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New Amazonian reserve saves over a million acres in Peru

On August 27th Peru’s Ministry of the Environment approved the creation of the Matses National Reserve to protect the region’s biodiversity, ensure its natural resources, and preserve the home of the Matses indigenous peoples (known as the Mayorunas in Brazil). The park is 1,039,390 acres (or 420,626 hectares) of lowland Amazonian rainforest in eastern Peru.

The park is the culmination of over a decade of work by the local non-profit CEDIA(the Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonians) funded in large part by the World Land Trust-US.

The Matses people in ceremonial dress. Courtesy of The Field Museum, P. Zanabria.

“Like so many other remote indigenous peoples, [the Matses] have been forced to defend their homelands from logging and oil companies in a bid to preserve their ancient way of life and protect the amazing Amazon rainforest… These short-sighted commercial activities have worked against indigenous peoples and conservationists to prevent this critical protected area from being established,” a press release by the World Land Trust-US stated.

Long unknown to the world, the Matses people were first contacted in 1969 by Christian Missionaries. The indigenous group has since remained in nearly complete isolation, retaining their traditions and living through sustainable hunting and fishing. The preserve protects the Galvez and Yaquerana Rivers, which the Matses people depend on for fishing. The group is eminently skilled with the bow and the arrow—their unique arrows measure two meters in length—which they use for hunting. The Matses group are also known as the ‘cat people’, because of distinct facial tattoos and piercings worn by the women which resemble the whiskers of a cat.

View of rainforest in the new Matses National Reserve. Photo courtesy of The Field Museum, R. Foster.

Remote Matses village. Photo courtesy of The Field Museum, R. Foster .

Map of the new reserve. Map courtesy of The World Land Trust-US.

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