[This blog first appeared on ttgdigital.com]
National Geographic claimed earlier this year that Yasuni National Park in Ecuador may be the most biodiverse place on earth. But it’s not a crown Ecuador will wear for long, if a Peruvian conservation organisation has anything to do with it.
Crees is a charitable foundation based in the Manu region of Peru’s rainforest, where visitors can see conservation research and sustainable community development in action. In May, staff and volunteers at Crees plan to undertake their very own “BioBlitz” study to prove that Manu is even more abundant than Yasuni in plant and animal life.
This week, I met with founder Quinn Meyer who is confident Manu will break the record. “I’ve seen 12 different jaguars in the past 16 months for example,” he reported. “That’s got to be the highest recording ever found.”
British-born Meyer established Crees (Conservation Research and Environmental Education Towards Sustainability) in 2002 after witnessing what he describes as the “circle of poverty”, with local communities extracting the forest’s resources through lack of alternative income. “Far too often, wildlife destinations focus on the nature and not the community, but our view of sustainable development is conservation with people in it,” he explained.
As well as educating on sustainable farming and helping local people launch social enterprises such as jewellery-making, Crees runs two lodges that are open to tourists. And as of last October, Crees also offers four tours of Manu, led by its own guides and biologists. All departing from Cuzco, these range from a short three-night overland trip ($660pp) to a 10-night “Complete Manu Wildlife Experience” ($3,000pp). UK operators selling the tours include Audley, Steppes, and Journey Latin America.
With support from Crees, there will once again be a 45-minute scheduled flight from Cuzco to Manu from March 28, saving two days of driving, which is key for Manu’s higher-end, time-short visitors. It’s this kind of visitor Crees is keen to attract, said Meyers, and not just for the revenue they generate. “Many of our visitors are people who have influence, and if they develop a relationship with this ecosystem, it can impact on decisions they make back in the UK,” he claimed. “Ambassadors for the rainforest – that’s what we hope to create.”