Skoll Foundation


Amazon Conservation Team

Skoll Awardee(s): Mark Plotkin and Liliana Madrigal
Award Year: 2008
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Environmental Sustainability

(Click here to print)

Mark and Liliana, a husband and wife team, have spent much of their lives preserving the Amazon rainforest and the knowledge and culture of its indigenous inhabitants. Liliana and Mark recognized that the loss of the forest and the destruction of tribal culture were inextricably linked and that one could not thrive without the other. Together, they created ACT to preserve the cultures of indigenous peoples of the Amazon and empower them to protect their rainforest homes.


  • In Oct. 2014, Mark gave a powerful TED talk at TEDGlobal 2014: South! in Rio.
  • In 2013, for the indigenous communities of the department of Caquetá, Colombia, ACT facilitated the receipt of a special disbursement from a government royalty fund to sponsor the strengthening and coordination of the tribes’ representation and the establishment of a center for indigenous leadership.
  • ACT, in partnership with the Kogi Indians and the Colombian Ministry of Culture, purchased a 383-acre sacred site for the Kogi that, by decision of the Colombian Ministry of Culture, was declared a new national category of protected area, a “site of national cultural interest.”
  • ACT is working with the National Parks Service of Colombia in the development of protection guidelines and contingency plans for isolated indigenous communities living within the Rió Puré and Cahuinarí National Parks in the department of Amazonas, where ACT sponsored research and overflights in 2010 and 2011 that identified the longhouses of uncontacted peoples, likely the Yuri, long believed extinct.
  • The Surui became the first indigenous tribe in the world to earn carbon credits under internationally recognized standards for capturing carbon in trees (part of our Amazon Corridors Initiative)
  • In partnership with local indigenous groups, ACT completed ethnographic and land-use mapping for over 70 million acres of Amazonian rainforest lands. Doing so has laid the groundwork for the eventual protection of those lands by providing the basis for forest management plans designed by the very people who inhabit them, with 38 million of those acres already better monitored against illegal incursions.
  • Through a course recognized by the International Ranger Federation, ACT has trained over 125 indigenous persons as park guards, providing their communities with the technical capacity and communication skills to work directly with state and national government environmental agencies to protect their forests.
  • ACT has facilitated the national registration of 30 indigenous associations in 3 Amazonian countries, providing the associated indigenous groups with the legal entity and autonomy required to build partnerships with governments in the protection of their forest lands.
  • ACT keeps traditional knowledge alive in the Amazon by supporting 96 traditional healers (shamans) and their apprentices, allowing them to focus on restoring ancestral medicinal practices in their communities.
  • In 2005, for Smithsonian magazine’s 35th anniversary issue, Mark was picked as one of “35 Who Made a Difference,” along with Bill Gates and Wynton Marsalis.
  •  In 1998, Mark starred in the IMAX film “Amazon.” 



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.