Andes Amazon Conservancy has created a forum for the Shuar people to voice their ideas for conservation in their territory and support them in making their collective desires a reality through the creation of digital maps and planning documents, with the eventual submission of all plans to the Ecuadorian government in Quito.
This land use planning project will focus on the north half of Shuar territory, an area of over 2 million acres in the Morona Santiago province of Ecuador. The territory sits at the transition between the Amazon basin and the Andes Mountains and is an area of extremely biodiverse rainforests. The territory has broad valleys surrounded by mountain ranges that still hold ancient rainforests, with the Kutuku Shaimi mountain range at its center.
Major towns include Macas, Sucua, Logrono and Tiwintza. There are a number of paved roads in the territory which have fragmented the remaining wildlife habitat.
Scientific studies document the area’s rich biodiversity, finding more than 4000 plant species, 142 species of mammals and 613 bird species. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the area is the unusual vegetation that grows on vertically cut sandstone geo-morphological structures with extensive plateaus near the peaks. These structures have been referred to as “Tepuy-like” because of their similarity to the Guiana Shield region in Venezuela. They harbor a plant formation that is unique in the world and made up of orchids, bromeliads and dwarf palms. During surveys conducted under the ITTO projects, 27 of the 40 species of orchids collected were reported to be new to science. Other important findings included the Andean bear, classified as an endangered species; the carnivorous plant Drosera, a rare species of limited habitat; the marsupial Caenolestes condorensis; butterflies Pseudocharis sp. and Macrosoma sp.; and the fish species Creagrutus kunturus.
Threats include deforestation, unplanned human development and road building. Road building in particular opens up resources in Shuar Territory to resource extraction. No new roads should be built into pristine rainforests until a conservation plan for the area has been completed.
Shuar territory currently holds two world class bio-corridor opportunities. In the center of their territory is the 110 kilometer Cutuku Shaimi mountain range which is still connected to the enormous Comainas rainforest reserve in Peru. The other is the Palora Pastaza Biocorridor that if conserved would connect the 1.25 million acre Sangay National Park in the Andes mountains with the Amazon basin.
Conservation of these bio-corridors would maintain a very high environmental quality for the area, save the foundation of Shuar culture, and create solid ecotourism opportunities as the Shuar territory would be on the must-see list for world eco-travelers.
The Mangozisa River Basin, in Shuar territory, is one of the last areas in Ecuador where the transition between the mountains and plains is still intact. This is critical because the immense biodiversity of the Amazon flats (the right side of photo) is right now migrating up into the Kutuku Shaimi mountains (on the left side of the photo).
The 110-kilometer-long Kutuku Shaimi mountain range hangs over the river and contains over 500,000 acres of pristine rainforest that are a crucial connecting centerpiece for the remaining regional ecosystems including: the enormous Santiago Comainas Rainforest Reserve in Peru, the Palora Pastaza Bio-Corridor described below and, as mentioned, the Ecuadorian Amazon flats. The area contains important populations of black panther, jaguar, tapir and many other emblematic species that depend on large scale connectivity to have populations that are large enough to be genetically viable. Maintaining wildlife migration corridors between Peru and Ecuador is essential to the biodiversity of the region.
The relationship between the Amazon and the Andes created the highest ecological diversity on the planet.
This photo shows the wildly beautiful Palora River Valley, which sees frequent large-scale flooding that creates a rich mosaic of forest types. This valley has seen millions of years of mass migrations of a wide range of mammals, insects, amphibians and birds. Our goal is to help re-establish these migrations. The AAC has brought this globally important bio-corridor opportunity to the attention of all Shuar leaders and they are strongly in support of its protection.
The Shuar territory truly is world class in terms of its geography, high biodiversity and its ability to maintain rich ecosystems in the face of rapid climate change. The successful conservation of its remaining wild areas would provide the Shuar people with great ecotourism opportunities, creating a sustainable path for the future of these great people.
This Shuar territory conservation opportunity map shows 3 red arrows in locations where roads have been built across essential wildlife migration corridors. AAC’s Enrique Inga, a reforestation / edible forest specialist, and Nantar Inga, a wildlife biologist, are spearheading the effort to put in place alternatives to deforestation. These areas are critical in maintaining wildlife diversity in Shuar territory.
The Shuar territory was illegally concessioned to mining companies and this has created a powerful backlash along with the desire for conservation. All Shuar leaders and the vast majority of the Shuar are unified around protecting the remaining rainforests and preventing any mining in the area. The clear target for this energy is the Kutuku Shaimi Protected Forest, a 500,000 acre mountain range in the center of their territory.
The Land Use Planning process is channelling the incredible energy the Shuar people have for conservation. Article 56 of the Ecuadorian Constitution requires consent by indigenous territories before any mining activities can be executed. This will be used to prevent or stop mining in the area when the planning process is complete later in 2021.