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Current Threats


  • Migration
  • Illegal logging
  • Highways
  • Drug trafficking
  • Natural resource use
  • Lack of implementation of management mechanisms




    No established settlements exist in the interior of the protected area. However, human migration to the outer portions of the protected area represents a serious threat. The principal problem the zone faces is migration of farmers from the Andes who arrive in search of land for agriculture. They are constantly exerting more pressure and starting conflicts with the native communities. While they have been able to mitigate this problem in part by providing titles and ownership of these territories to the native communities in the region, colonization of “free” areas belonging to the State, which includes all the median altitude portions of the communal reserve on the left bank of the Ene river, continues at an alarming rate.


    Andean migration has been occurring for many years. When the Obenteni Mission was founded, the Gran Pajonal (Great Grassland) was the center of the Ashaninka culture; however the missionaries implanted a radical change. The plateau was rich in natural grasses, and the good Fathers decided that it would be better for raising cattle. Thinking that the Ashaninka’s practices were not worth anything, the missionaries supported the migration of quechua colonists, “good Catholics,” who not only brought cattle, but they also claimed the land. Some Ashninkas were forced to work practically for free, so the majority moved away bit by bit, following the course of the Ene River, into very distant regions (40).


    The first Quechua colonists arrived to the Cuitivireni zone on the Ene River at the end of the 1970’s. Coming down from the Andes, they found fertile lands to settle. At first there were only a few, but they were just the precursors of something to come (41). The jungle began to react to the poor treatment that it suffered at the hands of the colonists. Trees there did not have deep roots, and when the colonists cut and burned them, they found only a thin layer of topsoil with a clay base. The rain was hard enough that the topsoil was washed away, and only the hard and sterile clay was left behind. Many of the colonists saw their lands disappearing and chose to go further into the interior of the jungle, increasing the forest’s destruction. It was a vicious circle: and if left unchecked, it would have ended up expulsing the native people from their ancestral lands (42).


    The problem became even more serious when the Sendero Luminoso (Illuminated Path) movement had power in the country. Andean farmers were forced into the jungles because they were victims of violence on their own lands. On the Ene River, there was a large invasion of colonists during the 80’s and with them came cocaine and terrorism. These colonists displaced the Ashaninka from their territories near the rivers by invading and taking the land for themselves. It was on the Ene where the colonists received more land, since colonization there began earlier when the native communities did not have titles to their lands. As the violence diminished, communities displaced by terrorism attempted to return to their lands, only to find them occupied by colonists. The natives did not want to live with the colonists, so they were forced to look for land higher up and even closer to the reserve. For this reason CEDIA and ACPA felt that it was important to increase the number of land titles granted to the native communities in these territories. Moreover, the extensions into the Ene Valley are much more sustainable, due to the more traditional use by the isolated groups and the settling patterns of the groups higher on the mountain range.


    In many cases the colonists are settled on communal property within the territories. The colonies attracted families who saw their future in the jungle and sought land to establish themselves. Colonists then began to establish friendships with the closest native communities, marry native women and raise families. This is another manner in which the colonists entered into the communities and acquired the rights and benefits of forest and resource use, based on their new status as members of a family. With time, social interactions between colonists and natives began to be problematic. According to reports from the area, confrontations between natives and colonists produce at least three deaths a year.


                                  La Balsa Sector in Puerto Ocopa, the point of entrance for colonists


    Jesus Melendez Perez of PETT interviewed for this report claims that the official land registries are being carried out in the native communities, and at the same time, physical and legal corrections are being made to the register of both the native communities and colonists settled around or in communal territories.  The most common problem has been the territorial overlapping. There are large portions of territorial/property overlaps due to poor surveying. This has led to the unintentional placement of the colonies within native communities. What is needed is a guarantee that the surveys are accurate, with data and precise information that delineates the native communities from point a to point b. That is, identify the borders of the native communities, then using those borders, mark the boundaries of the adjacent colonists’ communities.


