Scientists are fascinated by our in-tact ecosystems and the abundance of rare and endangered species.
Photographers and videographers capture spectacular shots wherever they aim their lenses.
All of our visitors indulge in the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes of raw primary forest.
Help us keep it this way.
Our primary forest is located in Loreto, the poorest region of Peru, 400km upriver from the city of Iquitos. It is our mission to coexist with the jungle environment without disturbing its natural processes. We have ongoing efforts to save the Yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), known locally as taricaya, which plays a crucial part in the region's ecosystem, is critically vulnerable, and continues to be poached by the local population for the high-end food market. We have also been monitoring our populations of red uakari monkey (Cacajao calvus), which is nearly extinct in the wild due to hunting and the destruction of its habitat. Many endangered species should theoretically be protected by international trade law (CITES), but in reality no laws are enforced. Everything is fair game to a poacher.
By choosing to visit the jungle with us, you are directly helping us maintain and protect our projects, the Reserve and the local people. Your presence on the trails and in the creeks shows local hunters and loggers that we are monitoring the property. Your financial contribution pays the local people's salaries and for lodge and boat maintenance. Quite frankly, the area's (and Peru's, for that matter) conservation laws are few and weak. Those that do exist are not enforced, making them equal to non-existent. The government continues to pass laws that protect business interests over the environment, effectively turning the rain forest into a combination lumber yard and oil well. We don't get support from any other organization, government nor private, local nor international. You absolutely make a difference.
What's the cost to HOLD A SLOTH?
Many visitors to Iquitos, Peru want to hold or cuddle jungle animals and take photos with them, but they don't realize how they're hurting the jungle. Jungle animals are not pets! When locals see tourists with animals, they see opportunity for profit. This encourages them to go out and capture more. In order to take babies, the mother and often other adults are killed. For a tourist to have a "moment" and a photo with an animal, the jungle pays a very high price. Don't let your visit to Iquitos contribute to this destructive system!
We'd like to highlight two main areas of concern with regards to conservation in our area: the illegal animal trade and the illegal logging trade. Both are booming business sectors that have been deeply entrenched in the local psyche and economy for years. Yet, like all businesses, they are driven by demand. And who is doing the demanding? Tourists, clients, customers, buyers...basically you. You can help change the landscape of the market simply by making conscious decisions about what you spend you spend your money on, regardless of whether you're buying experiences, food, souvenirs or furniture.
The Illegal Animal Trade
At the Tapiche Reserve there are no pets, no cages, no leashes or strings, so there will never be sad animal eyes staring out at you from behind a barrier. Besides subsistence fishing, we do not catch or capture any animals for any reason.
While this does mean that you won't get a photo of yourself holding a snake or a sloth, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you're not contributing to the illegal animal trade. The dark truth about tourism in Iquitos is that if you're touching or holding an animal, you're helping the trade.
While some places may hide behind the guise of "rescuing" the animals they're holding in captivity, the truth is that these animals come from the same illegal market. Rather than being rehabilitated and released, they are kept to turn a profit. Locals see that money can be made from capturing animals and exhibiting them in captivity. Baby animals are often only captured after their mother has been killed. The babies then endure high stress and often experience low quality of life in captivity. All of this is part of the unspoken price the jungle pays to satisfy the demands of its tourists.
The other large contributor to the illegal animal trade is the demand for exotic jungle meats and souvenirs made from animal parts. Tourists often want to say they've eaten caiman or paiche, or they buy souvenirs made from the skins, teeth, scales or feathers of animals, usually endangered. This behavior encourages locals to harvest these animals as they please. Loreto, the state in which Iquito is located, does not have much support for conservation, neither in its written laws nor in the consciousness and will of the local people. Natural resources are plundered and the offender does not face consequences.
As a tourist, you can do your part to stop this cycle by eating and shopping smart. Don't eat caiman, paiche, tortoise, monkey, or other exotic "bushmeat." Reject handicrafts and souvenirs that incorporate animal parts, and tell the vendor why. Yes, those macaw feathers are pretty, but someone shot the macaw to get them. That is how business goes in Iquitos, Peru. The market is driven by demand, and educated tourists can make a difference.
(We do recommend the ACOBIA-DWAzoo Manatee Rescue Center on km 4.5 of the Iquitos-Nauta highway. They do sincere rescues and rehabilitations and have educational and community outreach programs. They are also on tripadvisor.com)
The Illegal Logging Trade
The illegal logging trade may seem like a vague and distant problem to a lot of people, but the end product winds up in their hands, homes and daily life.
Just beyond the boundaries of the Reserve, we see the first step of the destructive chain around us in the jungle. We must be constantly vigilant of loggers trying to take trees from the Reserve. All of the locals know who we are. They know that they shouldn't be on the property. But since they have decimated their own areas, they are pushed to harvest in other territories.
A few years ago, in a misguided effort to help its people, the local government declared our area as a Zona de Produccion Primaria (ZPP), or "primary production zone." The rain forest was legally declared an economic resource free for the taking. Every Peruvian is allowed to cut 80 trees per year just by showing their ID card. There are no guidelines for cutting trees, no sustainability measures, and no supervision.
It begins when an habilitador (roughly translated as "enabler") makes a contract with the locals living on the riverside. He knows that the locals don't have the resources to carry out independent logging operations, so he offers to supply them with a chainsaw, a boat with motor, gasoline, and maybe some rice. The locals then go to work for 3-4 months in the jungle cutting trees however the choose, no management involved. Because they must supplement their meager food ration by hunting and fishing, the areas that are logged are also stripped of animals. Oftentimes entire families, like the one floating through the Reserve in the photo above, go for the job.
At the end of a season of back-breaking hard labor in stark living conditions, the loggers lash their logs together into giant rafts and float for days downstream to Requena, the logging hub. They register the wood via the ZPP law with their IDs. The habilitador quotes them a miniscule buying price far below market value for the wood they've brought, then subtracts the cost of the chainsaw, boat with motor, gasoline, and all supplies used for the job, leaving the loggers in debt. The loggers must cut even more wood the next season to pay the debt and perpetuate the downward spiral. There is no question that this loophole in the system exploits the people and the forest. This story has been repeated to us innumerable times by locals who have worked within this industry and often are still living in the cycle of debt.
The story of the wood continues with a rather miraculous process of certification and legalization in the Requena office. This laundering system has been active and healthy for many years. By the time the wood reaches Iquitos, it has all the official papers necessary for big corporations like Ikea to make their purchase, with the appearance of satisfying corporate or national requirements for sustainability.
The Reserve is an island of conservation amidst a land of logging and hunting. In addition to preserving the land itself, we try to give the locals alternatives to poaching and working in the logging industry. While it's clear that the existing system is not easy to change, consumer awareness can make a difference. Those sleek Swedish furniture designs may be tempting in design and low cost, and many locally produced handicrafts may look exotic and beautiful, but the sourcing of raw material for these products is destroying people's lives as well as one of the most ancient forests on earth.
In 2012 the Environmental Investigation Agency published an article entitled The Laundering Machine. It documents US companies importing large quantities of illegal wood from Loreto with ample evidence of the illegal activity between 2008-2011, yet the system described in the report thrives still today.
In 2014, Scientific Reports published the article Logging Concessions Enable Illegal Logging Crisis in the Peruvian Amazon, which focuses on how the legal systems within Peru are not just failing but in fact being exploited to make illegal activity possible.
If you know of other resources or have ideas about how to help, please Contact Us.
Header photo: logging family floating their log raft to Requena on the Tapiche River
© 2013 Deborah Chen