Thursday, October 11, 2007

Save Tambopata Candamo

Imagine a wild and barely touched corner of the Amazon, deep in the south of Peru, not far from the Bolivian border. A remote wilderness inhabited mostly by birds, tapirs, monkeys and jaguars. Although the nearest town, Puerto Maldonado, has become a hub for ecotourism in the area, few travelers venture this far into the pristine outback of the Tambopata National Park. Only one environmentally conscious tour operator has a small rustic lodge here, the Tambopata Research Center, which developed as an off-spring to the reseach work that is carried out here by Peruvian Biologists. It is a unique place, where visitors get a real insight into the ecology of the lowland rainforest and can even participate in some of the research being conducted here. It also serves as a 'living biology class room' - offering special programs for schools: field biology workshops - hands on biology in the field - what better way for students to become environmental guardians and to get inspiried about life.

Now all this and much more is under threat. The news reached me this week. The Peruvian Government seems to be intent on selling off its most precious resources, the wilderness of the Amazon rainforest, for the sake of short term profits from oil exploitation - which, at best will return pittance in comparison to what benefits carefully planned sustainable use development could bring to the region in the long term. It has sold dozens of lease agreements to oil companies, but this is the first to my knowledge that actually proposes to reduce the size of an existing National Park considerably and expose it to rape, plunder and degradation from oil companies and whoever will follow in their wake.

Not only the Forest with its plants and animals is under threat - indigenous communities that live in very remote places bare the brunt of it all, not only in the form of pollution of their lands and resources, but also from direct assaults on their villages. Murder in the name of profit, carried out by mercenaries of these profit seekers is a regular occurance in these remote regions that are plundered for their natural resources - but few people ever hear about it and rarely is anybody ever held responsible - it simply goes unnoticed. Furthermore, oil drilling creates pollution that can affect communities far from the source as rivers carry the poisons downstream, pipes leak and spoil the land and the forest is cut down in order to create access roads. And where there is a road settlers soon follow, further degrading the environment and adding to the conflict between indigenous people who have lived in these parts for millenia and those who move in to steal their lands and resources from them.

Will this be the future of one of the last great wilderness areas of the Peruvian Amazon? My heart aches when I think about it - when I think about the ruined dreams of sustainable futures, based on preserving the forest and showing eco-tourists the real preciousness of our planet - not money, not oil, not gold- but the overwhelming beauty of life itself.

Please sign the petition to help save the Tambopata Candamo Rainforest Reserve:



Representatives of numerous Peruvian and international organizations are deeply concerned about the effects of a legal amendment proposed to the Ministers Council on September 25, 2007. The amendment aims to reduce the Bahuaja Sonene National Park by 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) and open it to oil and gas exploration. The area at risk is an uninhabited and pristine tract of rainforest in the Candamo and Tambopata basins, home to record numbers of plant and animal species.

Candamo is a rainforest wilderness of globally recognized conservation importance and beauty. It is an area of the Bahuaja National Park that has been classified as a “strictly protected zone” because it is both extremely vulnerable and unique in the world. Without Candamo, the huge Tambopata Candamo National Reserve / Bahuaja Sonene National Park complex will lose the very impetus of their creation as protected areas.

The Bahuaja Sonene Park comprises 1,092,142 hectares of lowland and montane rainforest. The National Geographic Society declared it one of the world’s seven “iconic natural sanctuaries.” It was set aside as a park because it is one of the planet’s most intact rainforests and it is a sanctuary for unprecedented numbers of species and natural habitats. It is a land of tapirs, jaguars, peccaries, and macaws—many of which are practically tame, as the area has not been hunted in decades

The park is part of vast continuum of protected areas, including the adjacent Tambopata National Reserve, one of Peru’s main natural tourism attractions, and Madidi National Park, directly across the border in Bolivia. Both protect the headwaters of the Madeira River, the most extensive tributary of the Amazon. The park is also vital to the well being of over 50,000 inhabitants in Puerto Maldonado and the surrounding indigenous and ribereno communities who depend on the purity of the water and the rich sediment it carries from the Andes down through Candamo’s uninhabited basin. That is another fundamental reason for its strictly protected status.

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