expanded to include seven communities of Altuncama. The communities’ Statutes and Regulations of the Water Committees were also updated, and the team helped manage community requests made through the platform.

Efficient management of this protected area is extremely important to make sure critical water sources stay protected. This project has helped preserve an important hydrological system and its environmental services, supporting both the communities and wildlife that call the Paramarani mountain range home.



Ruthmery Pillco, Who Leads Our Andean Bear Conservation Project, Named Disney Conservation Hero

Ruthmery Pillco, who leads field activities for our Andean Bear Conservation Project, was recently announced as one of fifteen Disney Conservation Heroes, recognized for their efforts to protect the planet. She joins a diverse global community of indigenous conservationists protecting critically endangered and threatened species such as Grauer’s gorillas, golden lion tamarin monkeys, and leatherback sea turtles.

The Disney Conservation Fund awards grants annually to individuals and organizations working together to stabilize and increase the populations of at-risk species. Ruthmery’s work to protect the Andean bear in the Peruvian Amazon, which is categorized as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, has earned her this distinction from Disney. During this project, she works with local communities to reforest areas for the Andean bear’s habitat and restore native plant species. She also leads a field team to identify and record information about the bears’ distribution and diet. Additionally in Costa Rica, her botanical expertise and project leadership enabled her team to help prevent the extinction of a rare and critically endangered plant species in the cinnamon family that has only been known to scientists since 1998. Her team carefully collected seeds from the only four mature plants found in the wild, propagated and planted them to grow the wild population of this species.

Ruthmery joins the latest cohort of 15 Disney Conservation Heroes across 13 countries who work with local communities to care for wildlife and their habitats, including those who protected their own land as nature reserves to individuals who found new ways to support wildlife while honoring cultural traditions.

“We know that behind each of these [conservation] efforts are dedicated individuals going above and beyond to ensure a world in balance,” writes Claire Martin on Disney’s blog, who helps manage the awards. “These Heroes have each taken risks, shown courage, and contributed to an inspiring global story of hope for the future.”

Read Disney’s full blog here.


International Women’s Day Highlight: Amy Rosenthal

This International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting a powerful woman who has helped advance the protection of the Amazon for many years within various roles at Amazon Conservation. Amy Rosenthal, who has worked directly with the organization and now helps guide the institutional vision as one of our board members, is a longtime environmental advocate and has experienced firsthand the changes and challenges within the field of environmental protection.

Amy’s interest in environmental conservation dates back to middle school, when she was doing science projects on the rainforest. She remembers showing her class, “old-school slides of pictures of the Amazon — the ones where you pop them into a round carousel.” Many years later, she finally had the opportunity to visit the Amazon in 2000. “To this day, I love the smell, the tastes, the colors, the element of surprise and wonder that’s with you everywhere in the Amazon. And I admire the people who know this place better than I ever will. They are the stewards and storytellers of the most magical place on our planet.”

During that trip, she remembers the majority of her mentors were men, as well as the researchers she worked with. “Things have changed a lot for women in fieldwork and conservation…As time went on, more of my colleagues were women, and I began to encounter more female mentors. Today, you’re more likely to run across women leaders in international fora and in our partner organizations and local community allies.” She believes that this change is due to a variety of drivers. “Early women leaders helped pave the way for others, as I found in my mentors; male mentors, like our founder, Adrian Forsyth, opened doors. More women were admitted to the sciences for their educational advancement, particularly in the fields of conservation science.”  Additionally, Amy commends how the work of conservation has changed, to becoming  deeply transdisciplinary, requiring project management and team-building, in addition to field biology. “All of these shifts seem to have brought in more women, which is wonderful to see and be a part of!”

