Before leaving, we, the Forest Protection Team, were beyond excited to hear about and see pictures of some of the amazing experiences we would get to have in the rainforest of Madre de Dios, Perú. As a group composed of three Environmental Studies majors, we were a little bit more than excited about our mission: deep in la selva (the rainforest), we would visit LPAC (the Las Piedras Amazon Center, run by ARCAmazon) where we were to experience the jungle from the perspective of a forest ranger and take a firsthand approach to learn more about what it takes to protect this wild and beautiful place.
During our time at LPAC, we learned so much and were able to experience conservation on the front line. During our stay, we went on night hikes where we saw sleeping butterflies, birds nestled in the ground, and insects of all varieties (most jungle critters like to come out at night when the heat of the sun isn’t beating down on them). During the day, we got to see an unimaginable number of trees and plants. Sometimes just closing our eyes – at night or during the daytime – and experiencing the sounds of the jungle was enough to make us appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the surrounding forest.
One of our greatest adventures was a hike and overnight camping trip with the forest ranger, Harry, who was very experienced at pitching tents (even ones that hang from trees!), starting a fire (which is rather difficult in a rainforest), and navigating the concession’s boundaries. Harry also took us to a corn field in the middle of the jungle, where we learned about the difficulty of protecting the concession from outsiders. It was saddening to learn of the reality of the situation – the people who are destroying the forest for agriculture are just trying to make a living and survive. We were, however, left with a note of hope when we visited the neighboring concession. Here, a nonprofit called Hoja Nueva is experimenting with agroforestry and biochar as sustainable agricultural solutions and is working with the local community to demonstrate and teach these alternate methods.
We accomplished so much more than our original mission of learning about forest protection from the perspective of a ranger. We didn’t just experience the rainforest and all of its complexities – we became full-fledged participants in an environment so profoundly zoetic that we couldn’t help but feel a calling, stronger than any we have ever felt before, to ensure that this untamed paradise continues to thrive.
Check out our awesome video (edited by Cris!)