Rob Wallace, senior conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society wrote in a recent op-ed, “In the previous 13 years, forest loss outside of protected areas exceeded that inside protected areas by a factor of six. But perhaps even more interesting, while just over one percent of protected area forest was lost during that time, areas managed by indigenous groups lost just 0.8 percent of forest.”

Protected areas and indigenous territories together make up 45.5 percent of the Amazon Basin (RAISG, 2015), represent 60 percent (FAO & OIMT, 2011) of the world´s tropical forest, and, in Bolivia, make up 43.6 percent of the country’s surface area (WCS, 2016).

Across the Amazon, the formal designation of indigenous lands has been critical for the spiritual, social, cultural and economic development of indigenous peoples. Indigenous territories are also strongholds for conservation, bastions of biodiversity and vast storehouses and sinks for carbon dioxide.

The traditional territories of the Tacana and Leco Indigenous Peoples in the Bolivian state of La Paz contain some of the world’s most biologically diverse landscapes. Over nearly two decades, the Tacana and Leco people have been recording their land management experiences and have produced a series of 17 case studies and supplemental materials to disseminate the lessons more broadly in Bolivia and around the world.

The studies document, systematize and analyze how these indigenous communities have fostered sustainable livelihoods for thousands of years, and how productive initiatives can significantly improve household incomes. The case studies underline how indigenous territorial management reaffirms the identity and essential values of indigenous peoples. The studies also reveal that indigenous territories are effective strategies for the protection of Amazonian forests, biodiversity and aquatic resources. In so doing, they illustrate why indigenous territorial management is so integral to the work of Wildlife Conservation Society, to the Moore Foundation’s Andes-Amazon Initiative — and crucial for conservation more broadly.


These materials were developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society in partnership with the Consejo Indígena del Pueblo Tacana (CIPTA) and the Central Indígena del Pueblo Leco de Apolo (CIPLA), and launched at an event in the city of La Paz on April 19th, 2018. Materials are available in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

To learn more, see educational materials compiled through the partnership. Included are:

  • Multiple information sheets (Spanish, Portuguese, English)
  • A 10-minute documentary and six short videos (Spanish with English subtitles)
  • Links to related publications

In short, indigenous territories are essential cultural spaces for effective conservation and development, ensuring the long-term environmental, economic and sociocultural sustainability of management activities.


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Beyond the Lab: Rob Wallace, Ph.D.






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