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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon Conservation Team’

“It’s All the Same Thing” – Mark Plotkin on Preserving the Amazon

June 4, 2015 by

“’Who cares about the Amazon? We have to worry about global warming and climate change.’ Well guess what, it’s all the same thing.”

In a beautiful new 2-minute film, ethnobotanist and Amazon Conservation Team co-founder Mark Plotkin explains the interconnectivity between many of today’s greatest global challenges and the Amazon rainforest.

“Whether you’re interested in changing climate, whether you’re interested in too many poor people, or whether you’re interested in drug resistant bacteria—which is a much greater threat to our species than climate change, deforestation, terrorism, nuclear weapons—you have an interest in the greatest expression of life on earth, which is the rainforest, which is home to most of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.”

80% of our antibiotics come from nature, and the best antibiotics are waiting for us in today’s rainforests. It is, of course, crucial to protect those natural resources. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) works in partnership with indigenous people of tropical America to conserve the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest as well as the culture and land of its indigenous people.

ACT partners with the Trio Indians to create programs in which elder shamans pass their botanical healing wisdom to the next generation of healers within the tribe. Mark’s goal is to fully document the entire spectrum of Trio knowledge of animals and plants.

In honor of Mark’s 60th birthday this month, ACT seeks to raise $60,000 to create the first ever Shaman’s Encyclopedia of the Amazon. “The lasting importance of achieving these goals is the creation of a template that other tribal peoples throughout the Amazon can adapt to their own needs and – in so doing – have a positive impact on saving oral shamanic wisdom in all of lowland South America.”

Learn more about this groundbreaking project and how you can help support it:


Indigenous Reserve in Colombia Quintupled in Size

May 6, 2015 by

After 20 years of diligent work, conservationists, human rights activists and indigenous communities are celebrating a massive achievement in southwest Colombia: the expansion of the Inga people’s Yunguillo Indigenous Reserve—an area of extraordinary cultural and environmental importance—from 10,675 to 55,341 acres (more than 85 square miles).

The Yunguillo Indigenous Reserve is home to many sacred sites for the Inga people, as well as many threatened species including spectacled bears and jaguars. The expansion also protects the headwaters of the Caquetá River—a major tributary of the Amazon River whose watershed covers 250,000 square kilometers.

The Tilinguera River runs next to the Inga community of Yunguillo and connects to the Caquetá River—one of the major tributaries of the Amazon River. Click to enlarge

The Executive Board of INCODER (the Colombian Institute for Rural Development) approved the expansion today. The decision represents important progress in the implementation of Constitutional Court decision No. 004 of 2009, which safeguards at-risk indigenous communities’ claim to their traditional lands. The Inga tribe of the region will now have increased protection and additional rights to their territory—an area increasingly threatened by mining concessions and other development projects.

“This represents a huge victory, not only for the Inga communities, but for the protection of one of the world’s most biodiverse areas,” said Liliana Madrigal, co-founder of the Amazon Conservation Team in Arlington, Virginia. “The expansion connects Doña Juana National Park (162,741 acres) and Serranía de los Churumbelos National Park and secures an important piece of the Andes-Amazon-Atlantic Corridor proposed by President Santos.”

Nydia Becerra Jacanamejoy, the governor of Yunguillo, expressed how this land is intricately tied to Inga identity and how the Inga are equipped to protect it.

School kids and teachers in the Inga community of Yunguillo. Click to enlarge

“We consider Mother Earth to be both the reason for our existence and our reason for surviving,” she said. “To use the land and its resources properly and respectfully, we observe the traditions passed down over generations. We maintain our identity by maintaining these traditions, while adapting to new conditions in order to protect our territory. We do not believe that identity is possible without territory or that we can protect these lands without a strong sense of collective identity.”

This important achievement is the result of coordinated efforts by the Inga community of Yunguillo, its four communal councils (Osococha, San Carlos, Tandarido and Yunguillo), INCODER, regional indigenous organizations including OZIP, and the Amazon Conservation Team. Thanks to efforts by these groups, the Inga community preemptively developed a plan for territorial management in the expanded reserve. Yesterday, they put this plan into action.



