World Parks Congress: New Amazon Reserves Created

DURBAN, South Africa, September 10, 2003 (ENS) - Protection for the precious heart of the Brazilian Amazon was announced today at the IUCN World Parks Congress, where some 2,500 government officials, indigenous leaders, businessmen, and conservationists from 170 countries are seeking ways to safeguard unique natural areas and at the same time benefit resident indigenous peoples.

Jorge Viana, governor of Brazil's Acre state, announced the creation of a new state park encompassing 2,600 square miles, an area larger than the state of Delaware.


Brazilian spider monkeys like this one will be better protected in newly designated parks. (Photo courtesy WWF)
Located on Brazil's border with Peru, the newly designated park contains critical habitat for rare and endangered species such as the jaguar and Goeldi's tamarin. Its creation is expected to discourage illegal logging activity in the southwest Amazon by reducing cross-border traffic in illegally extracted timber.

The new park, named Chandless State Park, honors William Chandless who explored rivers in this part of Brazil in the mid-1800s.

"The creation of Chandless State Park by the government of Acre builds momentum for achieving a shared vision for safeguarding the Amazon," said Guillermo Castilleja, vice president of Latin America and Caribbean for World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The conservation organization has been working to triple the amount of Amazon rainforests in protected areas.

"This amazing area, home to rare spider monkeys and harpy eagles, will form part of a park system that ultimately will preserve the natural heritage of the Amazon for future generations," Castilleja said. "People everywhere depend on Amazon rainforests to regulate our climate and rainfall, and provide us with products like building materials and medicine."

In a related announcement, Governor Viana set aside three state forests in Acre for responsibly managed production of forest products to benefit local residents economically.

Together with Chandless State Park, which is reserved for nature protection, these new areas will serve to block widespread forest clearing in Brazil's "deforestation arc" across the southern Amazon, the WWF said.


Acre Governor Jorge Viana (Photo by Pedro Martinelli courtesy Socioambiental)
The strategy leading to the creation of these areas is the culmination of an intensive three year effort by WWF, working closely with partners at the federal, state and local levels, to develop solutions for the region's conservation and development challenges.

Chandless State Park will now receive funding, scientific support, and management assistance from WWF's Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) program, which aims to create a system of parks and sustainable natural resource management reserves encompassing some 193,000 square miles.

A partnership between the government of Brazil, WWF, The World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, and the German Development Cooperation Bank, the ARPA program is a 10 year effort to bring 10 percent of the Brazilian Amazon under strict protection and establish a $260 million trust fund to finance the effective management of protected areas in perpetuity.

In Brazil's Amazonas state, the government has just established six reserves extending over some 16,250 square miles, and doubling the size of the state's protected area system.

One of the new Amazonas reserves was created as a tribute to the late Dr. José Márcio Ayres, a forest ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who died of lung cancer earlier this year at the age of 49.

At some 2.5 million acres in size, the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve supports several local communities that are now stewards of their own resources. It contains a number of different ecosystems, including a large area of várzea, a type of forest that is seasonally inundated by the Purus River, a tributary of the larger Solimões-Amazonas System.

Giant otters, manatees and river dolphins live in the new reserve, a productive area for fishing and agricultural activities.

"These new reserves represent a giant step towards saving the very heart of the Amazon," said Dr. Steven Sanderson, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society and delegate at the World Parks Congress.

"Piagaçu-Purus in particular uses the same model developed by Dr. Ayres in the Mamirauá and Amanã Sustainable Development Reserves, where residents balance conservation and development in a manner we should all strive to achieve," Sanderson said. "These reserves realize his vision."

The Mamirauá and Amanã Reserves were designated as a World Heritage Site shortly after Dr. Ayres passed away.


Brazilian protected areas provide habitat for rare and endangered species. (Photo courtesy Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology)
"Implementing sustainable development models that work is the key to saving wildlife and people." said Dr. Andrew Taber, director of WCS's Latin America Program. "Making the residents of Piagaçu-Purus masters of their own fate encapsulates what Marcio was aiming for - a workable blend of science and pragmatism."

Besides the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve, the new Amazonas state reserves include Samaúma and Cuieras State Parks, the Cujubim Sustainable Development Reserve, the Rio Urubu State Forest, and the Catuá-Ipixuna Extractive Reserve.

During a symposium at the World Parks Congress today on community and parks, Otimio Castillo of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin called for governmental recognition of indigenous rights.

Indigenous representative Luz Maria de la Torre presented to the Congress the Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration. The declaration calls for an approach to sustainable development and nature conservation based on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The declaration demands indigenous peoples’ free, prior informed consent as a prerequisite to establishing protected areas, and full indigenous participation in the management of those areas.