Amy Rosenthal on a visit to our biological stations in 2007

Though there are more women now than ever working in the environmental field statistically, there is still progress to be made. In 2014, Dorceta E. Taylor published a report on the state of diversity in environmental organizations, finding that out of the 300 environmental institutions surveyed, men are still more likely than women to occupy the most powerful positions in environmental organizations. Additionally, there is still a low percentage of minorities on the boards of environmental organizations. Amy stresses the importance of diversity noting that, “Boards that have members from the same profession, socioeconomic background, or ethnicity are vulnerable to making poor decisions because they don’t reflect the diversity of thought, knowledge, and experience that the most important and difficult decisions require. An ideal board, which we’re working towards, would have members who can represent the worldviews, experiences, and local knowledge of the communities that Amazon Conservation works with. With that wisdom incorporated into our decision-making, we’ll be an even stronger board and the organization will have more meaningful, salient, and legitimate impact where we know the planet’s forests need it most.”

Photo by Amy Rosenthal

This all leads back to developing an efficient, effective, and holistic approach to strategically protecting the Amazon, which is a crucial wellspring for the world and for the local communities who live there. As one of the five great forests with significant biocultural diversity, there are still many species to discover that play a critical role in how ecosystems function. Amy notes that, “Fortunately, the world is more focused on protecting biodiversity and safeguarding our climate today than ever before…At the same time, there’s finally a recognition of the indispensable role Indigenous and local communities play in stewarding their lands, opening doors for direct support and nesting of traditional management and knowledge. And today’s technology gets us closer to real-time global biodiversity monitoring and conservation than ever before.” She concludes that, “Amazon Conservation is a pathbreaking leader in many of these spheres, informing policies, harnessing hi-tech solutions, and partnering with Indigenous organizations to ensure durable, holistic and equitable conservation of the Amazon. I am proud and honored to be a part of it!”





New Research at Los Amigos Shows Critical Role of Forests in Scrubbing Harmful Mercury from the Amazon and Atmosphere

Artisanal gold mining deforestation in Madre de Dios

A study conducted at our Los Amigos Biological Station and recently published in Nature revealed that intact forests near gold mining areas provide a critical ecosystem service. They intercept and sequester massive amounts of mercury, keeping it from entering the global atmosphere and preventing it from poisoning nearby ponds and streams, where it is substantially more harmful to people and animals.

Gold mining has devastated the Madre de Dios region of Peru for decades. The extraction process consists of excavating river sediment in search of gold pieces. Miners separate the gold from the soil by mixing liquid mercury with the sediment, which they eventually burn off,  releasing mercury in the air. This contaminant ends up on plants’ surfaces and can be absorbed into the leaves. It can then enter soil when the leaves are either washed with rainfall or when the leaves fall to the forest floor.

In this study, postdoctoral researcher Jacqueline Gerson, who conducted this research while a PhD student at Duke University, sought to find out whether mercury was entering land surrounding mining sites in Peru. The study was done by collecting and comparing rainwater, air, leaf, and soil samples from two mining sites at each of three distinct locations: previously logged forests, jungle at least 30 miles (50 km) from these mining sites (“remote sites”), and the intact primary forests of Los Amigos, a 360,000-acre protected area that is a safe haven from the nearby mining.

They discovered that mercury not only penetrates soil near gold mining sites but that the forests located near these areas have some of the highest inputs of mercury ever reported in literature. And, they also found that this mercury is already affecting the local wildlife. When testing birds, they found that local birds have 2-12 times more mercury in their feathers compared to birds in more remote sites. A level this high threatens the species’ ability to reproduce, disrupting not only the offspring of birds but also throwing the entire food chain into potential chaos. This is a clear case and warning about what is happening to forests across the Amazon where gold mining – both legal and illegal – is happening.

View of forest from the Los Amigos canopy tower

However, the study also highlighted the importance of keeping Amazonian forests standing and avoiding deforestation so that mercury didn’t become even more dangerous for humans and wildlife. “We found that mature Amazonian forests near gold mining sites are capturing huge amounts of atmospheric mercury, more than any other ecosystem previously studied in the entire world,” noted Gerson. The standing forests provide an incredible ecosystem service by scrubbing mercury out of the atmosphere and preventing it from entering lakes and ponds where a greater proportion of it will become methylmercury – the most harmful form of mercury. The forests at our Los Amigos Conservation Concession serve that function as they sequester atmospheric mercury from nearby illegal mining operations.