    ACPC is involved in a thorny process because they are trying to stop waves of new colonists from colonizing the area. This has presented some negative repercussions for ACPC, especially in their work in Satipo, a city dominated by colonists, where they have had problems with their image and where the public perceives them negatively. In spite of that, ACPC has embraced the task of defending the indigenous territories. Lamentably, the presence of so many colonists is one of the biggest threats not only to the indigenous population, but also to the protected area itself. ACPC is the principal NGO working on territorial defense, conflict management, and management and conservation of forest resources in Asháninka Communal Reserve’s area of influence.

    These invasions do not occur within the reserve itself, but they are occurring in the native territories adjacent to the reserve. One example is Paveni, a small community that had immense colonist pressure, because colonists are advancing the agricultural border to plant more cocaine (Erytroxilon coca). These agriculturists are daring to invade here because they see that DEVIDA, the agency in charge of the fight against drugs in the zone, is constructing a new access road. Presumably, it will favor development and therefore work against drugs, but instead the cocaine growers use it to transport their product: basic paste used in cocaine production (43).


    Immediately after construction for the Camiesa Gas Project began on the Urubamba River, there was a large increase in both land-based and water-based traffic along the Puerto Ocopa-Atalaya route. Due to its transitory character, the population did not feel strong negative impacts, but this experience provides a good idea of how strong of an influence a road from Satipo to Atalaya could have on the region. An increase in commercial activities along this roadway, either because of the Camiesa project or for some other reason entirely, will attract new colonists.




    Logging from the interior of the reserve is very restricted, mostly because the area’s geography makes access difficult. However, there are logging groups operating in the interior of the native communities’ lands adjacent to the reserve. Some are even building timber extraction roads that open the doors to the reserve.

    We learned through informal conservations with personnel from the Gloriabamba Forestry Control Post, on the Satipo-Puerto Ocopa highway, that logging activity in the region surrounding the reserve is extremely high and is occurring in an unorganized manner. They also have constant problems with illegal loggers cutting mahogany from the Ene River Basin, which has become a very difficult place to control.


    On one side are the illegal loggers, who invade the area or make contact with the local poor people to extract wood without permission or authorization. On the other hand are the loggers that have some type of permission to log, but become illegal the moment they take wood from outside of their assigned area or exceed the allowed volumes and continue with the logging activity.


    In many cases it is not possible to enter the countryside and intervene with the illegal logging because the loggers are armed. They often carry side arms and have previous criminal records or have had problems with the law. On a recent timber seizure, two people were encountered who were wanted by the Police’s Terrorism Division. The Anti-Terrorism Directive Police (DIRCOTE) participated in this operation. The loggers had crossed the line to the point where they are considered to be involved with drug trafficking and terrorist activities.


    Loggers are taking wood primarily from native communities. They make agreements that are often fraudulent or disadvantageous for the local community. The community puts up the title to their land to obtain permission to log it; meanwhile the loggers receive the benefit without risking anything. According to an interview with a civil employee, for every mobilization, or cutting event, the natives receive about $3 U.S. dollars, while the loggers are becoming millionaires. The natives are being swindled without ever realizing it.

    Recently a commission from the Forestry Service came to speak with the heads of each community, but nearly all of them are involved in these illegal activities and therefore are not willing to collaborate on prevention or control. A seizure was made in Pichiqua, in the Ene Valley, and the president of the community did not collaborate, making things easier for the illegal loggers. They give the head of the community a rather minimal amount of money so that he will use the communal property documents to obtain permission to log the land. This happens in almost all of the Ene’s tributaries’ valleys where there is wood, like in Boca Sanibeni and Valle Esmeralda. The natural resources are taken from communities who have forestry permissions, but it doesn’t result in local development or even produce greater community benefits because only a few people benefit, usually the heads of the community who made the deal.


    Personnel of the forestry control post constantly receive threats from loggers. During the night, loggers may block the exit of the control room so that it is impossible for the people inside to stop the loggers’ trucks from passing, and generally prevents any enforcement from occurring. These are people to fear, according to the poor people in the area. They come from Tocache and Uchiza, centers of drug production, and are contracted killers that often complete their task. According to sources, the personnel of the control post do not fear these people and are receiving more than enough support from DIRCOTE.


