Conservationists Targeted by Illegal Loggers with Arson Attack, in Critically Threatened Atlantic Rainforest
October 2012: International conservation organisation, the World Land Trust (WLT), has received news that its partner organisation in Paraguay has been the subject of an arson attack from what is thought to be illegal loggers. On 15 October, part of Guyra Paraguay’s visitor centre on the San Rafael Reserve in the Atlantic rainforest, was burnt to the ground in what is thought to be an act of intimidation towards conservationists in the area. Its remote location meant that insurance for the buildings was not available, and the cost of rebuilding will be around $45,000.
One of WLT’s patrons, Sir David Attenborough, first visited Paraguay in 1958, when most of the country was still covered in forests. He has supported the WLT in its work with local organisation Guyra Paraguay over the past eight years, in a bid to save as much natural habitat as possible from the chain saw. The news of the fire comes at a time when the two organisations are celebrating an important land purchase, in the Atlantic rainforest, one of the world’s ‘biodiversity hotspots’.
This highly threatened forest once existed in a huge swathe across Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina but today, only 7% remains. Less than 2% of this land is in Paraguay. WLT and Guyra, together with WLT-US and Birdlife International, have recently announced that they had successfully protected a further 677 acres (274 hectares) for the San Rafael Reserve. This also protects the ancestral territory of the Mbyá People, who will co-own the land with Guyra Paraguay.
Despite this success story, the recent arson attack at San Rafael is an all-too-potent reminder of the threats that continue to face conservationists in Paraguay. WLT and Guyra Paraguay are committed to working together and facing the challenges of purchasing and protecting what remains of the precious Atlantic rainforest and the wealth of biodiversity that depends on it for survival. But a priority now is to raise $45,000 to rebuild the visitor centre, and a further $10,000 to install CCTV and security alarms, to defend against further attacks.
Full Press release: http://www.worldlandtrust.org/documents/press-release-paraguay-san-rafael-arson-attack.pdf (1 MB)
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