Brazil Creates World's Largest Rainforest Park

BRASILIA, Brazil, August 22, 2002 (ENS) - Brazil is establishing the largest rainforest national park in the world as the country's contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso announced today.

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Unexplored rainforest in the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park (Photos courtesy Conservation International)
Covering 9.4 million acres of the northern Amazon along Brazil's boundary with French Guyana, the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park shelters rare jaguars, harpy eagles and 12 percent of all primates known to exist in the entire Brazilian Amazon.

"With the creation of Tumucumaque Mountains National Park, we are ensuring the protection of one of the most pristine forests remaining in the world," said President Cardoso. "Plants and animals that may be endangered elsewhere will continue to thrive in our forests forever."

Conservation International (CI) served as a lead nongovernmental advisor for the park's creation, providing technical assistance during the planning phase and collecting information about the region's biological importance.

"Brazil should be congratulated for its long term vision, dedication and leadership on conserving its precious biodiversity," said CI president Russell Mittermeier today at the group's headquarters in Washington, DC.

"Since Tumucumaque is one of the greatest unexplored places on Earth, we can only imagine what undiscovered mysteries will one day be found in the park," said Mittermeier, who serves as chairman of the World Conservation Union's Primate Specialist Group, and has discovered several primates previously unknown to science in the Brazilian Amazon.

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The new park is located in the northern Amazon (Map courtesy CI)
Covering 3.8 million hectares (9.4 million acres), Tumucumaque Mountains National Park will be the world's largest tropical reserve - the same size as Belgium and about 500,000 hectares (1.23 million acres) larger than the state of Rio de Janeiro.

President Cardoso has backed in the project, despite the opposition of mayors in the region and security sectors of the government itself who see risks in the fact that the area is on the Brazilian border with French Guiana. "I believe in persuasion and I have persuasion power, said the President in June when he proposed the park at a Johannesburg preparatory conference. "If I don't have persuasion, I have the power."

President Cardoso wants to arrive in South Africa with victories in the environmental area. Brazil has ratified the Kyoto climate protocol, setting goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases. "As a result, Brazil may arrive in Johannesburg with the required moral strength to state that it is not only preaching, but implementing measures," said the President.

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Jaguars like this one inhabit Tumucumaque Mountains National Park (Photo by Haroldo Castro courtesy CI)
WWF, the conservation organization, has been working with the Brazilian government for several years to bring the park to fruition. WWF will allocate US$1 million to help the Brazilian government implement the park as part of the Amazon Region Protected Areas initiative (ARPA) an unprecedented collaborative effort to help fulfill the Brazilian government's promise to protect the Amazon.

ARPA will be formally initiated by representatives of WWF, the government of Brazil, the World Bank, and the Global Environmental Facility at a ceremony during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

"President Cardoso's announcement of the creation of Tumucumaque National Park is a landmark achievement in global forest conservation and an historic step forward in efforts to protect the Amazon Basin," said Kathryn Fuller, president of WWF-US said today in Washington, DC.

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Black bearded saki, a primate in the tropical wilderness of Amazonia. (Photo by Russell Mittermeier courtesy CI)
Eight primate species, 350 bird species and 37 lizard species inhabit these forests, researchers have found. An estimated 42 percent of all lizards, and 31 percent of all birds in the Brazilian Amazon live the new park.

Among these are several species with declining populations in other parts of their ranges, says Conservation International, including the jaguar, giant anteater, giant armadillo, harpy eagle, the black spider monkey, the brown-bearded saki monkey and the white-faced saki monkey.

Adjoining several other protected areas, the new park will be part of an immense corridor of biodiversity which contains the headwaters of the state's biggest rivers, the Oiapoque, the Jari and the Araguari.

The interior of Tumucumaque itself is virtually uninhabited, and surveys of the area have concluded that no indigenous settlements exist within the boundaries of the park. Access is limited and area waterways are difficult to navigate for most of the year.

The new park will be administered in collaboration with Amapá State, which has a sustainable development program encompassing both environmental and human needs. The program emphasizes the preservation of natural resources, and combines modern technologies with respect for local cultures and income generation for local communities.

Amapá Governor Dalva Maria de Souza Figueiredo has asked the federal government for funds to compensate the state for "the immobilization of 26 percent of the state territory." In a letter to President Cardoso in June, the governor reaffirms that she is not against the park, but asks for guarantees of compensation.

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In the language of the Apalam and Wayana indigenous groups of the northeastern Amazon, Tumucumaque means "the rock on top of the mountain symbolizing a shaman's fight with the spirits," referring to the granite rock formations rising hundreds of feet above the forest. (Photo courtesy CI)
Amapá already shelters another nine federal conservation units, totaling 21 percent of the state's territory. With aboriginal lands, the areas of Amapá under federal responsibility will now correspond 54.5 percent of the state's territory.

Amapá Environment Secretary Antonio Carlos Da Silva told reporters in June, "We reiterate, that the park is very welcome and are conscious of its importance for the protection of biodiversity, however, we ask for attention to the situation of some cities."

The state officials want improvements in basic sanitation, urban garbage disposal and highway improvements.

Conservation International-Brazil will continue working with Amapá State to support the new park by assisting with mapping, enforcement activities, developing basic infrastructure, inventory of the region's biodiversity and environmental education for communities living in areas adjacent to the park.

"Walking through this park today looks much like it would have hundreds of years ago, since Tumucumaque has not been deforested," said José Maria Cardoso da Silva, director for Amazonia, CI-Brazil. "By creating the largest tropical forest national park in the world, Brazil has once again demonstrated its commitment to protecting some of the most precious biodiversity on Earth."