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Mountains of Tumucumaque National Park: Setting a New Conservation Standard

The park is as pristine and primordial as any place in the world. "The land today looks much like it did hundreds, even thousands of years ago," says José Maria Cardoso da Silva, CI-Brazil's Director for Amazonia and a native son of the region. "The area is so inaccessible that very few people have ever been there. There are no roads, and its fast-moving rivers are difficult to navigate."

Tumucumaque anchors a network of protected areas that CI is working to create in the northern reaches of the Amazonia high-biodiversity wilderness area -- the world's largest remaining tropical forest.

The park is a measure of the commitment of the government of Brazil, and particularly the state government of Amapá, to a development strategy based on conservation of natural resources. The creation of the park means that over half -- 53 percent -- of the state is protected land. The Mountains of Tumucumaque National Park itself covers nearly 27 percent of Amapá. Granted, this Amazonian state is lightly populated, but such a commitment is considerable.

In fact, a new Amapá conservation corridor is planned, which would create yet more protected areas and link them. The corridor could mean protection for an astonishing 71.3 percent of the state -- about 25 million acres (10 million hectares). This proportion would establish a new standard for protected area management. CI believes that such a standard, coupled with related economic initiatives, will inspire other governments to conserve a larger portion of biologically unique terrain.

The citizens and government of the state of Amapá have farsighted plans to satisfy both human and environmental needs by combining advanced technologies with respect for local cultures and traditional ways of managing resources. The state's development plan bases economic opportunities on the conservation of the state's natural heritage-rather than on logging and other unsustainable exploitation of resources.

"This place is unique in Brazil," says da Silva. "The Amapá community understands that having an effective protected area system is a critical component of the socioeconomic development of the state."

Hard experience may have helped local residents choose sustainable, conservation-based development. "A big mining company operated here for 44 years," explains da Silva. "After it closed down, it left nothing to people but a big hole in Amapá's heart. So here people learned that sustainable economic activities more related to the traditional way of life are better than big, disruptive projects."

CI, WWF and other partners convened hundreds of scientists as well as government officials and local representatives to confirm the biological importance of, and select the site for, the new park. Having worked closely with federal and state officials to plan Tumucumaque, CI-Brazil will continue to assist with mapping, enforcement activities, development of basic infrastructure, creation of an inventory of the region's biodiversity and environmental education programs for nearby communities. In addition, CI-Brazil will help the members of the adjacent Waiapi Indigenous Reserve to map out and design a management plan for their land.

A thorough biological inventory has yet to be conducted, but based on preliminary research, scientists estimate that the park contains at least eight primate species, 350 bird species and 37 lizard species. It also shelters a number of animals threatened elsewhere. An estimated 42 percent of all lizards, 31 percent of all birds and 12 percent of the primates known to exist in the entire Brazilian Amazon live here.

"Since Tumucumaque is one of the greatest unexplored places on Earth," says CI President Russ Mittermeier, "we can only imagine what undiscovered mysteries will one day be found in the park."

Vital Statistics

Country: Brazil

Site: Mountains of Tumucumaque National Park

Size: 9.56 million acres (3.87 million hectares)

High-biodiversity wilderness area: Amazonia

Major donors: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, CI's Global Conservation Fund, Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation, the Armand G. Erpf Fund

Other major partners: Brazilian Institute of Environment (IBAMA); government of the state of Amapá; Institute of Scientific and Technological Research of Amapá (IEPA); World Wildlife Fund (WWF); Federal University of Amapá


© CI, Russell A. Mittermeier
An expanse of the Tumucumaque Mountains in Amapá, Brazil, where more than 50 percent of the land is protected.

© Pete Oxford
Jaguar, a species protected by Tumucumaque yet threatened elsewhere.

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