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Story Publication logo March 29, 2022

The Two Faces of Illegal Logging in the Peruvian Amazon (Spanish)


A forest in Peru.

The confluence of an economic and humanitarian crisis due to Covid–19 has reversed fragile gains in...


This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit the Los Angeles Times. 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.

Forestry engineer Tatiana Espinosa and her Arbio team are shown next to the base of a 1,000-year-old shihuahuaco. Image by Michael Tweddle. Peru, 2022.

LAS PIEDRAS, Madre de Dios, Peru — Enzo Duarte plods through the dense Amazon jungle. As he walks, kilometers and kilometers into the manigua — the mysterious and dangerous labyrinth that is the jungle — he searches for towering timber trees whose tops protrude above the canopy.

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The censor, as the individual who scours the jungle in search of timber trees is called, guides the loggers with their chainsaws to the point where he has marked the presence of a monumental shihuahuaco, one of the most representative emergent trees in the forest and one of the most valued by poachers. Its growth rate is very slow and for this reason, its wood is very hard and appreciated by the parquet flooring industry. It takes more than 300 years just to grow half a meter in diameter. The problem is that, if depredation continues, by 2025 there will be none left standing.

"From 2001 to 2003 I dedicated myself to harvesting mahogany in the Los Amigos river basin, one of the most important tributaries of the Madre de Dios river," recalls Duarte, 45, from a pizzeria in Puerto Maldonado. "We came to the Las Piedras river and started crossing to the Los Amigos river from behind, there were no roads, everything was by river. A foot of mahogany cost 12 soles and at that time it was quite profitable. Everyone was crazy about the mahogany fever. Now they are looking for hardwood species like shihuahuaco. I have worked on both sides of the coin. I have been a predator and also a conservationist."

Freshly felled logs are stacked in a makeshift sawmill in the forests of Las Piedras, Madre de Dios. Image by Michael Tweddle. Peru, 2022.

A howler monkey, one of several primate species living in the forests of the Peruvian Amazon, rests on the branches of a tree in Madre de Dios. Image by Michael Tweddle. Peru, 2022.

A 1,000-year-old shihuahuaco stands in the middle of the Arbio concession. Image by Michael Tweddle. Peru, 2022.