This is Juan José Arbil Flores. He is a park ranger in our project in Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru, working with CIMA, our NGO partner on the ground. We interviewed him on his life and role in the conservation of the park, first as a volunteer and now as a ranger.
Tell us why Cordillera Azul is so special in Perú?
We have beautiful scenery that is very important for tourists – the marvelous landscape, the fresh air, the rich biodiversity like the jaguar, spectacled bear, tapir, and so much more.
What kind of work do you do?
My main work, with the other park rangers, is to monitor the activities within the park. We patrol the area and also keep track of the hunting and fishing that villagers do for their survival. We use GPS and cameras to register offenders inside the park during patrols.
What did you do before being a park-ranger?
I used to be an illegal logger in the basin of Río Aviseo (west of Cordillera Azul National Park) and
I didn’t believe in conservation! The park rangers used to visit us and we had small conflicts with them because we didn’t believe they had any right to tell us that we were doing illegal activities. But now I know that we were damaging the Park.
Years ago, I also was growing coffee on a couple of hectares inside the Park, before it became a National Park. The park rangers told me this was prohibited and I made fun of them. I even told them to help me with the harvest so that I could get out of the area faster.
I started to meet the rangers more frequently and they always would explain to me why it is important not to cut down trees. Over time, the logging was more controlled by the police, even the army. It became more difficult to work because the costs started to increase and it was no longer profitable.
When the Park was created I came into contact with the Park’s coordinators. By talking with them and reading the information they gave me, I started to understand why it is important to conserve the area, and about the negative impact I used to have on the forest with the illegal logging. So I started to work with them as a volunteer.
How does CIMA support you?
CIMA helps us with logistics when we, alongside the local villagers, have to intervene with people who are illegally logging. They also help with contacting the police in these situations.
What work do you do with the local communities?
We run environmental education workshops to teach local people about all the benefits they receive from the forest, the rules they have to follow to improve their quality of life and which animals in the buffer zone the indigenous communities are allowed to hunt to support their families.
How does working in the National Park make you feel?
As a park ranger, I feel very proud to work to protect this beautiful forest which is for the well-being
of all Peruvians and especially for children, the new generation, helping them realise what we are protecting and also so they can visit the Cordillera Azul National Park. That’s why I feel proud to be a conservationist.
Thank you, Juan, from all of us for helping to keep our forests safe.