Where We Work

Alto Purús Complex

Our first project, started in 2006, is located in the region referred to as the Alto Purús Complex. It includes the headwaters of the Alto Purús and Yurua rivers and covers 4.4 million hectares of protected areas, indigenous territories and titled indigenous communities. Accessible only by plane, the region is one of the most remote areas of the world and home to isolated tribes of hunters and gatherers.

Recognizing its extraordinary ecological and cultural value, in 2004 Peru designated the core of this region the Alto Purús National Park. It is Peru’s largest park, covering 2.5 million hectares of lowland jungle and serves as the central link to a huge contiguous network of lands that includes the Purús Communal Reserve (200,000 ha), the Murunahua (480,000 ha) and Madre de Dios (700,000 ha) Territorial Reserves for Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation, and two roadless and sparsely populated areas of titled indigenous lands on the Purús and Yurua rivers covering an additional 500,000 hectares. As the primary zones of human influence on the Park and Reserves, these titled lands are the focus of our community conservation efforts.

This network of protected areas and indigenous communities forms the best-preserved and perhaps most important wilderness corridor in the entire upper Amazon. The region harbors a full spectrum of Amazonian flora and fauna, including numerous rare and endangered species such as the jaguar, giant river otter, and harpy eagle. Outside the protected areas on the Purús and Yurua rivers, over a dozen different indigenous tribes, including Juni Kuin (Cashinahua), Sharanahua, Yaminahua, Yine, Culina, Amahuaca and Ashéninka, are represented in sparsely populated communities. These people are in various stages of initial contact with outside society, and survive on traditional subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, and tending small gardens.

While still largely intact, the region is threatened by deforestation, including road construction, drug cultivation and production, and the expanding agricultural frontier. Over the past ten years it has come under siege by illegal loggers intent on cutting the world’s largest stands of mahogany, among the world’s rarest and most valuable timber species. The logging is detrimental to the ecosystem, exploits the local communities, and is an immediate threat to the survival of the still-isolated people in the forest interior.

Entire tribes have been wiped out by illnesses brought by loggers and other outsiders, and violent conflicts are increasing as these hunters and gatherers struggle in a last-ditch effort to protect what remains of their traditional lands and way of life.

The Tamaya

The Tamaya River is a tributary of the Ucayali, the longest Amazon tributary. The Tamaya headwaters are located in the small hills that form the boundary between Peru and Acre, Brazil. The Peruvian Ashéninka territories occupy geographically strategic positions in these watersheds, but many remain untitled and thus unable to protect their homelands or serve as barriers to deforestation, buffers, and monitoring stations to both national and transboundary protected areas, or fulcrums of resistance to infrastructure initiatives.

Like the Alto Purús, the upper Tamaya lacks state presence and continues to be overrun by illegal loggers and petroleum exploration outfits, and increasingly threatened by both official and unofficial infrastructure projects including a series of emergent illegal logging roads.

Maps of the Alto Purús, Yurúa and Tamaya Regions of Peru