Peru: One million acres of Amazon saved


The World Land Trust-US (WLT-US) and their local partner CEDIA (Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonians) announced on the 27th August 2009 that the Matsés National Reserve was approved by the Peruvian government.

The approval means that 1,039,390 acres of pristine forest and its inhabitants is put under permanent protection.

picture of dense rainforest with yellow flowering tree

Rainforest in the reserve / WLT-US

The reserve has been created for its exceptional biodiversity and to protect lands traditionally used by the Matsés people who are locally called the "cat people" because of the whiskers and facial tattoos adorned by the women. The tribe were first contacted in 1969, but have had to vigourously defend their lands from the encroachment of logging and oil companies - as have so many of the Amazon's inhabitants.

picture shows a small village surrounded by jungle

picture showing a procession of Matses men in the village



















Remote Matsés village and ceremonial procession / WLT-US


In 2004 Chicago's Field Museum sent a Rapid Biological Inventories (RBI) Team on expedition to the proposed reserve and their results were astounding. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 plant species were identified along with 65 species of mammals and 416 birds. Among the mammals were two endangered monkeys - the bald uakari and Goeldi's marmoset.

A fascinating discovery was made during the survey as this extract from the RBI reportpicture showing a vast forest of palms tells: “Our most surprising and spectacular result was finding a large archipelago of white-sand forests, known locally as 'varillales', in the headwaters of the Río Gálvez. These extensive patches of white-sand forest - unknown to scientists until this inventory - contain floral and faunal endemics and represent a rare habitat in Peru and the rest of the Amazon. Because of the great edaphic variation across the proposed Reserva Comunal Matsés, from the poor white-sand soils to extremely rich soils, the area harbors a near complete sample of the extraordinary diversity of plants and animals living in terra firme forests of the Peruvian Amazon. The forests in the proposed Reserva Comunal Matsés are tremendously heterogeneous and diverse, and appear to shelter a higher diversity of plants than any other reserve in lowland Peru. The botanists registered ~1,500 species of plants in the field, and estimate a regional flora between 3,000-4,000 species. Of the more than 500 fertile species collected during the inventory, several of the locally common species are potentially new records for Peru and / or new to science. The forests here are notably intact.”

This fight has lasted 13 years as WLT-US and their partners have defended the map of the protected area within the Peruvian Amazonindigenous peoples' rights and seen off the challenges of oil companies and commercial loggers.

The map on the right is courtesy of the WLT-US and shows the extent of the protected area.

Obviously, protecting land is only the first battle. Managing the land sustainably while continuing to fend off those who would rather see the land logged and drilled is an ongoing affair that the partners will still be seeking support for.

Among the early objectives will be to develop income streams based around non-timber forest products and artisan crafts.