Mark Plotkin’s TEDGlobal Talk Now on

November 24, 2014 by

Starting today, you can watch Mark Plotkin’s TEDGlobal 2014: South! talk, which he gave in Rio last month. Mark is a scientist who works in the rainforest to document how people use local plants, and is the co-founder of Amazon Conservation Team (ACT). ACT is dedicated to preserving South American rainforests and works with local indigenous communities to devise and implement its conservation strategies.

An excerpt from Mark’s TED talk:

“The shaman looked me in the face, smiled, and said, ‘Take off your shoe and give me your machete!’ He walked over to a palm tree and carved off a fern, threw it in the fire, applied the fern to my foot, threw it in a pot of water, and had me drink the tea.  The pain disappeared for seven months. When it came back, I went to see him again. He gave me the same treatment and I’ve been cured for three years now. Who would you rather be treated by?”

[Later in the talk, he says, to roaring applause]:

“We introduce technology to the contacted tribes, not the uncontacted tribes, in a culturally sensitive way. This is the perfect marriage of ancient shamanic wisdom and 21st-century technology. We’ve done this now with over 30 tribes. Mapped, managed, and increased protection of over 70 million acres of ancestral rainforest. This allows the Indians to take control of their environmental and cultural destiny.”

(We should note, 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).

Watch the talk at, and learn more about Mark in this recent interview.



Mark Plotkin Featured in Times-Picayune

September 12, 2014 by

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans just profiled Mark Plotkin of Amazon Conservation Team. The piece talks about how “growing up, Plotkin never imagined he would one day become an ethnobotanist, studying the ways Indians used the plants that grew around them. ‘How could I?’ I never knew there was such a thing,’ he said.”

It talks about the defining moment that changed all that, and later led to the founding of the Amazon Conservation Team and all his success. It ends with Mark’s humor.

An excerpt:

“In 1996, he and his wife, Liliana Madrigal, cofounded the nonprofit Amazon Conservation Team to protect biological and cultural diversity in the tropical rain forest, and started the program Shamans and Apprentices, which helps medicine men share their priceless knowledge with young members of their tribes. Nearly two decades later, the program is flourishing.

‘It’s not just working, it’s thriving,’ he said. ‘I’m immensely proud of that.’ Plotkin has led a remarkable life. He has degrees from Harvard and Yale, and a doctorate in biological conservation from Tufts University. In 1998, he starred in the IMAX film ‘Amazon.’ He has won numerous awards, and in 2005, for Smithsonian magazine’s 35th anniversary issue, he was picked as one of ’35 Who Made a Difference,’ along with such luminaries as Bill Gates and Wynton Marsalis…

In recent years, the Amazon Conservation Team has put together a partnership between Google Earth and 33 tribes, mapping their land — 70 million acres of tropical rain forest — in an effort to establish their ownership rights and protect the land from loggers.”

Read the rest:



2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting Tomorrow; Mark Plotkin Kicks Off Special Series

September 23, 2013 by

Much of the Skoll Foundation staff is in New York City for the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, with lots of events surrounding it.

Online, our Skoll World Forum Online just kicked off a special CGI 2013 series, with Skoll Awardee Mark Plotkin of Amazon Conservation Team writing a piece called “Saving the Last of the Cannibals in the Sistine Chapel of the Amazon Rainforest.”

An excerpt:

“Colombia takes the lead in protecting rainforests and isolated tribes while fighting climate change

The most fragile of Amazonian cultures are the isolated indigenous groups, those few ‘lost tribes’ that have chosen to avoid contact with the outside world. The recent historic record amply demonstrates that contact can devastate these hunter-gatherer bands: within a few years of making contact, 50% of the Nukak tribe of the northwest Amazon and 80% of the Akuriyo tribe of the northeast Amazon had perished. And these fatalities were not equally distributed among all age groups: the most vulnerable were the very young and very old. When the elderly members of a small tribe die, because they typically are the repositories of tribal knowledge, much of the culture disappears with them.

Sooner or later, contact for still-isolated groups is all but inevitable. And recent history very likely predicts their future: they will be ‘civilized’ through settlement in large sedentary villages of other tribes. Once there, their changes in diet, lack of agricultural knowledge, and exposure to disease will prove disorienting and disheartening. Through the deaths of the elders and intermarriage into the dominant tribe, their culture will begin to rapidly disintegrate.

