Protecting the Amazon Rainforest through EcoTourism

Last updated on October 27th, 2017 at 12:31 pm

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Protectors of the Amazon | Madidi Travel | Eco Tourism at Serere
Our tour guide, Severo navigating the waters of the Beni River in the Bolivian Amazon.  Severo is one of a team of dedicated environmentalists who protect and defend the Serere Reserve against illegal loggers and other predators.  Rainforest conservation through eco tourism is their strategy & 100% of their profits go to conservation work and the local community.

Why Does the Amazon Need Protecting?

We talk a lot about rainforest conservation at Vermont Woods Studios and I’m sure many people wonder why we’re so fanatic about it.  Part of the reason for our forest conservation mission is is my love of animals and wildlife.  And part of it is that humanity is destroying a precious resource (that took billions of years to evolve) at a rate that surpasses any previous mass extinction. Consider that:

Forests have completely disappeared in 25 countries and another 29 countries have lost > 90% of their forest cover.

Madidi Travel: Protectors of the Amazon

We’ve written before about who’s responsible for destroying the rainforest.  Today I wanted to tell you about people who are dedicating their lives to conserving the rainforest.  Last week Kendall and I visited Riley, who was volunteering for them at Madidi Travel in the Serere Reserve in Bolivia.  Ecotourism supporting conservation is Madidi’s strategy.  They are a team led by the legendary environmental activist, Rosamaria Ruiz (featured in this National Geographic article).

Diego and M Tapir | Rescue Sanctuary at Serere | Maidid Travel
Diego manages many aspects of hospitality at the Serere Reserve.  I imagine this job is rather different from his previous experiences managing Club Med facilities!  Here he and Monsieur Tapir are having a moment.  Madidi Travel uses responsible ecotourism to fund rainforest conservation in the Bolivian Amazon.  The Serere Reserve functions as a sanctuary for rescued wildlife, many of whose mothers have been shot and eaten by illegal loggers.  Kendall, Riley and I had an amazing time getting to know the orphaned tapirs, monkeys, chonchos and capybaras.

After decades of conservation work in the Bolivian Amazon, which resulted in the creation of the Madidi National Park, Ms Ruiz purchased a 4000 hectacre reserve known as Serere.  The land was severely damaged by illegal logging and other unauthorized exploitations but Ms Ruiz and her team have brought it back to life.  It is now one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse places on the planet (as you can see in this Serere video).

Can Eco Tourism Help Save the Rainforest?

With much of the reforestation already in progress, the job of patrolling the rainforest and protecting it’s inhabitants now takes center stage at Serere.  That’s where the strategy of ecotourism comes in.  Guests can join local guides on daily hikes and canoe rides throughout the reserve.  Thus the land is patrolled while visitors enjoy the amazing biodiversity of life in the forest (we saw 5 different species of monkeys in one day).  Learn more about ecotourism supporting rainforest conservation on this Madidi Travel video.

Having lunch with Rosamaria Ruiz and Madidi Travel team members
Having lunch with Rosamaria Ruiz,  Madidi Travel team members and volunteers.  We were in Rurrenabaque, the launch point for Amazon rainforest ecotourism adventures.  Now is the time to go, if you’re thinking of visiting the Amazon.  The US dollar is currently very strong in Bolivia and the need for your support of ecotourism is urgent.

 

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

What is a Vermont Furniture Store Doing in the Amazon Rainforest?

Last updated on May 14th, 2015 at 09:09 pm

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

The Serere Reserve | Madidi | Bolivian Amazon Rainfdorest
The view of the Serere Reserve from Casa Grande, where we shared meals, plans and stories with the amazing people of Madidi Travel who are using eco tourism to fund conservation in the Bolivian Amazon.

The Rainforest & A Vermont Furniture Store

Where is the link?  Well, in the time it takes to read this series of blogs, an area of the Amazon rainforest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed.   Can you believe that?  Much rainforest destruction is done illegally, to feed the US markets for furniture and flooring.  Hmm… Vermont makes wood furniture.  With our 200 year tradition of  using local, sustainably harvested wood, we can provide an excellent alternative to illegal furniture imports.  At Vermont Woods Studios our mission is to raise awareness about the rainforest and persuade consumers to avoid illegal wood products (made from rare tropical woods like mahogany, teak and ipe) in favor of sustainable furniture and flooring made from North American woods (like cherry, maple, oak and walnut).

