Straddling the watersheds of the Napo and Putumayo - two of the Peruvian Amazon's largest rivers - a vast wilderness harbors the full array of western Amazonia's megadiversity. It serves as a vital source of biological resources for the Maijuna people, one of the smallest and most vulnerable ethnic groups in Peru.

The fate of this forest and of the Maijuna are strongly linked. To ensure long-term protection of biological diversity and their own cultural traditions, the Maijuna people proposed the creation of a Regional Conservation Area. A proven model for successful land conservation in the Peruvian state of Loreto, this method of protection emphasizes participatory management, conservation-compatible economic uses, and adaptive management.

The Peruvian government approved the new Amazon reserve, dubbed the Maijuna Reserve. Located in northeastern Peru, the 390,000 hectare (970,000 acres) reserve is larger than California's Yosemite National Park and over three times the size of Hong Kong.

Connected to the watersheds of Napo and Putumayo rivers, Maijuna reserve will not only protect primary rainforest in the Loreto Region, but also the culture of the Maijuna people who live in the area with a population of less than 200 people. The reserve - officially created by the Regional Government Program for the Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Loreto (PROCREL) - also connects to two other existing protected areas, creating a total area of over 1.6 million hectares (4 million acres).

According to Nature and Culture International, which works with the Maijuna people and has played a role in the creation of the reserve, the forest is home to a wide variety of Amazon wildlife, including giant river otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) and jaguars (Panthera onca), and large populations of widely hunted animals such as Brazilian tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) and Salvin's currasow (Mitu salvini).

"This new conservation area protects a true jewel: a complex of Amazonian high terraces - a habitat unknown until recent biological inventories - that shelters a flora and fauna with a number of new, rare, and specialized species. These terraces and the adjacent lowland forests are underlain by diverse soil types and give rise to seven local drainages, whose waters support the flora and fauna of the area, as well as its human residents," states the Nature and Culture International website.


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