Explained by Tatiana Espinosa, Arbio ranger
Tatiana has been a Milkywire impacter since 2019. She’s been standing up to illegal loggers and aggressive poachers, defending her rainforest like a true Amazonian warrior for the past 11 years.
In November 2019, Tatiana received the Jane Goodall Hope and Inspiration Ranger Award for more than a decade of hard work fighting illegal logging and monitoring wildlife to protect the Amazonian rainforest and its biodiversity.
Worryingly, Tatiana recently shared with us an alarming fact: she received 106 deforestation alerts from the surrounding forest, highlighting the desperate situation of this vital ecosystem. So who exactly is Tatiana, and how is she able to fend off big corporations and unscrupulous gold miners in regions where even government authorities can’t patrol? We took advantage of a rare few minutes when Tatiana could sit down with cellphone reception to ask her a few questions.
So Tatiana, let’s start with the basics. Would you please introduce yourself to the Milkywire readers?
My name is Tatiana Espinosa, and I work as the CEO of Arbio Peru. My sister Rocio who also works at Arbio Peru, runs this Milkywire account with me since I’m often out in the field with no cell phone reception. I am a forestry engineer dedicated to saving and preserving the Amazon rainforest, which I’ve been doing for more than a decade. The Amazon is an immensely biodiverse area, but it’s threatened by illegal logging affecting whole ecosystems. So, in 2010 I started my organization, Arbio Peru. We’re an organization led by Peruvian women protecting 916 hectares of Amazonian rainforest. The area we work in falls within the region of Madre de Dios, Peru.
Please tell us how your interest in the environment and preserving the rainforest started.
I’ve been fascinated by nature from a young age, and I love being surrounded by it. So I studied forestry engineering to work in this beautiful environment. That led me to work for big environmental organizations, NGOs, and the government. But, honestly, I think I was too much of a rebel for those big organizations, so eventually, I quit to find a more locally adapted way to protect Peru’s primary forests, meaning the oldest forests that haven’t yet been disturbed by human activity.
In 2004 the government was awarding licenses to private stakeholders to operate in vast areas of Madre de Dios, an expansive region of primary forest located in a very remote place in the South East of Peru. Fortunately, I received a license. The land could have been used for logging or keeping livestock or whatever the license holder wanted, but I decided to make it a conservation area. I started documenting the biodiversity and gathered a team of rangers who would protect the forest from illegal loggers. In 2010 I started my organization, Arbio Peru, to formalize the work and gather support. We’re now an all-women-led organization, and I get to work with my sisters Rocio and Gianella.
We often hear about the importance of preserving the rainforest. Can you describe your work in more detail?
Our main job is to protect the primary forest from illegal logging and gold mining. Since the Interoceanic Highway was built, we have seen a significant increase in illegal logging activities in the remote areas where we work. Unfortunately, there are no police patrols or governmental authorities, meaning it’s down to us to protect this area.
We work to protect the Shihuahuaco tree, one of the most important tree species for the Amazonian ecosystem. They take about 700 years to grow one meter in diameter and can absorb 40 to 50 tons of carbon, making them an important part of the fight against climate change. They’re some of the biggest trees in the Amazon, and their roots can stretch for several kilometers, providing information and hydration for the vegetation that grows on the forest floor. Studies have shown that these “mother trees” have been around for centuries and have developed systems to combat plagues by producing certain enzymes and alerting other species to do the same. So they’re vital to keeping ecosystems healthy. Unfortunately, they are currently being logged for floorboards and other commercial use at a rate of 74 trees per day.
We are currently doing an inventory of the Shihuahuaco and other big trees with a high risk of logging. Since the area is very biodiverse, we do assessments and studies of wildlife as well. So far, we’ve registered over 69 species of reptiles and amphibians, 259 birds, and 29 species of mammals, including jaguars, pumas, rodents, deer, and anteaters.
An all-woman-led organization taking on illegal loggers is an inspiring concept. Please tell us more about Arbio Peru.
Arbio is a Peruvian non-profit association founded in 2010 in Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, protecting 916 hectares (2264 acres) of the Amazon rainforest. Our purpose is to implement forest conservation actions involving civil society and the private sector. In 2006 the area was granted a concession for 40 years by the Peruvian state.
Our permanent presence with rangers protects the area and promotes information about the importance of conserving the forest in the neighboring communities.
Since 2018 we have had a System of Protection of Large Amazonian Trees in the works to fight the high threat of illegal logging in the river basin. Due to the forest inventory carried out between 2016 and 2017, an identification and information database is now available of 300 trees belonging to species at risk of illegal logging.
As with most nonprofits, funds are a constant challenge for us. We need support to pay our rangers’ salaries and maintain our equipment, among other needs. When I am out in the forest working, it can be days or weeks without me being able to get in touch with Rocio or our base because of the lack of reception in the rainforest. So we also need funds for a satellite phone for the safety of our team of rangers in the field and me.
Thank you, Tatiana, for taking the time to talk to us and for your continued vital work in the Amazon. It’s an honor for Milkywire to be able to help fund your cause through the generosity of our supporters.
With your help, Tatiana can improve her communication abilities and streamline her efforts to protect the threatened Amazon rainforest.
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