Last year we reported on the highest levels of deforestation in the forests of the Amazon basin in a decade, as the rightwing government of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Evo Morales’s leftwing government in Bolivia, gave free rein to those responsible for record levels of forest burning and clearance.
Now, in 2020, while the world is focused on the global health crisis, two new studies have calculated that last year Brazil lost a total of 12,000 square kilometers (more than four and half thousand square miles) of forest, and that in eastern Brazil deforestation increased by 27% compared to 2018.
Those studies were released last month, shortly after it was reported that the Brazilian environment minister, Ricardo Salles, had recommended that the government use the coronavirus emergency to continue its eroding of Brazil’s environmental protection laws.
Salles was caught on video during a high level ministerial meeting, recommending that while the world’s press “only talk about Covid”, the government should change “the rules and simplify regulations”. Conservation groups have condemned this latest evidence of the Brazilian government’s determination to push a populist agenda and allow greater colonization and exploitation of the country’s share of the Amazon basin. Within the country, both Greenpeace Brazil and MapBiomas have spoken out, while pointing out that much of the forest clearance is being carried out by farmers under a self-registration scheme that enables them to stake their claim to new land, and that 99% of the deforestation is illegal.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Bolivia, the record levels of forest burning and clearance seen last year appear set to continue through 2020. The increase in activity in Bolivia’s Amazon forests has been attributed in part to that landlocked nation’s imitating of Brazil’s populist anti-environmental agenda.
Of course, Peru is facing many problems similar to those being experienced by its regional partners, including the current global health emergency which has shifted the eyes of the world away from the accelerating degradation of the Amazon basin.
For our part, as ecotourism operators in the Amazon basin of southeastern Peru, close to the border with Brazil, where we work to protect our own Tambopata Private Conservation Area, we find ourselves forced to remain ever vigilant against multiple threats to the forests and wetlands we conserve. Those threats come in many forms, ranging from land invasion to illegal logging and the illicit gold mining operations that have polluted many of the Madre de Dios region’s waterways.
At Tambopata Ecolodge, as we prepare new protocols and look forward to welcoming guests back to our rainforest home, we will continue working to conserve one small corner of the Amazon basin, and to set an example based upon conservation and sustainable ecotourism that we hope more and more of our fellow Peruvians will choose to follow.