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Conservation Efforts in Tourism: Story Behind Uakari Lodge in the Brazilian Amazon

Posted by on in South America Ecotourism
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Eduardo Coelho Pousada Flutuante Uakari Floating LodgeThe link between conservation efforts and tourism in the Amazon became stronger after Rio Earth Summit in 1992. By then, the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development was expanding its impact around a special floodplain forest area of the Amazon - more specifically the 1,124,000 hectares between the Amazon and Japurá Rivers that houses endemic species such as the White Uakari Monkey.

That area, later, with the work of the Institute, became the first Sustainable Development protected area in Brazil.

The researchers at Mamirauá always believed that the local communities (approximately 10,000 people), who occupied the area for generations, should be the main guardians of the land.

Hence, the main scientific objective was to develop the skills of the local stakeholders so that the local people could make a sustained, responsible living out of the forest.

Among those resources, there was one that we would not touch, but could look and feel: the landscape. Trying to make the most of that resource and to promote it locally, Mamirauá Institute worked with the local communities for years in order to bring awareness of the possibilities of sustainable tourism before even starting Uakari Lodge (photo above credit to Eduardo Coelho).

JP Borges Pedro Aerea

Photo Credit to JP Borges Pedro

Hence, the main focus for this floating jungle hotel was to provide scientific solutions for local communities in the Amazon and to raise awareness and profit from the living, untouched biodiversity. The tools and monitoring methodologies became a model for responsible tourism in the Amazon, and it is the Institute’s objective to make them available to the community and support those who want to learn from this experience in tourism.

Marco Eichmann Community Photo

Photo Credit to Marco Eichmann

After almost 20 years of activities, Uakari Lodge is renowned worldwide. And, the numbers behind this story help understand the reason:

  • 11 communities and 80 local families currently take the benefits of tourism at the reserve,
  • Concerned about the social and economic changes this new activity could bring locally, individuals are limited to work 11 days a month at lodge, so they carry on with the traditional farming methods of their heritage, and
  • Assisted by other research departments from Mamirauá Institute, more people can experience the advantages of tourism.

As for the economic impact, from the first day back in October 1998 to the end of 2016 around BRL 2,800,000.00 (close to USD $900K) of direct profit has been generated for local families. This direct impact has been in the form of either salaries or products sold to the lodge, such as agricultural products and fish.

This amount does not include the community projects Uakari Lodge funds through its social and environmental fee that is assessed to every visitor (BRL 50.00 or USD $15.00). That fund has helped some of the communities construct community centers, acquire boats and boat engines, and repair local structures, such as religious centers and community gardens, among other initiatives.

More recently, as the aim is to strengthen the relationships among stakeholders, including conservation and scientific efforts, Uakari Lodge together with Mamirauá Institute’s Jaguar Centre the “Jaguar Expedition”, has created responsible activity options so that for travelers can see these animals for the first time in the Amazon. The goal is to develop additional conservation strategies for jaguars, which is presently threatened in this area of Brazil.

We believe that by educating future generations about environmental conservation, we have our best and most efficient chance for keeping these Jaguars alive. This is the reason part of the revenue from the “Jaguar Expedition” also funds the Jaguar School, which is an environmental center for youngsters so that they can learn and comprehend the importance of keeping this top predator alive. The other half of the revenue generated from this experience funds scientific research about the species and brings extra profit for those locals working for the program.

So, what’s next? Mamirauá Institute is now opening a path for its most challenging project in tourism. We are preparing communities to take 100% of the ownership and management of Uakari Lodge, with the objective to raise local communities’ administration, qualification, and responsibility for the protection of the biodiversity. This 10-year project is halfway through so the next 5 years will be crucial for us to keep doing what we do best: show the Amazon in a responsible way to the world!

Blog posted from Tefé - State of Amazonas, 69470-000, Brazil View larger map
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Gustavo is the founder of Inverted America Journeys.  He has worked as a consultant for the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism, for Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development and its award-winning Uakari Floating Lodge and, believe it or not, worked for the Organizing Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a Resident Center manager at the Olympic and Paralympic Village.  It was through those experiences that he realized that the smaller the scale, the more responsible and sustainable tourism tends to be for the local host community. At the same time, he is a Master's student in Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, in the United Kingdom. 

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