The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) has chosen to help prevent this destructive process in a constructive way.”

Read more:



Colombia’s New Rainforest Park is a “Win-Win,” Amazon Conservation Team says

August 26, 2013 by

Big news from Skoll Awardee Amazon Conservation Team and

“The Colombian government will officially double the size of its largest national park, reports El Espectador.

Chiribiquete National Park in southern Colombia will expand from 12,990 square kilometers to 27,808 square kilometers, making it one of the biggest protected areas in the Amazon. The expansion will include areas thought to be inhabited by two ‘uncontacted’ or voluntarily isolated tribes. These areas were potentially at risk from oil exploration and mining.

Liliana Madrigal of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a group that works with indigenous groups in Colombia to preserve the country’s forests, told in that the move is a ‘win-win’ for Colombia’s stunning cultural and biological diversity.”

Read more:


ACT Helps Purchase—and Protect—383 Acres of Sacred Land in Colombia

May 20, 2013 by

Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is proud to share with us a photo of their special celebration earlier this month in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region of northern Colombia, adjoining the Caribbean.

Liliana Madrigal, co-founder of ACT, shared: “A purchase of 383 acres of coastal land considered sacred by the Kogi indigenous people was made possible through a partnership between ACT, the Colombian Ministry of Culture, and the Gonawindúa Tayrona indigenous association of the Kogi.  Such investment is a first for the Colombian government, which also established a new Colombian category of protected area for the land, a site of ‘national and cultural interest.’   On May 5, various government ministers, local leaders and around 50 Kogi spiritual leaders gathered for the official transfer of land to the Kogi, who now will work to incorporate it to their indigenous reserve. This accomplishment is highly significant not only for the Kogi, but for all indigenous groups seeking greater public awareness of the crucial importance of sacred lands to the perpetuation of their culture.”  

More from ACT:

Traditional sacred sites of the Kogi people are managed by the mamos, or spiritual authorities, who make offerings on these sites according to traditional calendars. However, not all sacred sites of the Kogi are in their reserve: some lie outside of it and are seriously threatened by development, extraction, and commercial industry pressures. In the process of recovering these sites in order to develop their ancestral practices in line with their traditional cosmology, the Kogi, in an interesting public-private partnership supported by the Colombian Ministry of Culture, the Colombian national rural development agency INCODER, and the Amazon Conservation Team, bought the property Jaba Tañiwashkaka located at the mouth of the Jerez River in the municipality of Dibulla, department of La Guajira.

By decision of the Ministry of Culture #2873 of November 13, 2012, the site was declared a site of national cultural interest, a new category of protected area in Colombia that protects the land where the sacred site Jaba Tañiwashkaka is located. On May 5, the transfer of this land will be formalized in a traditional ceremony, with the participation of mamos, local communities, and institutions involved in the acquisition process.


Washington Post Highlights Part of Amazon Corridors Project

March 29, 2013 by

The Washington Post just did an article about the Surui, the first indigenous tribe in the Amazon and globally to earn carbon credits under internationally recognized standards for capturing carbon in trees. Forest Trends and the Amazon Conservation Team were quoted as experts. Here’s an excerpt:

“As a small boy in the early ’80s, Almir Surui hunted monkeys with a bow and arrow, wore a loincloth and struggled with Brazil’s official language, Portuguese.

At 38, he is the tech-savvy, ­university-educated chief of the Paiter Surui, or “the real people,” of this western corner of Brazil.

He can still handle a bow. But Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui says his weapon of choice is technology: Android phones to monitor illegal logging, hand-held Global Positioning System devices to map territory and Google Earth Outreach to show the world what a well-managed forest looks like.

Wielding the tools of the 21st century, the 1,300-member tribe has delved into a complex scheme in which governments or companies pay for forest preservation, contributing to a system that, if fully realized, would help end large-scale deforestation. By determining how much carbon is prevented from being released if the trees on Surui lands are left standing, the tribe hopes to sell carbon credits internationally to offset greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.”