                                INRENA’s forestry control post along the Puerto Ocopa – Satipo road
    The Forestry Service in Satipo responds to information about possible seizures in a very slow manner. For example, there have already been seizures of illegally logged timber but the case must be formally judged  (by the Forestry Service) to see whether it proceeds down the river or not. The control post on the Puerto Ocopa-Satipo highway is a very strategic one, meaning that they are able to seize huge amounts of wood, more than 10,000 board feet in seizures.


    The natives also work as emissaries for the loggers, warning the loggers when there is an operation with DIRCOTE, so the loggers can retain their cargo and pass through the checkpoint after DIRCOTE has already left. There have been five operations in the last month, of which two have failed and three have been successful. This demonstrates that if they coordinate well, the result is effective control. Before there was a change of personnel at the control post, the loggers used to freely transport their illegal goods during that day. Then, after two of the operatives, the loggers adjusted their schedules and apparently now they pass through at dawn. 


    The system of concessions outlined by the Forest Law (Law No. 27308) is not in effect in the central forest region, only logging requests that are presented with corresponding management plans. However, management plans are not fully complied with to their maximum capacity mostly because the INRENA office in Satipo lacks personnel to cover the size of the territory it oversees, but they do everything possible to maintain control (44).


    According to ACPC references, even when the area was the Apurímac Reserve, it had been suffering from logging impacts. From this institution’s perspective, it was a totally illegal extraction, however for the State it was simply an irregular extraction. There was a forest contract within the protected area, validated basically by civil employees of the Regional Agrarian Office in Huancayo, administrative capital of the department of Junín, where civil employees are still not interested in conservation, indigenous rights, or the sustainable natural resource management. Here, they basically live on bribery and the peddling of influence.


    There was a forest contract within the protected area. This contract had existed previous to the area’s recategorization. However, it had been erroneously granted, because the forest concession overlapped reserved zone territory. This allowed the ALCERSA company to log in the native communities and the reserved zone. To make this possible, the company constructed a highway that crosses the Pangoa and Ene Rivers going towards the communal reserve and Otishi Naitonal Park. Seeing the possibility of a suspended contract, ALSERSA went to court against the State and INRENA, but ended up losing the judgment because they did not present a good defense. Finally, under pressure of a possible scandal, the company decided to leave, but did not rule out the possibility of returning to the area.


    At this time, a highway in the extreme northwest of the Asháninka Communal Reserve is being constructed. It begins near the confluence of the Ene and Tambo Rivers and runs parallel to the Tambo. The forest company MADECSA, owned by Congressman Jaime Velasquez, is continuing with the construction of this highway. Basically, it will be used to extract wood from the native communities that it crosses, in spite of the existence of strong local opposition. The community of Otica has not allowed the highway through its communal lands, basically because they have a logging contract with some small companies and they do not want a large company to come into their area. Therefore, the highway makes a deflection around their zone and continues towards Obenteni. It is known that there are colonists who have close ties with Congressman Velasquez; they want the construction of this highway to continue so they are able to continue invading territories, encouraging illegal logging, and establishing new colonies all within the titled territories of the native communities.


                                      Forestry road, photo © ACPC                                                    Photo © ParksWatch – Peru


    The State exonerates itself, claiming that it cannot interfere with the companies and the communities because they have a private contract. This way the State avoids responsibility and the logging company does whatever it wants, meaning that the natives end up paying the consequences. In effect, the private relationships between loggers and communities are a legal matter. The community, with supports of these loggers, makes a deal to give its logging rights within its communal territory to the loggers, all the while the loggers are in charge of the entire process. The forest legislation is tacitly allowing for competition between native communities and the forest concessions established by law for supposed sustainable management of the resource. This weakness of the law actually harms the natives and greatly benefits the lumber companies that have been working in this particular area.


    The indigenous population is at a disadvantage when it comes to handling the forest resources. At the present time, the communities are not in a position to properly handle forest management due to their lack of technical and operative capacity and due to the lack of money that would allow them to finance trips and procedures.


