Peru moves to protect new swath of Amazon

Peru's creation of Yaguas National Park—covering nearly 870,000 hectares of rainforest along the remote border with Colombia—is being hailed as a critical advance for protection of global biodiversity. The territory in the Putumayo river basin is roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park, but with more than 10 times the diversity of flora and fauna—home to more than 3,000 plant species, 160 species of mammals (including manatees and the Amazonian river dolphin), 500 species of birds and some 550 fish species representing a full two-thirds of Peru's freshwater fish diversity. Some park also covers some 30 indigenous communities of the Tikuna, Kichwa, Ocaina, Mürui, Bora, and Yagua peoples. (NYT, Feb. 14; The Manual, Feb. 6; Mongabay, Jan. 11)

Despite new areas brought under protection, forest is still being rapidly lost in Peru. A recent analysis of satellite images by th Andean Amazon Monitoring Project (MAAP) found 143,425 hectares of forest were lost across the Peruvian Amazon during 2017—the equivalent of 200,000 soccer fields. Deforestation was down 13% from 2016, but the analysis reveals new forest loss "hotspots," from Madre de Dios in the south to Ucayali and Huánuco and San Martín in the Selva Central, to the Santa María de Nieva area in northern Amazonas region. According to the analysis, the main causes of deforestation in these areas are ranching, large-scale oil palm cultivation and gold mining. (Mongabay, Feb. 16)

Illegal logging continues to be a critical factor as well. A new study by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) shows that a high percentage of the wood that leaves Peru continues to be illegal. The study reviewed figures from Peru's National Forestry and Wildlife Authority (SERFOR) collected at a control post in Callao, the country's principal port. Data revealed that only 16% of inspected timber shipments was crtified as of legal origin, under the process established by the Organism for Supervison of Forest Resources (OSINFOR). Another 17% was found to originate from illegal logging. The remaining 67% was of indeterminate origin. (Mongabay, Feb. 13)