Peru declares ‘Yellowstone of the Amazon’

Peru's government on Nov. 8 officially designated as a national park the Sierra del Divisor area of the Amazon rainforest, along the Brazilian border and straddling the regions of Ucayali and Loreto. President Ollanta Humala symbolically signed the decree from the indigenous community of Nuevo Saposoa in Ucayali after taking a helicopter flight around the sierra's iconic "Cone Mountain" that rises dramatically from the jungle plain. "We want to preserve this geographic area as an important part of the lungs that allow us to purify the air of the world and, moreover, to save it from illegal activities such as illegal logging, drug trafficking and other activities that deforest our jungles," Humala said.

"The creation of the Sierra del Divisor National Park is a historic event," added Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. "It is a confirmation of the Peruvian government’s commitment to conservation, sustainable development and the fight against climate change."

Covering an area of high biodiversity, the new park is being heralded as "the Yellowstone of the Amazon"—although at 5,470 square miles, the park is actually larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks combined. Creation of the park toughens penalties for illegal logging and mining as well as drug trafficking inside the protected zone. However some conservationists have questioned the ability of Peru's central government to effectively police the remote area. (Mongabay, Nov. 10; Mother Nature Network, Nov. 9; Peru Reports, RPP, Nov. 8; Andina, Nov. 7)

Advocates are especially raising concerns about "uncontacted" indigenous groups on the Brazilian side of the border, whose lands are being rapidly encroached upon by illegal loggers from the Peruvian side. Brazil's indigenous agency FUNAI is monitoring these isolated bands in the remote jungle of Acre and Amazonas states by aircraft, and warns of a race against time before they are overrun—potentially resulting in their extermination. A video by Survival International advocacy group from one of the overflights actually shows footage of the isolated bands, repudiating Peruvian government claims that they don't exist—but also pointing up the inaccuracy of the commonly used word "uncontacted." (Uncontacted Tribes)