Mahogany logging, Alto Purús River

Intact But Threatened

While still largely intact, the Alto Purús complex is threatened by deforestation, including road construction, drug cultivation and production, and the expanding agricultural frontier. In recent years it has come under siege by illegal loggers intent on cutting Peru’s largest remaining 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.


Puerto Esperanza – Iñapari Highway

Proposed Puerto Esperanza -- Iñapari Highway

Proposed Puerto Esperanza — Iñapari Highway

A bill submitted to congress in August 2016 proposes construction of a road through the Park, Purús Communal Reserve and Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for isolated people. The region’s indigenous groups oppose the road, believing it would prove disastrous to the region’s ecological integrity and the way of life of its isolated and settled indigenous inhabitants alike. A small but powerful group of mestizo religious leaders and landowners has been working to generate support among the region’s indigenous communities through an aggressive and slanderous campaign against the Park, SERNANP and conservation groups. The highway’s main proponent is Congressman Carlos Tubino from Ucayali. He is supported on the ground by the local Catholic priest based in Puerto Esperanza.

“People of the Purús: We are not so stupid to stop a road.” The billboard falsely credits the quote to the late Antonio Brack, Peru’s first minister of the environment.

Pro-Highway Propaganda in Puerto Esperanza, Oct. 2016 (C. Fagan)

The local catholic priest uses his authority to post pro-highway propaganda throughout the frontier town. He also distributes a monthly newsletter, La Palabra Viva, focused on convincing the local indigenous population to support the highway proposal.

UAC and indigenous partners are promoting alternative transit routes, like this one through Brazil by river and existing roads.

Puerto Esperanza and the Purús River

Puerto Esperanza and the Purús River.

UAC Posts about the Highway

Congressional Commission Rules Against Purús Highway

Indigenous Leader Seeks Support in Fight Against Highway, September 2016

Illegal Road Discovered in Alto Purús, February 2013

Corruption and Bribes Behind Highway Bill, May 2013

Peru’s Politicians Ignore Indigenous Rights and Push for “Highway of the Dead”, May 2012

Poster showing Social-Environmental Impacts of the Highway, November 2012