Read the rest:


Video: Mark Plotkin Shares His Inspiration in Mapping the Amazon

February 20, 2013 by

Mark Plotkin of Amazon Conservation Team just wrote an excellent piece for Harvard magazine about Alexander Hamilton Rice, a true Harvard man who traversed and mapped enormous tracts of Amazonian rainforest in the first quarter of the twentieth century. An excerpt:

“Thus perhaps the most consequential moment of his Harvard career was Commencement day in 1915, when the ‘explorer of tropical America, who heard the wild call of nature and revealed her hiding-place’ received an honorary degree and met Titanic survivor Eleanor Elkins Widener, present for the dedication of the library named for her drowned son. Rice and Widener married later that year and soon set out together for South America; her vast fortune expanded the scope and scale of his fieldwork and supercharged his career.”

Read the rest:


“Brazil can eliminate deforestation by 2020″ and other related news

April 30, 2012 by

Lots happening in the world of Brazil and deforestation news:

1) Deforestation Film highlighted in local Para news
Para state news in Brazil highlighted the deforestation film shown at the Skoll World Forum (you can watch it below!), and the participation of the Governor of Para and Mayor of Paragominas.

2)  Brazil can eliminate deforestation by 2020, says governor of giant Amazon state

The governor of Para says Brazil can eliminate deforestation by 2020. He shares his vision of Para eliminating deforestation through its green municipalities program. He notes, “There is widespread support in Pará for curbing deforestation. The zero net deforestation goal for 2020 is not an idea from outside; it’s a demand from society. Most are in favor of reducing deforestation. Some groups want to continue deforesting, but they are the minority.”

The article mentioned the Skoll World Forum, too: “The Green Municipalities Program and the Government of Pará were represented to the international community by Governor Simao Jatene and cited as an example of sustainable development to be replicated around the world during the the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England.” Read more:

3) Uncontacted Tribe Found

Aerial surveys of a remote area of rainforest along the Colombia-Brazil border have produced the first photographic evidence of an uncontacted tribe, according to Amazon Conservation Team.

Read more:


Big Win for The Surui – and the Amazon Rainforest

April 17, 2012 by

A small tribe of indigenous people unknown to the outside world a half-century ago and once on the brink of extinction has harnessed an innovative forest carbon project to shield their territory from illegal logging. Now, the 1300- strong Paiter-Surui is the first indigenous tribe in the Amazon and globally to earn carbon credits under internationally recognized standards for capturing carbon in trees – setting the stage for scores of similar projects that can unleash needed funding for indigenous people who preserve endangered tropical rainforest across the Amazon.

This is part of the Skoll-supported Amazon Corridors initiative. The Skoll Foundation is supporting many of the organizations involved — including Forest Trends, Amazon Conservation Team, Equipe de Conservacao da Amazonia (ECAM), IDESAM, Conservation Strategy Fund, Kaninde and Metareila (the Surui indigenous organization). read more


“Jeff Skoll’s only absolute mandate… is for everyone to think big”

March 14, 2012 by

The newest issue of Stanford Magazine profiles Jeff Skoll, and covers everything from his childhood love of reading to his latest blockbuster films. The article also highlights the work of four Skoll Awardees: Manchester-Bidwell Corporation, Afghan Institute of Learning, One Acre Fund and Amazon Conservation Team. An excerpt:

“By the time he entered his teens, Skoll already was thinking globally. ‘I could kind of see a lot of trends in the world were getting scary, that by the time I was older the world would have problems with population and resources and potentially deadly diseases and all kinds of things that kind of scared me. And I thought I’d like to get involved in these issues, make people aware of them, and as a kid I thought I would actually do it by being a writer. So that was my first goal.'” read more


Surui, Google and ACT article in Readers Digest

February 15, 2012 by

The March issue of Reader’s Digest features the Surui, Google and Skoll Awardee Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) in a piece called “21st Century Amazons,” which you can read only in the print edition.

The Surui are central actors in the Skoll Foundation’s Amazon Corridors Initiative. Part of the initiative is to support the Surui indigenous organization and their NGO partners to replicate much of what the Surui have accomplished with other indigenous groups in their region. Vasco van Roosmalen, of ACT-Brasil, says in the piece, “The great thing about the Surui is that they try to find their own solutions to the problems they face. If you look at the arc of deforestation in the Amazonian rainforest, the areas that still have forest are indigenous lands. The tribe is absolutely crucial to holding back deforestation.”

