Amazon environmentalist gunned down in Peru
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
March 14, 2008
After reporting a truck loaded with mahogany illegally logged from the Amazon rainforest, Julio Gualberto García Agapito, a Peruvian authority who worked to protect forests, was gunned down by Amancion Jacinto Maque, an illegal timber operator, on February 26, 2008. He is survived by his wife and children.
While many see the Carretera Transoceanica as an opportunity to bring development to a remote region, conservationists are concerned that its paving could turn one of the most biodiverse parts of the Amazon into a sea of soy fields, cattle pasture, and logged forests. Already a network of "unofficial" roads, built by loggers and developers of other extractive industries, is expanding in the region, facilitating illegal logging and agricultural conversion of forest. Accordingly the area's deforestation rate is rising — a 2007 study found that Madre de Dios is one of the two provinces in Peru that account for 86 percent of the country's forest degradation and deforestation. About 75 percent of the damage occurs within 12.5 miles (20 km) of roads.
It was in this landscape that Don Julio was killed. Known by researchers working in the area for his hospitality, kindness, and devotion to forests, Don Julio was shot to death in broad daylight at the office of the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA), Peru's resource management agency, in the town of Alerta.
Deforestation rates in Peru, 1999-2005. Image by Rhett A. Butler
A great loss
Angelica Almeyda, an anthropologist at Stanford University who had worked closely with Don Julio, called his death a great loss.
"The death of Don Julio fills me with great sadness and indignation," she wrote in a memoriam. "Don Julio was one of the few leaders who had the courage to fight for the well-being of his town, for the forests and for that which he considered to be just."
"It is incomprehensible that illegal mahogany can take away the life of an exemplar man in Madre de Dios," she continued. "My hope is that his murder... will fuel needed efforts against the irrational and illegal use of the natural resources of Madre de Dios."
Similar murders in recent years have served to catalyze forest protection efforts in the Amazon. The 1988 killing of Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber tapper, sparked international outcry about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and led to the creation of more than a dozen forest reserves. The assassination of Dorothy Stang, an American nun, in the Amazon state of Pará in 2005 triggered a massive crackdown on illegal deforestation in the region.
Help Don Julio's Family
The Amazon Conservation Association has set up an account to support Don Julio's family:
If you would like to add your support, please send a check to Amazon Conservation Association and designate in the memo line that the contribution is to support Don Julio's family. Please mail the check to our DC office at 1731 Connecticut Avenue NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC 20009. You can also Donate Online. This link will take you to the Network for Good, where you can specify that your donation should be restricted to support for Don Julio's family.
Follow up story in the New York Times: Murder on the Resource Frontier
A la memoria de Don Julio, Teniente Gobernador de Alerta [Español]
In memoriam de Don Julio, Teniente Gobernador d'Alerta [Français]
A Memoria de Don Julio, Teniente Gobernador de Alerta [Português]