In the northwest Amazon lies the Peruvian state of Loreto, home to one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth. Loreto is also home to incredible cultural diversity, including some of the planet’s last uncontacted peoples living in voluntary isolation. With its rainforests still largely intact – and among the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet – Loreto is critical not only to biological and cultural diversity but also to efforts to address global climate change.
For two years, through the Sustainable Loreto project, CIEL worked with Peruvian partners to document emerging threats to this vital region and assess potential impacts. New roads, massive oil extraction operations, dams, and other development activities could have potentially catastrophic impacts on the species and cultures of Loreto.
Among these threats is the spread of palm oil plantations, which have already devastated tropical forests at a massive scale in Southeast Asia. CIEL analyzed satellite imagery in June 2013 and discovered significant ongoing deforestation outside the town of Tamshiyacu. Satellite images showed deforestation occurring at a shocking rate of about 250 acres per week. CIEL visited the area with Peruvian NGO colleagues, interviewed locals, and photographed the destruction. Having gathered this evidence, we notified local press of the ongoing devastation happening in real time, which resulted in front-page coverage.
Such exposure provides a disincentive for future behavior of this type. And those who would seek to secretly cut down the forest were put on notice: illegal deforestation is visible from space.