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New reserve in Ecuador secures over 3 million acres of forest

  • The Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka Reserve covers 1,237,395 hectares (3,057,671 acres) of Andean and Amazonian forests in the Morona Santiago province of eastern Ecuador.
  • The area has cloud forests, sandstone plateaus, Amazonian lowlands and floodplain forests that are home to thousands of species, many of them endemic.
  • The reserve is intended to help protect against drivers of deforestation like mining, logging and cattle ranching.
  • Indigenous Shuar and Achuar communities participated in a thorough consultation process to ensure that the reserve was meeting their vision for the future of the area.

Ecuador this month recognized a new reserve in the Amazon rainforest in hopes of protecting Indigenous land from threats like mining and livestock.

The Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka Reserve covers 1,237,395 hectares (3,057,671 acres) of Andean and Amazonian forests in the Morona Santiago province of eastern Ecuador, where Shuar and Achuar communities have for years been fending off numerous drivers of deforestation.

“This is an initiative that will not only allow us to preserve, but also enjoy our forests and climate, to offer the world a healthy environment,” said Governor of Morona Santiago, Rafael Antuni.

The area is home to cloud forests, sandstone plateaus, Amazonian lowlands and floodplain forests, among other ecosystems. They contain over a thousand species of birds — dozens of them endemic to the region — as well as large mammals like jaguars (Panthera onca), tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) and spectacled bears (Tremarctos ornatus).

The reserve, officially recognized on February 1, is intended to act as a corridor for these species because it’s connected to other protected areas in eastern Ecuador and northern Peru, according to the Andes Amazon Fund.

The province has nearly 200,000 inhabitants, most of them members of Shuar and Achuar Indigenous communities like Taisha, Morona, Sucúa, Logroño, Méndez, Tiwintza, Limón Indanza, San Juan Bosco and Gualaquiza.

A member of a Shuar community in Morona Santiago. (Photo courtesy of Fabian Rodas/Nature and Culture)

For years, they expressed concern about encroaching mining, logging and cattle ranching activities. The province has some of the highest deforestation rates in the country, losing around 89,000 hectares (22,000 acres) of forest cover annually, the Andes Amazon Fund said in a statement.

In November 2021, some of the communities started a more ambitious campaign to increase protections of their land. The Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH), the Shuar Nation of Ecuador (NASHE), the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador (NAE) and the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA) signed an agreement with the Morona Santiago government to work towards the creation of a protected area.

“Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka will aid in preserving the area’s cultural practices for present and future generations,” Andes Amazon Fund said in in its statement. “[It] will also promote sustainable development and subsistence.”

The planning process, which was carried out with support from the NGO Nature and Culture International, was unique for Ecuador. A “pre-legislative consultation process” involved holding 21 meetings with the four Indigenous groups — including participation from nearly 900 residents — in order to understand their different visions for the reserve, Nature and Culture said in a release.

Now, the area is one of the largest reserves in the region.

“Together as Shuar, Achuar and mestizos, let us conserve our life, expressed in the rainforest, rivers and the weather, with the science and action on which we all depend,” Antuni, the Governor of Morona Santiago, said. “For the future of our forests, rivers, animals and the well-being of our people and nationalities. Together we can succeed.”

Banner image: Ecuador’s Palora River. Photo courtesy of Nature and Culture International.

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