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The Amazon Basin is one of the world’s five designated High-Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, stretching across all or part of eight countries and the department of French Guiana. It hosts an astounding half of the world’s tropical forests as well as the largest river system on Earth. An extraordinary wealth of biodiversity exists here – literally millions of species– many of which remain to be described by science. Approximately one quarter of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in the Amazon. Endemic species found nowhere else include the Giant Otter, Bald Uacari Monkey, Nancy Ma’s Night Monkey, Amazon River Dolphin, Hyacinth Macaw, Rio Branco Antbird, and the Yellow-spotted River Turtle. More than 1,000 species of amphibians occur in the Amazon Basin including the brilliantly colored Sky Blue Poison Dart Frog, Pebas Stubfoot Toad, and Giant Monkey Frog.

© Cristina Mittermeier

Visit to Altamira and Kendjam © Cristina Mittermeier

An estimated 20 million indigenous people from more than 350 indigenous groups call the Amazon Forests home, several of whom still live in voluntary isolation from the outside world. These indigenous people depend on natural habitats and resources for their livelihoods and culture, and have traditionally lived in harmony with their natural environments for generations.

Amazon on Fire

In the summer of 2019, a spate of fires seemingly simultaneously erupted in the Amazon Basin. In just one year, more than 906,000 hectares of forest within the Amazon biome were lost to fires, an area approximately three times larger than the size of Yosemite National Park. Research has shown that the fires were the result of previous deforestation for the expansion of agriculture and cattle ranching. Backtracking in terms of enforcement of environmental laws has led to increased illegal clearing of forests, which in turn has led to increased fire prevalence. Deforestation in the Amazon in 2019 was the highest since 2008 and represents a doubling in forest loss over 2012.

Supporting partners in the Amazon

In response to this crisis and devastation for wildlife and people, Global Wildlife Conservation, in partnership with Earth Alliance, established an emergency Amazon Forest Fund to directly support forest guardians in the Amazon to respond to imminent threats from illegally set fires, prevent deforestation through enhancing protected area and indigenous territory security, monitoring and management, increase the capacity of local indigenous and conservation organizations, and provide relief to impacted communities. Thanks to your support, we have channeled resources to dozens of projects in Amazonia in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, enhancing more than 25 million hectares of protected areas and land titling for five indigenous territories over 485,000 hectares.

 

"I want to get better so that I can continue fighting for indigenous peoples and for the Amazon forest" ~ Kayapo Chief Raoni from his hospital bed being treated for a life-threatening (but non-COVID related) health issue

 

Compounded Threats

While the effects of COVID-19 are felt by every country, every community, and every individual, the traditional peoples of the Amazon basin are especially susceptible to its impacts, for many have not built up immune responses to diseases brought in from people coming to their ancestral lands. Outsiders are increasingly encroaching to plunder their lands, through illegal mining, illegal deforestation for cattle ranching, and oil exploration.

Added to this, 2020 is proving to be an extremely dry year in the Amazon, deforestation has again hit record levels, and fire season is shaping up to be even worse than 2019. The government of Brazil has hinted at making all setting of fires in the Amazon illegal for 120 days, but have yet to take concrete action. Local, state and federal COVID restrictions have paused environmental law enforcement in Amazonian countries, which has further emboldened the illegal actors who enter the forested areas of the Amazon to log, burn, mine, and open the forests for cattle ranching and for soy to feed the cattle.

As part of the perfect storm, these invaders bring diseases such as COVID to the populations of the region, and the smoke from the fires increase the severity of the respiratory symptoms inflicted by the COVID virus. The combined health and environmental crisis in the Amazon makes obvious the systemic injustices faced by indigenous peoples across the Amazon whose countries have health systems, economies, and politics that leave them vulnerable to pandemics, violence, and the destruction of their ancestral lands with limited resources and governmental allies.

Our Ongoing Commitment

Through our partnership with Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), we are a founding partner of the recent Amazon Emergency Fund, which is providing essential support to indigenous peoples across the Amazon to deal with the COVID emergency.

We remain committed to supporting those on the front lines protecting the Amazon, channeling 100% of funds raised to our network of partners on the ground to distribute resources quickly to where it is most needed by indigenous peoples and their allies.
Join us in supporting our best protectors of this irreplaceable wilderness area.

Partners

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