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Jaguars Battling in the Darkness: Sense of place in the Peruvian Amazon…

Like the other remaining wilderness areas around the world, the vast Peruvian Amazon has become ring-fenced by land conversion for pastures, rampant logging, commercial forestry, mining, dams, agricultural development, and other drivers of global trade and development. This vast wilderness that seemed impossible to destroy or harm is under threat and in decline… Listen here...

Like the other remaining wilderness areas around the world, the vast Peruvian Amazon has become ring-fenced by land conversion for pastures, rampant logging, commercial forestry, mining, dams, agricultural development, and other drivers of global trade and development. This vast wilderness that seemed impossible to destroy or harm is under threat and in decline… Listen here to the primordial sounds of the Amazon wilderness as two male jaguar square up for a territorial battle that will make every hair on your head stand up! This is one of the first recordings I have heard that captures the essence of “wilderness”, the living, pumping, buzzing and beating heart of the wild… Wilderness with teeth, claws, horns and tusks that needs to be celebrated and respected. Read here about the threats facing the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon and celebrate these ancient places as the home of some of the most beautiful creatures on earth by enjoying and sharing Dr Alan Lee’s photographs from his time living in this wilderness…


Dr. Marcelo Mazzolli
“Ghost in the Darkness” – An injured male jaguar that had been in a territorial fight similar to the one recorded in the darkness. (Dr. Marcelo Mazzolli)
Jiri Haureljuk
Adult jaguar pacing over a narrow crossing in the remote Peruvian Amazon. These are the custodians of the Peruvian Amazon, a wilderness that can humble anyone in a matter of moments… (Jiri Haureljuk)


The most important tropical rainforest on earth… 

The biological boundary of the Amazon Rainforest encompasses roughly 5.5 million square kilometers – an area 5 times larger than the whole of Peru. It is regarded as the most important tropical rainforest on earth due to its vast extent, the amazing species diversity it holds, and the ecological services it provides. The Amazon Rainforest contains important natural resources and plays a pivotal role in rainfall generation across South America. To date, close to 20% – an area the size of Peru – has been lost to commercial logging, burning for pastures, mining, roads, and development. The beating heart of a continent, an untouched wilderness is under threat in a changing world. These “forest refugia” have protected millions of species through severe ice ages and climatic change. We cannot replace a clear-felled forest that once contained 1,000 year old trees and an ecological balance that conservative estimates indicate would take 350 years of management to re-establish. We are destroying what were permanent biological features on our planet that play an important role in supporting global biodiversity. One day we will need these forests to clean our air and they will not be there, not again for at least 350 years…

(Adapted from a write-up by Dr Alan Lee and Sara Rehman)


UNEP 2008
The face of deforestation in the Peruvian amazon. Slash-and-burn as we colonize new stretches of the rainforest… (UNEP 2008)


Dr Alan Lee wrote: “Even if you are not interested that at any one Amazon site you can observe over 1,000 species of butterfly, over 500 species of birds, or over 250 species of mammals, you should be worried that this great green carbon dioxide sponge is probably reaching its capacity to soak up all that we are releasing into the atmosphere. Modeling exercises have shown that the loss of tropical rainforests will have by far greater consequences for climate change, than the loss of equivalent areas of temperate rainforest.”


Alan Lee
Blue-and-yellow macaws are also important global ambassadors for these rainforests. (Alan Lee)


Research has shown that while humans have been pumping our carbon dioxide, the Amazon forests have been getting ‘heavier’ – soaking up some of what we have been producing. This sponge affect will not last much longer as the forest will most likely reach a new equilibrium, and of course even more forest is lost year on year. The impacts of climate change are going to have extreme consequences for the integrity of these forests. There have been two major droughts over the last decade, and with droughts and slash and burn agriculture, comes fire – one of the single most destructive events the rainforest habitat can experience after open-caste mining. Since much of the moisture in the Amazon is generated from the transpiration of its forests, the ability to regenerate and recover from droughts is diminishing. The consequences for global climate change will be dire.

Thomas Lovejoy, Biodiversity chair of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, as well as biodiversity advisor to the World Bank, says the Amazon is “very close to a tipping point.” By 2075 the forest could shrink to 65% of its original size… As for what the forest will turn into: “The forest eventually converts to cerrado (savannah) after a lot of fire, human misery, loss of biodiversity, and emission of carbon into the atmosphere.”



Alan Lee
There are over 500 birds species in the Peruvian Amazon.  Among these are some of the most beautiful in the world. This is the magic of untouched wilderness in one of the oldest forests on earth… (Alan Lee)
Alan Lee
Snakes are prolific in the Peruvian Amazon and come in all shapes and sizes. Watch where you step… (Alan Lee)
Alan Lee
Living and working in the Peruvian Amazon means surrendering yourself to the wilderness and accepting that from time-to-time tarantulas will crawl across your face! (Alan Lee)


Regional development and national policy… 

Regional development plans are devised without consideration of impacts on natural resources. Plans to connect Bolivia and Peru to Brazil’s burgeoning markets and expand the oil and gas industry will construct roads through fragile areas of high biodiversity. Landless Andean farmers search for a living in the lowlands, expanding the agricultural frontier, increasing the risk of disease transmission between domestic animals and wildlife, bringing crops and domestic animals closer to wildlife predators, and increasing hunting pressure in surrounding forests. Despite a sound body of national laws and regulations, illegal timber extraction continues to spread unabated. National policy is to decentralize decision-making, and responsibility for land planning and natural resource management is increasingly shifting to local and regional governments. However, the decentralization process is occurring without sufficient personnel, staff training, and operational funds for these governments to play that challenging but vital role effectively. We are at risk of losing these forests and their inhabitants forever…


Alan Lee
Scarlet macaw posing at a clay lick… (Alan Lee)
Alan Lee
Scarlet Macaw in flight! A stunning global ambassador for the Peruvian Amazon. (Alan Lee)


A bailout for the Amazon Rainforest?

New research recently published in the journal Science estimates that deforestation of Brazil’s rainforest could be halted by a $6.5 – 18 billion bailout. The article estimates that CO2 levels would decline 2 – 5% from current levels if the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest was halted. In Brazil, the deforestation rate dropped to 64% of what it was in 2005 due to a government crackdown on illegal logging operations, and the sale of beef produced on deforested land. This proves that all we need to do is resource people to get out there and stop this unnecessary destruction. The world needs to invest now…

          Stephen Messenger asks: “If the article’s analysis is correct and an $18 billion bailout would mean the end of deforestation in the Amazon, shouldn’t this be a no-brainer? Really, when was the last time AIG or JP Morgan produced 20% of the world’s oxygen?



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Meet the Author

Author Photo Steve Boyes
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.