    The concession system, that guarantees forest plots for 40 years, requires payments of user and rights fees and a series of other requirements that moist small companies cannot cover, meaning that the larger companies or organized consortiums have more access to this system. If the rights cost around $1 US per hectare, it is very hard for small and medium extractors to pay between US$ 40,000 and US$ 50,000 dollars per year to receive a legal logging concession. Instead, they go to the native communities where they do not pay for the rights or run the risks.



    The head of the Samaniato community says that loggers are no longer allowed to enter his communal territory because they owe so much money to them (nearly $80,000 US dollars). The lumber companies of Satipo deceived the people and the president of the community for over six years. The wood was taken for free. The community no longer wants more companies in its territory. They threw them out with the help of a lawyer from Satipo and the support of ACPC (45).


    ACPC has established a process of forest contract negotiation between companies and communities, advising to the communities. Initially the wood bought in a community by any company was less than 10 cents Nueva Sol ($ 0.03 U.S.) per board foot, which is robbery considering that the national price was 8 Nueva Sol per board foot. They pay much less to the community that produces the timber, even though the community should be receiving a significant part of the profits from the wood. Logging on a small scale and in accordance with good management practices can be a profitable business for the communities. This type of extraction contributes to the conservation of the resource, in contrast to the present manner of extraction, which involves practices that destroy the forest while benefiting the forest companies.


    Because of the deceit of the loggers, enormous volumes and non-technically extracted timber had to be extracted so that the community could obtain an actual benefit. Yet, one single tree sold at fair market price provides sufficient benefits to the community—enough to cover its basic necessities over a certain period and the added benefit of producing minimum impact on the forest. According to ACPC’s calculations, about four mahogany trees sold every year by a community would cover the price of a school and a first aid post, which are the most valued necessities in many communities. That is what ACPC is trying to promote. Through trainings, they are trying to teach the communities legal and technical tools they need to be able to establish a more balanced relationship with the lumber companies.


    One of the ACPC objectives is to sell timber from the communal territories in a legal and scientific manner, with low impact and profitable benefits that are not just handed over to the president of the community (a vice that, lamentably, is wide spread in the native communities) but that reaches all, conserving the greater amount of the forest. What used to occur was each community had to sell hundreds of hectares of forests to obtain ridiculously little benefits. Today, communities demand better prices for the wood they extract. Before, they sold wood at 10-20 cents Nueva Sol per board foot, now they sell at 2 Nuevos Soles per board foot. Contracts are no longer open, but instead are determined by precise amounts of wood. The natives understand how to measure the amount of wood and know how to ensure that the wood that is leaving is indeed the species indicated in the contract. ACPC thinks that a process has begun in which the communities are retaking control on their forest resources little by little, learning the commercial value of the wood and recovering the process of redistribution of benefits to the interior of the community (46).


    It is very well known that on the left margin of the Ene River, in the district of Pangoa, active centers of terrorism exist and the zone is influenced by cocaine production. Nevertheless, the loggers enter and leave the zone with timber without issue, as it pertains to logging contracts greater than 1,000 hectares. Many of them overlap onto titled communal estates, illegally granted by the Satipo Agrarian Agency and the Agrarian Region of Junín. It is presumed that the loggers pay the terrorists and that lumber activity is simultaneously a facade for other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking. This fact is rumored within the region; nevertheless the authorities do not actually investigate any of these situations. This can be taken to demonstrate a synergy between the narcotics detectives, terrorists and loggers.


    In general, the logging activity, the lobby for local highways, and the assignment of free land within the region, enjoys the influence of political power, economic and influence peddling exerted from the Congress of the Republic through lumber Congressman Jaime Velasquez Rodriguez and contemporaries. Ex-forestry civil employees function as advisers to the loggers and are interlocutors with the leaders (some corrupt) of the native communities. Some facilitate the proceedings and plans to obtain the authorizations for extraction in communities and to remove their timber resource by means of individual private contracts. These contracts are loaded with vices and tricks, and the authorities cannot intervene to safeguard those who have been swindled (47).



    No highways cross the protected area, nevertheless there are several projects on its outskirts that constitute a serious threat for the conservation of the communal reserve. The highways attract greater colonization, facilitate access for resource extractors, drug traffickers, and terrorists. Highway construction in the region is directly linked to the timber industry, which builds access roads to the forest for wood extraction and transportation. These roads then remain behind; later, colonists rehabilitate and expand them the timber roads in coordination with local municipalities.


