The new reserve--supporting a number of local communities that are now stewards of their own resources--is a tribute to the leadership of the late Dr. José Márcio Ayres, a forest ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who succumbed to lung cancer earlier this year at the age of 49.
"These new reserves represent a giant step towards saving the very heart of the Amazon," said Dr. Steven Sanderson, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society and delegate at the World Parks Congress, where conservation leaders are now searching for ways to blend protected areas with indigenous benefits. "Piagaçu-Purus in particular uses the same model developed by Dr. Ayres in the Mamirauá and Amanã Sustainable Development Reserves, where residents balance conservation and development in a manner we should all strive to achieve. These reserves realize his vision."
Dr. Ayres developed the proposals that form the underpinnings of the Mamirauá and Amanã Reserves, both of which were designated as a World Heritage Site shortly after he passed away. At some 2.5 million acres in size, the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve contains a number of different ecosystems, including a large swath of várzea, a type of forest that is seasonally inundated by the Purus River, a tributary of the larger Solimões-Amazonas System. In addition to supporting important populations of giant otter, manatee and river dolphin, the reserve is a highly productive area for fishing and agricultural activities, both of which have the potential to improve and maintain the quality of life for the reserve's local people.
"Implementing sustainable development models that work is the key to saving wildlife and people." said Dr. Andrew Taber, director of WCS's Latin America Program. "Making the residents of Piagaçu-Purus masters of their own fate encapsulates what Marcio was aiming for--a workable blend of science and pragmatism."
Besides the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve, the new reserves include Samaúma and Cuieras State Parks; the Cujubim Sustainable Development Reserve; the Rio Urubu State Forest; and the Catuá-Ipixuna Extractive Reserve. The six reserves total some 10.4 million acres in size, doubling the size of the Amazonas State protected area system.
"We congratulate Governor Eduardo Braga and the State Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development Virgilio Maurício Viana for his decision to create these reserves," added Taber. "Also, we owe a great deal to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which will provide key support for the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve, as well as the Mamirauá and Amanã Sustainable Development Reserves."
ELECTRONIC IMAGES AVAILABLE THROUGH WCS'S CONSERVATION COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE: SSAUTNER@WCS.ORG; 718-220-3682.