Illegal loggers at the frontier of the Peruvian and Brazilian border have mistakenly cut down what experts claim is the world’s oldest tree after allegedly not noticing they were logging deeply in Matsés Indigenous Reserve, an area where logging is illegal, infuriating local conservation organizations and native indigenous communities.
The giant Samauma tree that is thought to be over 5,800 years old judging on its concentric rings and estimated to be close to 40 meters in height was a major part of the native tribes cultural landscape, countless generations of natives having witnessed the long duration of the tree and having included it in their own culture.
«It is the Mother spirit of the rainforest, from this spirit-tree came the life force of all things living. They have destroyed Aotlcp-Awak, they have brought darkness upon not only our people, but the whole world» explains local tribesman leader Tahuactep of the Matsés tribe.
«For many generations, the Mother tree has brought my people health and good fortune. The roots of the Mother tree spread throughout the rainforest and bring its life spirit to the world. What will be left of the animals, of the plants and of our people now that the Mother spirit is gone» asks Kalahuaptl, a local shaman. «They have murdered the Mother spirit knowingly, they have done this to kill our people and take the spoils of the land» he adds, visibly shaken by the destruction of the millennia-old Samauma tree.
Anna Golding, local researcher for non profit organization and conservancy group Rainforest Protection Coalition (RPC), an initiative stemming from Berkeley University in California, believes the ‘incident’ was intentionnal. « There are large portions of this national reserve that are rich in oil and natural gas. There has been committed action by energy corporations to lobby the government to exploit the area for years. The protected zones have been cut in half over the past decade and this is only their latest attempt to get rid of the local populations who are fighting to preserve their cultural heritage and lifestyle» she admits.
«These actions are clearly perpetrated with the consent of local authorities and the government. If this wasn’t the case, why are local enforcement agencies not prosecuting these corporations? Why are these loggers free to keep doing what they are doing? That is the bigger question» she adds.
Between 1991 and 2014, the total area of forest lost in the Amazon has more than tripled, with most of the lost forest becoming pasture for cattle. Rainforests are the richest places on earth holding the majority of the planet’s biodiversity, yet 100 acres of rainforests are cleared every minute, estimates a recent 2014 World Resources Institute report.