    One unpaved highway that arrives in Port Ocopa, and originates in Satipo, is the axis on which the economic dynamics of the entire region move, connecting it with the rest of the country. This highway is being extended toward the locality of Atalaya, but very slowly and only with the contributions of the provincial municipalities of Satipo and Atalaya and in smaller measure by the Special Project Pichis Palcazú. It is intended to unite the locality of Atalaya on Ucayali River with the Port Ocopa – Satipo Road.  





    According to the manifest of Iván Brehaut of ACPC, a forest highway north of the protected area exists that is being enlarged by a lumber company owned by a politician linked to the current political party of the government. There are other roads that are being built and will cause large environmental damages to the region. A highway from Satipo is being built toward Pangoa and is directed toward the heart of the activity of Sendero Luminoso, and will arrive near the population center of Puerto Porvenir on the Ene River. That highway is being built slowly and without heavy machinery, with support in part from the municipality of Pangoa and in large part from the forest businesses, in a zone where not even the army can enter. Loggers are the only ones who go in to this area. It is a planned highway and has the political support of USAID and of DEVIDA.


    Another highway is the one that comes from San Francisco - Kimbiri on the Apurímac River. It runs to the north towards the Valley Esmeralda, a colonist settlement on the Upper Ene that abuts with the valley of the Apurímac. This highway is being built for the South Central Sierra Project (Proyecto Sierra-Centro Sur) in the section that corresponds to Cusco and that now is being studied by the Regional Government of Junín and that apparently would be supported by USAID and DEVIDA. This highway, like all the others in the region, has had no environmental impact study performed or any processes of consultation. From this highway, the construction of a highway along the left margin of the Ene River is proposed, which has generated controversy. On the one hand, there is a total opposition on the part of the native communities, while the colonists are declaring their demand and expectation for its construction. This highway would come from the Apurímac River, flanking the Ene River, toward the zone of Cutivireni and unite with the highway from Port Ocopa to close the circuit from Ayacucho-Port Ocopa. This highway would have additional access to areas where there is a lot of wood, constituting a new lumber emporium.


    An extension from Kimbiri on the Apurimac River to Kiteni on the Urubamba River is also being considered. That is to say that a route will be created between Kiteni and Kimbiri, which will bring about the general occupation of that zone. Already there is drug trafficking there, as well as loggers and colonists. A center of very strong pressure will be generated and neither the communal reserve nor the native communities are adequately fortified to integrally manage the territory and to be able to defend that border (48).


    The same things are occurring in regards to the extraction of wood from the territories of the native communities. Many native leaders support the construction of access and forestry roads, in complicity with businesses and lumber extractors, for whom they are signing documents behind the backs of the communities. As the president of Cutivireni declared, there is a lack of knowledge in general on the part of the native communities with respect to the danger of the highways; they only know their larger characteristics. Unfortunately the president of the Central Asháninka of the River Ene (CARE) has signed agreements without his community knowing. On the one hand these are a favor to the lumber industry, on the other they are motivated perhaps with a political end in mind; as election campaigns approach he will be seeking more prominence and support from colonists.


                                     Highways facilitate colonists’ arrivals and they generate a vicious deforestation cycle, photos © ACPC.


    Drug trafficking


    This region has had a drug trafficking presence for a number of years. One problem is the planting of cocoa leaves, which causes the deforestation of thousands of hectares of tropical forest, cutting vegetation on slopes that are then degraded by erosion and soil loss. The enlargement of the agricultural frontier for planting cocoa is a very serious threat to the area’s natural environment. Another problem is cocaine production, which utilizes chemicals, plastics and synthetic materials that are then dumped into the rivers and surrounding environments, causing high levels of contamination that affect both the flora and fauna and the overall quality of the environment. Cocaine production centers are generally located in areas that are difficult to access, often pristine and virgin places in the interior of the forest that end up being spoiled by these activities. Drug traffickers searching for new operation areas have looked towards the interior of the communal reserve, constituting a serious threat for the protected area.


