This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit El Comercio. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
Two huge stumps indicate to Yony Guevara that something is wrong. The remains protrude as if emerging from an open scar in the extensive forested savannah of a concession along the Las Piedras river basin, Tambopata. They are what remains of two shihuahuacos (Dipteryx spp) of more than 900 years old. Yony is one of a small group of forest rangers; he has gone from felling trees with a chainsaw to patrolling this land, which spreads like a crisp, dense carpet, orchestrated by infinite trills and high-pitched chirps.
"We used to be illegal loggers, but small," says Yony. "Now it is total depredation. Our trails were not like these roads that cut down chestnut trees and everything along the way. In those days they used to carry the wood to the river on their backs." Having exploited the wood of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, however, does not mean a murky past for Yony, who now patrols the forests with his colleagues from Junglekeepers.
Twenty years ago, Yony earned 16 soles a day for going into the fields to work the wood; today he would earn between 70 and 80 soles a day as a laborer. However, according to the evidence in the case of "Los hostiles de la Amazonía" (Sierra Praeli, 2020), who takes the biggest slice of the cake is a chain of officials from various state entities — from the PNP and regional governments to the SUNAT and the Attorney General's Office — colluding with large logging companies in a mafia-like system.
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The shihuahuaco, whose wood is so dense and hard — iron wood, as the gringos call it — that it does not float, has an extremely low regeneration rate. The recommendation of specialists, such as forestry engineer Tatiana Espinosa, is that the logging of these species be halted. Not only because any rate of logging interrupts its slow reproductive cycle, but also because it interrupts a long series of services that the species provides to the forest, from very high levels of carbon sequestration, to its role as a habitat for predatory species that complete the delicate edaphic map (study of surface soils) of the forest.