Intervention in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve

Thursday afternoon, March 31st.

A Dove satellite passed over South America, snapping 591 images in a continuous strip from the Pacific to Atlantic coast. Much of the central Amazon was occluded by clouds, but in Southern Peru, near the foothills of the Andes, the skies parted.

The satellite snapped two images of the Malinowski River:

Two untreated images of the Malinowski River as seen on our data platform.

The next day a participant in Planet’s Ambassadors Program, Matt Finer, downloaded those images from Planet’s API. Matt and his team at the Amazon Conservation Association had been keeping a close look on heavy mining in the area, but so far it had nearly all been contained to the north of the river, where mining is legal. In the middle of the rainy season, they’d noticed some suspicious activity south of the river in Sentinel radar data. But the images weren’t compelling enough to tell the whole story.

Armed with this latest satellite imagery, they had incontrovertible evidence that illegal mining was rampant in the Tambopata National Reserve.

Two weeks later El Comercio featured illegal mining as its cover story. State agency Sernanp (El Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado), cited the reporting in its request for military support to protect the Reserve, and shortly thereafter a permanent military base was installed on the Malinowski river. In early June, the Peruvian Navy began to destroy illegal camps and equipment. No one has been harmed.

The intervention may represent a turning point. One month after the story ran, Peru declared a state of emergency in Madres de Dios, the region home to the mine as well as the town of Puerto Maldonado, where mercury has entered the water and food supply.

Two Planet images show rapid growth in mining south of the Malinowski River

And today, in a remote jungle in Southern Peru, a non-violent military intervention is protecting trees, wildlife, and the livelihoods of Peruvians.

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