For the first time in Peru, conservationists have purchased privately owned lands within a national protected area and then donated them to the national government. Twenty-nine privately owned properties totaling 1,196 acres within Peru’s Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve were donated on December 1 to SERNANP, the government agency that administers national protected areas. The donated lands are home to the Iquitos Gnatcatcher, a Critically Endangered bird first described in 2005.
The 143,500-acre Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is located only 15 miles from the city of Iquitos in northern Peru, protecting rare white-sand forests that are home to rare and unique plants and animals.
“This Reserve is one of the most important places for birds in Peru,supporting a community of 19 white sand forest specialists, and is the only home for the Critically Endangered Iquitos Gnatcatcher,” said Dr. Daniel Lebbin, Conservation Biologist with American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the leading U.S. bird conservation organization and one of the key supporters of the acquisitions.
When the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve was created, much of the land remained under private ownership. Continued timber extraction, charcoal production, and land clearance for agriculture on privately owned in-holdings within the reserve continue to damage the reserve’s forests and reduce habitat for its threatened wildlife. The protected area was first declared as a Reserve Zone in 1999, and elevated to a National Reserve in 2004.
With support from ABC, ConocoPhillips, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, ProNaturaleza (a leading Peruvian conservation organization) purchased the land from willing sellers in the eastern portion of the Reserve where Iquitos Gnatcatchers live.
“The donation of this land to SERNANP allows us to better manage it for conservation,” said Carlos F. Rivera Gonzales, the head of Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve.
To achieve this success, ProNaturaleza worked in cooperation with a coalition including SERNANP and other environmental groups, such as Friends of Allpahuayo Mishana (ACAAM) and CANATURA (a group conducting environmental education), among others.
“This experience is a clear example of joint work between public and private institutions benefiting the management of the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, the pride of Iquitos,” said Martin Alcalde, Executive Director of ProNaturaleza, “We hope to build on this success to purchase more in-holdings to later donate to SERNANP if additional funds become available.” ACAAM also purchased private property along the reserve’s border, which will help protect additional forests.
The Iquitos Gnatcatcher was only first scientifically described in 2005, and is currently ranked as Critically Endangered under IUCN-World Conservation Union criteria due to its restricted range (less than 8 square miles or roughly 4,950 acres), tiny population (perhaps fewer than 50 pairs), and the threat deforestation poses to its remaining white-sand forests habitat. The Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) as one of 587 sites worldwide where conservation is critical to prevent species extinctions. AZE is a global initiative of 68 biodiversity conservation organizations in 18 countries, which aims to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing. Because of its extremely high levels of endemism, Peru has the world’s third highest number of AZE sites (36) after Mexico (68) and Colombia (46).