Our Manu Cloud Forest Canopy Observatory is Nearly Complete!

July 22, 2009

Cloud Forest CanopyThe Amazon Conservation Association, our Peruvian sister organization, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA) and the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) partnered with Greenheart Conservation Company Ltd. to build the first-ever canopy walkway in an Amazonian highland cloud forest. The walkway will be a major resource for education and research at our Wayqecha Cloud Forest Research Center, which borders the southern tip of Manu National Park.

The canopy walkway provides access to the upper parts of the forest, which is where much of the action is, including an amazing diversity of bromeliad, orchids, birds and butterflies. This facility will offer new educational opportunities to researchers, students, tourists, and local communities to study the Andean cloud forest ecosystem from a bird’s-eye perspective.

The canopy walkway is the most sophisticated structure of its type anywhere. It consists of four aluminum towers connected by a 146-meter-long network of suspension bridges that pass under, through, and above the forest canopy. The tallest tower is 44 meters above ground level. One of the towers is a large, dedicated “classroom tower” where groups can assemble undisturbed on an upper platform for environmental education. Another important feature of the canopy walkway is a rigid truss bridge through a small rock canyon that leads to the base of a waterfall passing through an area with a completely distinct climate and Cloud Forest Canopyextraordinary plant life. Other bridges lead visitors across forested slopes that cover eight distinct eco-zones, providing a view from more than 10,000 feet in elevation down to the Amazon basin.

ACA employed and trained a team of 12 local workers to build the canopy walkway. Of these, 10 were from the local community of Juan Velasco Alvarado de Sunchubamba, whose territory borders Wayqecha, one was from Pillcopata, and one was from the Queros Wachiperi native community. A thirteenth member, Njurah, comes from Nigeria with previous experience building canopy walkways, and is now acting as a foreman for the team as construction wraps up.

For more than a month these workers were delivered Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Greenheart-sponsored training focused on training, leadership, and conflict resolution. They were further trained in the skills necessary for construction and maintenance of the walkway itself. Many of these skills are transferable to other types of employment and for many this was their first taste of employment beyond farm labor. After the inauguration of the walkway, these workers are capable of any necessary maintenance and will likely continue to be employed as “environmental interpreters,” leading tours for students, researchers, and tourists.

The canopy walkway will be inaugurated this fall and will be available to researchers, students, the local community, and the general public. For more information about the walkway, contact us at info@amazonconservation.org . For a glimpse of the construction process, visit our new online Canopy Walkway Photo Gallery. (Photos above by Joshua Rapp and Julia Weintritt)