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1 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Linder Miques Viquia, Sepahua Community Vigilance Committee Member patrolling the upper Sepahua River, Atalaya Province, Peru. October 9, 2019. Illegal land grab schemes are leading to rapid deforestation threatening the people and nature of multiple critical protected areas. In the past year, new deforestation has been showing up in satellite imagery along remote tributaries in the Urubamba watershed in southeastern Peru. These plots, increasing in numbers almost daily, are illegal and unrecognized by officials, and mostly small farms that appear to be fronts for growing coca deeper in the forests.

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2 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Logs arriving at the sawmills at the port in Pucallpa, on the Ucayali River in Coronel Portillo Province, Peru. March 13, 2015. Pucallpa is well known as one of the centers for trafficking illegal lumber out of the Upper Amazon and a few weeks before this photograph the local paper reported that 4 million board feet of illegal lumber was confiscated at 8 Pucallpa sawmills.

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3 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Aerial drone photographs showing the extent of the deforestation impact from alluvial gold mining on the tropical forests of the Madre de Dios region. The ponds took water from local rivers and wetlands for liquifying and sorting soil to extract gold. This also impacted trees near the cleared areas due to the dramatic changes in the watertable. Following Peru's February 2019 militarized crackdown on illegal and unofficial alluvial gold mining in the La Pampa region of Madre de Dios, Wake Forest University's Puerto Maldonado-based Centro de Innovación Científica Amazonia (CINCIA), a leading research institution for the development of technological innovation for biological conservation and environmental restoration in the Peruvian Amazon, is applying years of scientific research and technical experience related to understanding mercury contamination and managing Amazonian ecosystems. What they learn will help guide urgent remediation, restoration, and reforestation efforts that can also serve as models for how we address the tropic’s most dramatically devastated landscapes around the world. La Pampa, Madre de Dios, Peru.

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4 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Young boy with temporary face tattoos (made using botanicals including huito) outside his home in Santa Rey, Peru on the Curanja River near the limit of the Purús Communal Reserve. March 17, 2015. Remote indigenous communities like Santa Rey and the communal reserves set up for their subsistence use serve as buffers for and gateways to more strictly protected areas such as the Alto Purús National Park and Mashco Piro Indigenous Reserve.

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5 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Evening traffic in front of some small shops in Puerto Esperanza, Purús Province, Peru. May 24, 2017. The larger of the remote towns like Puerto Esperanza are the weak bridge between the even more remote indigenous villages and the rest of the world. They have mediocre healthcare, remedial education, infrequently replenished and limited provisions, few economic opportunities, and usually at least several western religious denominations vying for their souls. Some connect to the outside world by incomplete roads, others by rivers so long and so winding that travel on them is measured in days or even months, and distances determined by 'turns' instead of kilometers. The 1500 people in Puerto Esperanza connect to their nearest urban neighbor, Santa Rosa in Brazil, via several days by boat down the Purús River. Some of the goods that stock the few small stores here come from Santa Rosa, though most come in on the much more expensive (and are more expensive because of it) chartered flights from Pucallpa.

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6 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Carlitos (name unverified and likely false) and his family are new arrivals from the coca-growing highlands to the west moving in on land they have freshly cleared for agriculture on the upper Sepahua River, Atalaya Province, Peru. October 10, 2019. Illegal land grab schemes are leading to rapid deforestation and threatening the people and nature of multiple critical protected areas. In the past year, new deforestation has been showing up in satellite imagery along remote tributaries in the Urubamba Watershed in southeastern Peru. These plots, increasing in numbers almost daily, are illegal and unrecognized by officials, and mostly small farms that appear to be fronts for growing coca deeper in the forests (http://bit.ly/Sepahua-Invasions).

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7 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

A family eats a land tortoise cooked in its shell while one of the women plucks a jungle fowl in Nueva Eden, Yurúa River, Ucayali Province, Peru, a Ashéninka village far up the river. May 10, 2017. Remote indigenous villages such as these often have direct experience with isolated tribes.

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8 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Miluska with pet howler monkey in Nueva Victoria II, Yurúa River, Ucayali Province, Peru. May 7, 2017. Miluska's Chitonahua tribal group was contacted in the mid-1990s by loggers working illegally in their territory. Men were forced into debt and forced to work it off, essentially in a form of indentured servitude. In the early 2000's they escaped and ultimately were granted permission to settle near the Ashaninka community of Nueva Victoria where they named their own community Nueva Victoria II.

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9 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston

Waiting on the plane after a rain storm in Puerto Esperanza, Purús Province, Peru. May 16, 2017. Located in a remote southeastern corner of Peru against the border with Brazil and surrounded by protected areas, Pueto Esperanza is both isolated as well as a hub for goods and services for the even more remote indigenous communities in the Alto Purús region.

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10 of 10 © 2021 Jason Houston
POST
Last Wildest Place

Jason Houston's "Last Wildest Place" was selected for first place in Social Documentary Network's ZEKE Magazine Award for Documentary Photography for his ongoing project in the Peruvian Amazon. Jason has been working with Upper Amazon Conservancy photographing issues related to indigenous rights and protected areas in the Purús/Manu region since 2015, including illegal gold mining for International League of Conservation Photographers' Redsecker Response Fund in 2019. The ZEKE Award jury was made up of industry pros including Kurt Mutchler, Photo Editor, National Geographic; Jeffrey Scales, Photo Editor, New York Times; Fiona Shields, Head of Photography, The Guardian News Media Group; Michael Itkoff, Co-Founder, Daylight Books; and Maggie Soladay, Photo Editor, Open Society Foundations, and includes an exhibition at Photoville in New York this fall.

Jason Houston
May 7, 2021

International League of Conservation Photographers

A global community of conservation photographers and filmmakers working to share conservation stories and solutions through ethical visual storytelling
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