Massive tree in the Serere Reserve | Madidi | Bolivian Amazon
Riley is on the left, taking a break from his volunteer work to explore the rainforest with me and Severo, our knowledgeable (and entertaining) guide.

Finding A Way To Help

At VWS we’ve supported rainforest conservation since Day 1.  But quite honestly, donating our profits to reforestation NGOs (impressive and legitimate, as they are) operating 5000 miles away was not very satisfying.  We wanted to be more closely involved.  We wanted to see (and be a part of) the progress being made through our contributions.

My last post was about how my son Riley happened to end up volunteering for the legendary conservationist, Rosamaria Ruiz, of Madidi Travel in the Serere Reserve of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest.  Perfect!  Kendall (my other son) and I went down to see Riley and offer to help Ms Ruiz with her efforts in reforestation and “conservation through eco tourism”.

Yellow Monkeys | Amazon Rainforest | Serere Reserve | Bolivia | Madidi
This troop of Yellow Monkeys crashed through the rainforest right in front of the Casa Grande where we were eating lunch. They seemed as curious and unafraid of us as we were of them.

Many Faces of Rainforest Destruction

After flying over huge expanses of the Amazon and trekking through the Serere Reserve, I realized there are many different rainforest destruction problems and approaches to solving them.  Some areas have simply been clear cut, the worst possible fate.  But “luckily” the Serere Reserve was ravaged by illegal loggers who were just interested in large, high value trees. For example, I did not see a single mahogany tree other than the saplings planted by Madidi Travel.  Cedar was also completely wiped out.  The good news is that, otherwise the Serere Reserve is still intact, extraordinarily beautiful & teaming with wildlife.

Ecotourism | Hanging with Monkeys & Tapirs in the Amazon Rainforest
The little spider monkey next to me is having a word with that 200 pound tapir nosing up to him.  The two are rescues who’ve taken sanctuary at Madidi Travel’s Serere Rainforest Reserve.  In many cases, rescued animals have lost their parents, flocks, herds or other companions to illegal loggers who shoot them for food or sell them as curiosities.

It’s an amazing place, filled with exotic birds, monkeys (we saw troops of howlers, yellow monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins and a nocturnal monkey all in one day) fish and other wildlife.  Serere is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet– it’s a nature lover’s dream.  Rosamaria says that wildlife is so abundant here because the animals feel safe.

Massive Rainforest Tree | Madidi | Serere
Although illegal loggers cleaned out the huge, high value trees from Madidi Travel’s Serere Reserve, there are still plenty of massive 200 and 300+ year old trees that will amaze you.

Conservation Through Eco Tourism

Last week I learned there’s more to rainforest conservation than planting trees.  In places where the rainforest is still standing, the goal is to protect what’s left and restore what’s been stolen.  Illegal loggers are a constant threat so rigorous patrolling and enforcement are always required.  That takes money.  Rosamaria Ruiz is showing rainforest communities around the world how to raise that money through eco tourism.  Devoted wildlife and nature lovers pay to experience the wonder of the rainforest, thus providing jobs for indigenous people to conserve and defend it.

If you love being up close and personal with nature, check out Madidi Travel and their eco tourism opportunities at the Serere Reserve.  It’s the last little corner of the Garden of Eden.  Get down there soon. The rainforest continues to disappear at an alarming rate.  The clock is ticking.

Amazon Rainforest Trip
On my way to the Bolivian Amazon,  I’m holding the National Geographic article I read 15 years ago, about Rosamaria Ruiz and her rainforest conservation work in Madidi National Park.  It influenced me to create Vermont Woods Studios.  On the right, I’m in the Amazon, helping Ms Ruiz’s team members who are re-planting mahogany trees.  It was a good feeling!

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.