The illegal mining, which also takes place in the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and in Tambopata National Reserve, has isolated part of the giant river otter population.The current leaders of the Kotsimba indigenous community are creating a plan with the Ministry of Environment to abandon illegal mining, although an environmental disaster from over 10 years ago remains unaddressed. KOTSIMBA, Peru — In Peru’s Madre de Dios region, illegal mining is everywhere. From the Interoceanic Highway, which lies just 100 miles from Puerto Maldonado, the region’s capital, one can see that a riverbed has been converted into a long desert-like trail. Those from the area refer to it as the “Dos de Mayo River,” although it is hard for visitors to picture this trail of sand, dredges, and mercury as a river. It is easy to see how the trees were replaced by hills of sand here: mining. Satellite images show that the problem is increasingly widespread. There is a small path just a few feet away from the Dos de Mayo River on the right side of the Interoceanic Highway. A five-minute walk down that path leads to an area called Villa Rosita, an open field full of mining operations. Another 20 minutes beyond Villa Rosita is a large metal gate in the middle of the path. “Welcome to the native Harakbut community of Kotsimba,” reads a sign. A guard emerges and requests identification from everyone. Not everyone can cross into Kotsimba. Aside from the community members, only the rangers from Bahuaja-Sonene National Park are normally allowed to enter. On motorcycles, it’s another 90 minutes to a second point of entry into Kotsimba, known as Pamahuaca. Kotsimba is in the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, which also borders Tambopata National Reserve, and is at the epicenter of the area’s illegal mining problems. From Kotsimba, the mining expands for at least nine miles, from the head of the Malinowski River toward the communities adjacent to Tambopata National Reserve.