More than 40 years in the Amazon

What WWF is doing: an integrated approach

Urgent and immediate action is needed if we are to ensure the Amazon’s conservation. Over the next years WWF will develop far reaching and powerful partnerships with governments, civil society, and the private sector to promote the transformational processes needed to bring about an optimistic and sustainable scenario for the Amazon, in which:  

  • Governments, local peoples, and civil society in the region share an integrated vision of conservation and development that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable;
  • Natural ecosystems are valued appropriately for the environmental goods and services they provide and the livelihoods they sustain;
  • Tenure and rights to land and resources are planned, defined and enforced to help achieve this conservation and development vision;
  • Agriculture and ranching are carried out following best management practices on lands that are appropriate and legal; and
  • Transportation and energy infrastructure development is planned, designed and implemented to minimize impact on natural ecosystems, hydrological disruption and impoverishment of biological and cultural diversity.
Amazon rainforest reflected on a bow lake
© Andre Bartschi / WWF / CANON

WWF has a long and rich history of involvement in the Amazon, beginning over 40 years ago. From its initial site-based and research projects in the 1960s, WWF has, over the years, expanded its work to include species research and scientific analyses, local institutional capacity building, policy development and reform, support for the designation and improved management of protected areas, certified forestry and forest management, environmental education, promotion of better management practices for productive activities (forestry, fisheries, etc.), and creation of alternative sources of income for local communities.

Key protected areas

WWF work in the Amazon includes participation in the creation of a number of important protected areas including Peru’s Manu National Park in 1973, Bolivia’s Pilon Lajas National Park in 1976, French Guiana’s Amazonian Park in 2007, and Colombia’s Yaigoje- Apaporis National Park in 2009. In Brazil, WWF was instrumental in the conception and subsequent implementation of the Government’s primary mechanism for creation and consolidation of protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon: the Amazon Region Protected Areas program (ARPA)7 launched in 2002.

Articulating efforts throughout the Amazon

WWF has a strong institutional presence in 8 of the 9 Amazonian countries, and a review of the organization’s experience to date underscores the scope and breadth of the relationships that we have developed with numerous partners over the years. WWF has strived to develop relationships with local, state and national governments in every country where we work, and has also invested resources, time and energy into lasting partnerships with local NGOs, civil society groups and the private sector. Going forward, we see these partnerships and relationships as one of the most critical factors in determining our success and ability to implement the broad and ambitious objectives of the WWF Living Amazon Initiative.

A comprehensive approach: Living Amazon Initiative

Given that the forces shaping the Amazon Biome extend far beyond a local context and know no political boundaries, we can no longer work on pieces of the puzzle in isolation from one another. Rather, we must address the biome as a whole in order to secure the viability of the entire system. Therefore, although our presence in the region has been key to many conservation results over the years, it is with the articulation of the Living Amazon Initiative in 2008 that WWF has been able to bring together 40 years of experience as part of a unified blueprint to address the challenges to the Amazon Biome as a whole.

The primary objective of developing the WWF Living Amazon Initiative is thus to redouble our efforts as an organization on a scale equivalent and relevant to the scope of the problem at hand.

Our vision for the Amazon is:

An ecologically healthy Amazon Biome that maintains its environmental and cultural contribution to local peoples, the countries of the region, and the world, within a framework of social equity, inclusive economic development and global responsibility.


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Reaping conservation results from decades of sowing

Within six years after its creation in 1961 as an international conservation organization, WWF began a long and rich history of involvement in the Amazon.

Over the years, WWF has expanded from its site-based and focussed research projects to include landscape-wide research and scientific analyses, protected areas, capacity-building, policy development and reform, environmental education, and creation of alternative sources of income for local communities.

WWF deploys its presence in the region

In the early days, WWF's technical support for projects in Latin America and the Caribbean was mainly located in Washington, D.C. In 1994, a decentralization process deployed and expanded WWF's presence in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and the Guianas. The majority of WWF's technical staff is now located in these offices, with a cadre of multi-disciplinary experts and administrative support continuing to serve in Washington.

Long-term studies and partnerships

In 1978, a long-term WWF project began in the Brazilian Amazon, called the Minimum Critical Size – a project aimed at determining the effect of deforestation and fragmentation in a large tropical forest. Today, that project continues under the auspices of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Other early projects included 10 years of support to a long-term research on fishes, floodplains and forests.

WWF is working with a range of partners on conservation in the Amazon – from governments, communities, local NGO´s to other international organizations, e.g. WWF and USAID have been partners in Brazil for more than 16 years, looking into alternative land-use systems for the Brazilian Amazon.

WWF achievements over the years…

Some of the many positive impacts achieved include the institutional strengthening of some of the most professional, capable, and credible NGOs working in the region; the formulation, advocacy, and implementation of successful public policies; and the development and dissemination of knowledge on conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

…in Brazil

In Rondônia, where rubber-tappers are strong advocates for conservation, WWF has helped establish extractive reserves where rubber-tappers are preventing conversion of the forest to less sustainable uses.

WWF is working with the environmentally progressive state of Acre to implement state-wide ecological zoning. An important component of the process has been WWF's work to identify potential new protected areas, extractive reserves, and indigenous reserves.

Find out more about WWF-Brazil

…in Peru

In Peru, WWF's first major initiative was the creation of Manu National Park. Expeditions led by scientists in search of new animal and plant species drew the attention of the Peruvian government to the need to set up the area as a reserve. WWF support to the Park continues today.

In 2005, WWF contributed to the establishment of the biggest natural protected area of Peru, the Alto Purus National Park. Other protected areas that have received WWF support and involvement include Purús, Amarakaeri, Bahuaja Sonene, Abanico de Pastaza, and Pacaya Samiria.

WWF also supported the Forest and Wildlife Law in 2002 and made significant contributions for responsible forest management (CEDEFOR project).

Find out more about WWF-Peru

…in Bolivia

In Bolivia, WWF first supported a study on caiman propagation in 1967 and was involved in the establishment of the Pilon Lajas National Park in 1976. In following years, the organization played a key role in the establishment and/or implementation of Amboró National Park, Manuripi National Wildlife Reserve and Carrasco National Park.

WWF also supported the development of certified forestry and forest management, which is ongoing today.

Find out more about WWF-Bolivia

WWF has played a unique role in the conservation of the Amazon region for over 40 years, developing scientific knowledge, experience, and key partnerships with local, regional, and international players. By delivering tangible, significant results, WWF has laid the groundwork for delivering even greater results in the years ahead.

WWF Goals

    • Conserve the Amazon’s land and freshwater ecosystems to ensure species survive, and continue providing the environmental goods and services to the people that live there.
    • Maintain the quality and quantity of the Amazon's priority rivers to ensure the integrity of aquatic ecosystems and the ecological services that support local livelihoods and regional economies.
    • Protect forest cover, which is important to maintaining rainfall and regulating climate regionally and globally.

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