    Drug trafficking creates corruption, involving public officials, authorities, agents of the law and local settlers. It attracts bad people to live in the region generating insecurity and discomfort. Terrorists finance their activities through the drug trade and in many cases work with the lumber companies both in production and transportation.


    The native community of Cutivireni, and all those communities that possess a landing strip, are under the constant threat of the presence of the drug-traffickers, who pay large sums of money to use the landing strips, involving them in the corruption. As the president of Cutivireni declared, drug trafficking is a problem here in the months of January and February because of requests from the landing drug-traffickers.


    The implementation of programs against drug production and the replacement of drug plantations with other crops has not been successful. Before a hectare was planted with 5 to 8 thousand cocoa plants, now between 15 and 30 thousand plants are planted in the same area. The drug growers apply technology at the growing point (high consumption of agrochemicals with leaves covering the crops) that results in an apparent reduction of cultivated surface, but the volume of production is maintained. No alternative cultivation is as profitable, because of low demand and low prices in comparison with cocoa.


    If the programs to ban and control drugs increase their pressure on the drug-traffickers from the Ene Valley, it will be very possible that they will enter into community territories and the interior of the communal reserve.


    Natural Resource Use


    Hunting and fishing are very important components of native families’ economic structure, since they provide for their own consumption needs as well as small-scale commerce, which provides the necessary money to cover other needs. Many species have been severely affected around the communities due to the human presence and hunting pressure. Sometimes residents will be in the forest for hours, taking advantage of the night or the early hours of the morning, in order to capture prey for subsistence consumption. Other times residents go in the forest, in some cases to the interior of the communal reserve, for days or weeks, especially if the prey is scarce in the outskirts of the populated areas. When they go for several days, it is generally done to provide food for some festivity or to market the excess, carrying salt and smoking the meat to preserve it.


    Hunting activities are carried out year round, with greater intensity in the summer, from July to November. The majority of the natives hunt with bow and arrow. Some possess 16 caliber shotguns, which cause considerably greater impacts on the fauna of the area. Nevertheless as the availability of cartridges is restricted in the zone, many continue hunting with bow and arrow. The colonists also hunt, exclusively with firearms, but not as frequent as the natives. There exist certain firearm controls in the zone, enforced by the army, due to security issues with terrorism. The military presence in the region also impacts the fauna. According to information from local inhabitants, the soldiers also hunt and fish. In general, colonists purchase their bush meat from the natives. This generates incentives for the natives to be more and more dedicated to commercial hunting.


    Locals also harvest some non–timber forest products to satisfy some of their health and dietary needs. Palm fronds are highly sought after since they use the fronds for their thatched roofs and to make utensils. This demand creates pressure on the resource and makes it increasingly scarcer.


    Immigration into adjacent areas, with the consequences of deforestation and environmental degradation, means that many species of fauna flee from the pressure, seeking refuge in less accessible areas within the reserve. Hunting, fishing, and harvest activities do not currently threaten Asháninka Communal Reserve. Nevertheless, an increase in the number of settlers in the region because of colonization will increase the demand for forest products, resulting in more pressure on the same, which will affect the communal reserve.



                           Snails complement the native people’s diet.                                           Medicinal plants are used often.


    Lack of implementation of management mechanisms


    The Asháninka Communal Reserve does not fall entirely under the control of one administrative entity. It does not have an area director, park rangers, a management committee, or a management plan. It does not have any vigilance or control infrastructure. It hasn’t even begun the process to establish an administrative contract for the area. In these conditions, the protected area finds itself vulnerable to settlers and illegal loggers.

    Future Threats


    Potential incremental increase of present threats


    An increase of the present timber extraction levels and subsequent shortage of commercially valuable trees will push lumber activity to continue entering further into the interior of the communal reserve. Additionally, an increased road network providing access to the reserve will facilitate entrance of additional lumber companies and other resource-based industries, as well as groups of migrants in search of lands to be develop and call their own. It is likely that if these tendencies do not change, the conflicts in the region will worsen and Asháninka Communal Reserve will be very vulnerable to any threat.


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