For wildlife and people, the risk of being affected by sequestered mercury – prior to mercury becoming methylmercury – is generally low. “You could walk through the forest, you could swim in the water, you could bury yourself in the leaves and you’re not going to get mercury toxicity from doing that,” Gerson assures. “The study really highlights the importance of continuing to conserve these forests, and the increased danger that would occur if these forests were cleared, because that would release the sequestered mercury back into the atmosphere or into nearby lakes and ponds where it could be consumed by people and animals. We always talk about how carbon sequestration is important. This is also an incredibly important service forests are providing.”

We hope this innovative study will provide policymakers with some of the vital data needed to prioritize the protection of Amazonian forests.

Help us keep making science happen in the Amazon.

Click here to read the full publication in Nature Communications and the companion piece published in Scientific American. Click here to learn more about Los Amigos Conservation Hub.




77,000 Native Species Planted to Restore Montane Forest Ecosystems in Peru

This month marks the successful planting of 77,000 native species in Challabamba, Peru to restore montane forest ecosystems degraded by forest fires or ranching, and to ensure the protection of essential ecosystem resources for local communities.

Some of the native species planted are categorized as threatened on the IUCN Red List, such as Polylepis pauta and Polylepis incana, which are at risk due to habitat loss. Other species planted include the beautiful flowering Escallonia paniculata and Escallonia myrtilloides, an evergreen shrub or tree known for its distinctive crown shape resembling a pagoda. 

Reforestation and restoration activities began this past December by the field team at our sister organization on the ground in Peru, Conservación Amazónica – ACCA, alongside the local communities of Jajahuana and Juan Velasco Alvarado. 

Marco Ccoyo, the president of the Juan Velasco Alvarado indigenous community, notes that restoring degraded lands will also result in protecting ecosystem services for the community, including water, since trees can actually increase local water availability. “Our goal is to plant trees to get more water. We want to preserve the water in our lagoons, which is why we are carrying out reforestation. With this, we will avoid drought.”

The next reforestation and restoration campaign will take place during the first week of March with the planting of 3,000 more seedlings, amounting to 80,000 seedlings grown and planted. With this, we will continue to restore the watershed for the local communities of Peru.

This planting campaign is supported by the Acción Andina International Program, Global Forest Generation – GFG, the Asociación de Ecosistemas Andinos – ECOAN and the Stadler Foundation.



Swift Action Following Our MAAP Report Halts Illegal Mining in Ecuadorian Amazon

Earlier this month, we worked with our in-country partner EcoCiencia to document the rapid illegal mining expansion threatening the Ecuadorian Amazon.  With our satellite-based tools, we were able to identify the mining in real-time, and report it to local authorities, media, and the general public. Days after we launched the report, both the government and local people took action against this illegal deforestation.

Our report revealed the alarming illegal mining expansion of 173 acres (70 hectares) over four months in Yutzupino, located in the Ecuadorian Amazon’s Napo province. Though it took place from October 2021-January 2022, most of the illegal expansion occurred recently in December. Though the Ecuadorian government carried out a field intervention in January to confirm the illegal activity, it continued to advance, increasing by at least 15 acres (6 hectares). We also documented the mining deforestation of 79 acres (32 hectares) between November 2019 and November 2021, on the banks of the Río Punino on the border between the provinces of Napo and Orellana.

Following the publication of this report, citizen demonstrations against illegal mining activity took place in Tena, the capital city of Napo. Local residents participated in a march against illegal mining, alongside representatives of the organization COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin), which advocates for indigenous peoples on a regional and international level, and CONFENIAE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon), a regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Satellite images from this report, showing the alarming side-by-side of increased deforestation, were printed on banners for this march alongside the hashtags in Spanish, “Napo Without Mining”, “Napo Values Life”, and “Napo Resists”.

Mining activity in Yutzupino has been acknowledged and denounced by several local organizations in the past but after the publication of this report, public interest and coverage in the local and international media spiked. Pressure mounted for authorities to take action against this illegal activity and five days later, authorities implemented a large-scale operation consisting of 1,600 police and military. After this, the illegal mining activity in the monitored zone of Yutzupino has stopped, machinery was seized, and they are still in the process of investigating those responsible.

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).