See the Reader’s Digest photos: and read more about our Amazon Corridors Initiative:


New Forest Code Law Passed, and Other Brazilian Amazon Deforestation News

December 9, 2011 by

It’s been a major week in the world of Amazon deforestation news—the Brazilian Senate passed the new Forest Code Law, and the Brazilian government released preliminary data showing that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon for the year ended July 2011 fell to the lowest level since annual record-keeping began in 1988. Here’s a great summary:

The BBC will air Aliança da Terra on their “Horizons” show today through Sunday. The times can be found on their site: (Aliança da Terra is a Skoll grantee that encourages farmers and ranchers in the Amazon rainforest to practice sustainable forest management).   read more


What’s New in the Amazon

November 30, 2011 by

Today, the Skoll Foundation is sponsoring a side event on the Surui Forest Carbon Project at the Climate Change Convention in South Africa. The hosts are Instituto de Conservação e Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Amazonas (IDESAM), Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), Kaninde, Forest Trends, Funbio and Metareila. Learn more about the Surui project above.

Surui Forest Carbon Project is the first indigenous Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) project in Brazil. Led by the Surui people, the project aims to curb deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Learn more about REDD+ here:


Environmental site mentions Skoll Foundation in Amazon report

August 3, 2011 by

Top environmental site mentioned The Skoll Foundation in its latest update of what is happening in the Amazon. An excerpt

“The debate over the Amazon forest code continued in Brazil’s Senate, but satellite data showed signs that deforestation in the region is slowing after an alarming jump earlier this year. In other happy news, a ‘biocultural conservation corridor’ initiative led by the Amazon Conservation Team moved ahead after winning $1.6 million in support from the Skoll Foundation. The project aims to prevent deforestation across 46 million ha (114 million acres) in the northeastern and southwestern sections of Brazilian Amazon by bolstering indigenous land management.”

Learn more about the latest partership with ACT:


Amazon Conservation Team and Skoll Foundation Launch Innovative New Approach to Amazon Rainforest Conservation

July 13, 2011 by

Amazon Conservation Team and Skoll Foundation Launch Innovative New Approach
to Amazon Rainforest Conservation

Biocultural Conservation Corridors in the Northeast and Southwest Amazon
ARLINGTON, VA. – July 12, 2011 – The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and the Skoll Foundation today announced the launch of an innovative approach to protecting and managing the Amazon rainforest. The initiative focuses on the creation of “biocultural conservation corridors” that link together indigenous lands, national parks, state forests and private landholdings in two enormous swaths of South American rainforest, one in the northeast Amazon and the other in the southwest.

The project, financed partially by a Skoll investment of $1.6 million, will enable indigenous communities to prevent deforestation across 114 million acres contained in the Karib and Munde-Kwahiba ethno-environmental corridors of Brazil. This conservation model can then be applied to other regions of the Amazon. read more


Colombian organic cocoa bean farm “accidentally” sprayed with herbicide: HuffPost

June 16, 2011 by

An organic cacao farm, part Skoll awardee Amazon Conservation Teams‘ program that helps farmers move away from growing coca, was “accidentally” sprayed aerially with the herbicide Roundup by USAID (who also fund the program), according to a new blog in the Huffington Post. An excerpt from the article by Jim Frucherman, Skoll awardee and founder of Benetech:

“One of the top social entrepreneurs working in the Amazon is Liliana Madrigal of Amazon Conservation Team. She and I are part of the Skoll social entrepreneur network, and this year we’ve been discussing how technology can help indigenous communities in the Amazon region, as well as improve relationships between social entrepreneurs and USAID – the gigantic US foreign aid agency. read more


Jeff Skoll Honored with 2010 Environmental Media Award

October 17, 2010 by

Last night Jeff Skoll received  an honoree award from the Environmental Media Association in a ceremony at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA. Actor Natalie Portman presented Skoll with his award, naming the work of the Skoll Foundation and, specifically, the support of grantees the Amazon Conservation Team, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and Global Footprint Network. read more


ACT President Receives Goodall Global Leadership Award

October 14, 2010 by

Congratulations to Skoll Awardee Dr. Mark J. Plotkin, President of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), for being named a recipient of a 2010 Jane Goodall Global Leadership Award by the Jane Goodall Institute. The award honors an individual who shares renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall’s values, vision, and commitment to making a positive difference for all living things. read more


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