Peru now has three new natural preserves, covering 46,659 acres but these trusts are not the work of the government—as one might assume—but rather that of concerned communities and individuals. Two of the preserves—the Ukumari Llaqta Private Conservation Area and the Pumataki Private Conservation Area—were established by the Q’eros indigenous community of Japu and the Pillco Grande community adjacent to Manu National Park, respectively. The third—the San Juan Bautista Private Conservation Area near Tambopata Reserve—was established by a local family.
It's a trend that reflects rising concerns over the condition, treatment, and value of the local environment and takes advantage of a clause in Peru's legal code that allows landowners to convert their property to natural reserves.
Given the nature of the initiatives, it is no surprise that they have been designed to include community involvement and support. At the Pilco Grande preserve, for example, community members will be paid to patrol the area, plant trees, and fight fires.
"The forest helps the community here in Pillco Grande and it also helps the community of the entire world," said Jose Luis Peña, a community member, "but we need help protecting our forest."
That help may come from Peru's government or from NGOs like the Amazon Conservation Association, which helped organize these latest preserves. Either way, these small areas in the cloud forests of Peru show how communities can fill in gaps left by national conservation projects in Peru, in South America, and in the rest of the world.