April 24, 2000

Brazilian reserve protects both leafy and human inhabitants

                  From Correspondent Gary Strieker

                  MAMIRAUA RESERVE, Brazil (CNN) -- Part of an area of protected
                  wilderness that is larger than Costa Rica, Mamiraua is the world's largest
                  protected block of rainforest. The Amazon sanctuary also holds special
                  status for another reason: as Brazil's first sustainable development reserve, an
                  experiment in harmonizing nature conservation with human needs.

                  "Mamiraua has been a win-win situation. The protection of the area has never
                  been so good, the fish stocks have never been so high, and the situation of the
                  locals, using any standard of comparison, is far better than it was five years
                  ago," said Vicente Nogueira of the Amazonas Environmental Protection Institute.

                  Most nature reserves in Brazil exist only on paper, according to conservationists.
                  Serious measures to protect land areas are often stalled by the problem of removing
                  people living inside them.

                  In contrast, Mamiraua was founded on the basis that the people living in it, some
                  20,000 in dozens of villages, would be allowed to stay and play a major role in
                  protecting its natural resources. An elderly fisherman said he thinks the plan is
                  working. All the fish would be gone without it, he said.

                  In a project sponsored in part by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation
                  Society, scientists work with the inhabitants to find ways to conserve breeding
                  stocks of fish and other harvested wildlife.

                  Since then harvests have increased, marketing cooperatives have enjoyed
                  higher prices and villages have obtained more income.

                  There are new sources of earnings, like an ecotourism lodge, and improvements
                  to agriculture and social welfare. As people benefit, they take responsibility
                  for enforcing conservation laws.

                  Volunteer guards patrolling the reserve report violations to authorities. "They
                  are also protecting their natural resources, their economy, their day-to-day
                  quality of life," said Jose Marcio Ayres of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

                  Without participation by local people, government officials say, it would be
                  almost impossible to provide sufficient money and guards to protect the reserve,
                  which covers more than 22,000 square miles (57,000 square km).

                  In the 1970s and 1980s, loggers and farmers cut down or burned vast stretches
                  of the forest. International condemnation since then helped prompt the
                  government to begin action.

                  Much of the Amazon remains at risk. But the destruction has stopped in
                  Mamiraua, which could serve as a model for other reserves.

                  "If Brazil wants to increase the amount of protected areas in the Amazon, it has
                  to go through a system which is like Mamiraua, involving local people," Marcio
                  Ayres said.