Amazon Conservation Team
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The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with indigenous people of tropical South America in conserving the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest as well as the culture and land of its indigenous people.
ACT was formed in 1996 by ethnobotanist Dr. Mark Plotkin and Costa Rican conservationist Liliana Madrigal, and so far has mainly been active in the northwest, northeast, and southern regions of the Amazon.
In 2002, ACT received the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Award in recognition of their conservation achievements. In 2008, the organization received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Skoll Foundation. In November 2010, ACT was recognized as a 2010 Tech Awards Laureate by the prestigious Tech Museum in San Jose, for their work with technology to help map the Amazon. In 2015, ACT received the ‘Seeing a Better World’ Award from DigitalGlobe, a leading provider of high resolution satellite imagery, aerial photos and geospatial content.
Map, Manage, Protect
In its efforts to achieve the land protection objectives of its indigenous partners, ACT employs a stepped procedure: first, participatory ethnographic mapping and ethno-environmental diagnostics are conducted; second, ACT helps the tribes/communities develop management plans that embrace both land protection and sustainable development; and third, ACT provides conservation and land monitoring capacity building to the tribes/communities while bringing their representatives in communication with state environmental enforcement agencies. To this last end, ACT conducts an annual indigenous park ranger training program certified by the International Ranger Federation. Areas ethnographically mapped by ACT in collaboration with local tribes include Brazil’s 2,800,000-hectare Xingu Indigenous Reserve, its 248,000-hectare Suruí Indigenous Reserve, and its 4,000,000-hectare Tumucumaque Indigenous Reserve. The Suruí Reserve mapping was facilitated by technical assistance from Google Earth Outreach, which also trained the tribe in remote monitoring.
Shamans and Apprentices
Since its inception, ACT has worked with tribal groups in the Colombian Eastern Andes (Cofan, Inga, Siona, Kamsá, and Coreguaje) and the interior of Suriname (Trio, Wayana) in an attempt to preserve, strengthen and perpetuate their traditional healthcare systems, including their legacy ethnobotanical knowledge. The effort emphasizes intergenerational transmission of knowledge from elders to youth. In Suriname, ACT has constructed four traditional medicine clinics in interior communities (Kwamalasamutu, Tepu, Apetina, and the Maroon village of Gonini mofo) operated by local healers and their apprentices. In 2003, this effort was selected among a handful of global initiatives for the UNESCO/Nuffic publication “Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge”. In 2004, ACT’s integrated medicine project received a World Bank Development Marketplace Award, the first such award made for a Suriname-based initiative.
In the Colombian Amazon, ACT helped establish the Association for Indigenous Woman of Traditional Medicine (ASOMI), today composed of 75 traditional healers, and supports the organization’s cultural education program, reaching 140 students.
Isolated and Uncontacted Peoples
ACT is assisting the National Park Service of Colombia in the development of protection guidelines and contingency plans for isolated indigenous communities in Colombian National Parks, with particular reference to the Rió Puré and Cahuinarí National Parks in the department of Amazonas, where ACT sponsored overflights in 2010 and 2011 that identified the longhouses of uncontacted peoples, likely the Yuri (Carabayo) or Passé people, long believed extinct.
Creation of Protected Areas
In Colombia, ACT partnered with the government and local tribes to establish two protected areas that both create new categories of reserve: The 77,000-hectare Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park (Caquetá Department), the first reserve to be co-managed by a resident tribe (the Inga) and the national park service; and the 10,000-hectare Orito-Ingi Ande Medicinal Plant Sanctuary (Putumayo Department), the first reserve specifically created for the conservation of medicinal flora.
- Mongabay.com, November 29, 2009: Ethnographic maps built using cutting-edge technology may help Amazon tribes win forest carbon payments
- Mongabay.com, November 14, 2006: Amazon natives use Google Earth, GPS to protect rainforest home Archived July 13, 2009, at the Portuguese Web Archive
- MSNBC Technology and Science, January 23, 2003: Amazon Indians go high-tech to map their land
- Scientific American Observations, October 19, 2009: Can Google Earth save an indigenous tribe with maps?
- San Francisco Chronicle, July 3, 2008: Google breaks Amazon tribe’s isolation[permanent dead link]
- Mongabay.com, November 11, 2009: How rainforest shamans treat disease
- UNESCO Social and Human Sciences MOST Phase I Website: Best Practices On Indigenous Knowledge
- World Bank Development Marketplace Project Description: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare in Suriname
- A Healer’s Last Journey: Documenting Endangered Knowledge in the Colombian Andes
- March 2013: The Lost Tribes of the Amazon
- MSNBC Technology and Science, March 13, 2002: Park preserves Amazonian frontier
- San Francisco Chronicle, July 8, 2008: Colombia’s Cofan still fighting for survival[permanent dead link]
- Amazon Conservation Team homepage
- ACT rating on Charity Navigator
- Mongabay article on the work of ACT