ARC’s lands in the area of Tambopata in the Madre de Dios region of Peru are one of the last blocks of intact rainforest in the world.  Tambopata is renowned for its unusually high biodiversity, and holds world-record numbers of butterfly and bird species. The area is home to rare tree species logged to extinction in other places. Tambopata’s remoteness until recently protected the indigenous tribes who live there in voluntary isolation.

Things changed with the opening of the Interoceanic Highway in 2011, which connects Atlantic Ocean ports in Brazil to Pacific Ocean ports in Peru. The 2,575 km highway facilitates transporting Brazilian goods to India and China, but it also cuts through previously inaccessible areas of the Amazon. People have since flooded into the area to exploit its natural resources. This disaster has been exacerbated by high gold prices. Wildcat miners use a primitive process to extract gold from river silt that uses mercury and metal barrels. The mercury contaminates the river and its fish, as well as surrounding plants and animals. The scar in the jungle can be seen from the International Space Station and mercury is poisoning the people in the area as well as the 40,000+ illegal gold miners. 

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