Andes Amazon Fund celebrates the creation of the 2.7-million-acre Yavarí Tapiche Indigenous Reserve in the department of Loreto in Peru on April 10, marking a victory for the protection of isolated Indigenous people and the Amazonian forests they depend on for their survival. Indigenous Reserves are designated by the Peruvian government for the protection of Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact. These groups are characterized by their immunological and cultural vulnerability, and the vast Yavarí Tapiche Indigenous Reserve along Peru’s border with Brazil will provide strict protection for one of the most pristine and vulnerable regions of the Amazon in both biological and cultural terms.
The reserve is located between the headwaters of the Blanco, Tapiche and Yavarí Rivers in the department of Loreto and overlaps with portions of the Matsés National Reserve and the Sierra del Divisor National Park, giving these areas a stronger level of protection for the rights of the Indigenous peoples living there and defense against outsiders. It is estimated that within the 2.7 million acres protected in Yavarí Tapiche there are several hundred people living in voluntary isolation that include the matsés, remos (isconahuas), marubos, as well as other unidentified ethnic groups. The creation of the Indigenous Reserve comes at a crucial time for the protection of these groups living in voluntary isolation as they are extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases like the current COVID-19 pandemic and their lives are threatened by illegal activity in the area.
Peru has an estimated 7,000 Indigenous people living in voluntary isolation and initial contact. They tend to live a nomadic lifestyle and move through the Amazonian forests, depending completely on the forest and its resources for survival. The Yavarí Tapiche Indigenous Reserve is now the 4th Indigenous Reserve in Peru, the largest one yet created, and the first in the department of Loreto. Although the formal creation of the Reserve is the critical first step, now begins the equally important process that will ensure its proper management to guarantee the protection of the Indigenous peoples living there.
Andes Amazon Fund is collaborating with the Ministry of Culture to support the area’s initial protection from illegal loggers, drug traffickers and others that could threaten these vulnerable groups. Strategies involve implementing an early alert system via satellite imagery and the establishment of control posts to be staffed by protection agents, several of which have already started patrols with AAF support. As a next step, the Reserve’s protection plan must be developed, which is a document prepared with the participation of Indigenous organizations representing the people living inside the reserve. There will also need to be close coordination with Peru’s Protected Area Service to ensure that effective plans are in place for the enhanced protection of the areas of the new Reserve that overlap with existing protected areas.
The long-awaited creation of the Yavarí Tapiche Indigenous Reserve was the result of the hard work of Indigenous federations in Peru such as the Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO), Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru (CONAP), and the Federation of the Communities of the Tapiche and Blanco Rivers (FECORITAYB). Several AAF grantees supported the process in coordination with the Ministry of Culture’s Interculturality Division as well, including the Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonian (CEDIA), who performed technical studies, inter-institutional coordination, and social outreach, Amazon Conservation (ACCA), who assisted with satellite evaluations of threats to the areas, and the Center for the Conservation, Investigation and Management of Natural Areas (CIMA), who supported contracting the technical teams needed to carry out required studies. Andes Amazon Fund extends its gratitude to Peru’s Ministry of Culture and to President Francisco Sagasti for formally declaring the reserve to ensure the protection of these vulnerable populations.