At our eco-lodge, deep in the tropical forests of southeastern Peru, we combine ecotourism with our conservation work as a twin strategy for protecting the rainforest. Among our conservation initiatives is our protection of the brazil nut tree.
For 30 years, our ecotourism conservation model has been based on the purchase of land in the Amazon forests of Peru and the setting up of government protected Private Conservation Areas. And as part of our work in State-owned Conservation Concessions, we have taken on the responsibility of monitoring and protecting forests from poaching, logging, gold mining, and other damaging activities.
The lands we help protect are among the few areas of forest outside Brazil where the brazil nut tree grows and flourishes. In fact, the forested Madre de Dios region where we offer our all-inclusive and full-guided ecofriendly tourism packages is the only region in Peru where this beautiful giant tree and valuable tropical forest sustainable cash crop grows. The forests of neighboring Brazil and Bolivia are also home to brazil nut trees.
The highly specialized pollination system upon which brazil nut trees depend, which relies upon just a handful of bee species, means that brazil nut trees do not respond well to domestication and produce very poorly in a plantation system. On the lands we protect, we care for more than 261 individual brazil nut trees, which thrive among the thousands of other tree and plant species we are working to protect. Guests who venture along our network of trails and explore the area of forest around Gallocunca stream, where it is also possible to bathe, will find in that area of forest more than 133 brazil nut trees.
Every year, each brazil nut tree can produce a crop of around 300 coconut-sized fruits, and when it falls to the ground, every one of these extremely hard fruits contains an average of 15 brazil nuts. And so remember, just as you would never stand under a coconut tree on a tropical beach, it is never a good idea to stand directly beneath a brazil nut tree in a tropical forest!
In the Madre de Dios region where we operate, brazil nuts are an important sustainable cash crop. In the case of particularly productive trees, up to 60 kilos of brazil nuts may be harvested each year, whereas other individual trees may produce around 15 kilos annually. For many local families, the harvesting of brazil nuts constitutes an important source of income, and one of the most effective ways of ensuring that more members of forest communities are not attracted to illicit mining and logging activities, is to maintain the health of the brazil nut tree population. Recent local innovations in brazil nut production include cooperation among harvesters in the creation of a shared branding campaign, in order to ensure that Madre de Dios brazil nuts can compete on the international market, through a common quality control strategy.
In addition to caring for existing trees, in some of the areas of forest we are working to protect we have begun planting brazil nut trees, as part of our forest management programs. As well as being an important cash crop, brazil nut trees and their nutritious fruits are also important to the fauna and the overall ecology of the forests. Agoutis are important for brazil nut seed dispersion, and in their early stages of development, before they mature fully, brazil nuts are highly sought after by macaws. One of the reasons why our region is so famous for its macaw populations, is because we have a healthy population of brazil nut trees!
As part of our responsible ecotourism programs, we offer our guests the opportunity to learn more about the production and harvesting cycle of this important environmentally sustainable crop. Near our eco-lodge bar and lounge area, guests can see brazil nut trees, and also enjoy the chance to handle, examine and even taste for themselves the delicious brazil nuts we harvest!