National Geographic : 2013 Apr
A short distance southeast of the Alto Tama ya, a 15,000squaremile mosaic of protected areas known as the Purús Conservation Com plex teems with gigantic trees that first sprouted from the jungle floor centuries ago. This region embraces the headwaters of the Purús and Yurúa Rivers, and tribes living in extreme isolation maintain a presence in its rugged upland folds. It is also believed to hold as much as 80 percent of Peru’s remaining bigleaf mahogany. Illegal loggers are using surrounding Indian settlements as a back door into the protected lands. Many communities have been tricked by men offering cash for help in obtaining logging permits, which they later use to launder mahog any illegally cut inside the reserves. Along the Huacapistea River, a Yurúa tributary that forms the northwestern border of the Murunahua Ter ritorial Reserve, duplicitous dealings have left half a dozen Ashéninka communities impover ished and disillusioned. At the height of the rainy season I join Chris Fagan, executive director of the U.S.based Up per Amazon Conservancy, and Arsenio Calle, director of Alto Purús National Park, on a foray An agent from Peru’s park service hand-measures the width of a section of an illegally cut mahogany. A logger with a chain saw can topple a centuries- old tree like this behemoth in less than half an hour.