Conservation projects

At present, Entropika is working in the following research areas:

  • Biodiversity conservation via local-based monitoring of wildlife and plant species. We are building up one of the most complete data sets of wildlife densities in the southern Colombian Amazon.
  • Enforcement of Colombian environmental legislation and CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulations in the Amazonian border between Colombia and Peru.
  • Identification of sustainable economic alternatives that will decrease the involvement of local people in illegal extraction of resources.
  • Implementation of appropriate technologies to improve access to clean water and sanitation in the indigenous communities located along the Colombian and Peruvian banks of the Amazon River.
  • Capacity building for indigenous communities and popular neighbourhoods of Leticia, capital of the Amazonas departement in Colombia.
  • Research in ecology and climatology to obtain baseline information on the interactions between the rainforest and local climatology.

Short video that summarises the work of Entropika:

Click on the project title to see a detailed description of each project:

The Aotus Project

In forest habitat countries, environmental legislation is precise, and sanctions for environmental crimes are explicit. However, corruption within environmental authorities makes law enforcement lax or non-existent to influential infractors. The alarming magnitude of the wildlife and timber trade in the Colombian-Peruvian borders of the Amazon river is threatening several taxa, such as the night monkeys (Aotus spp.), the only nocturnal primate in the neotropics. The Aotus Project makes use of these endemic and charismatic animals as flagship species for habitat conservation, and as case study to reinforce international wildlife trade regulations, as wildlife trade is recognised as a major threat to biodiversity.


  • Monitor and quantify the trade of night monkeys between Colombia and Peru for the malaria research and tourism markets.
  • Estimate the population densities and distribution of Aotus spp., and other associate wildlife species, at the Colombian-Peruvian border.
  • Enforce environmental legislation in the Colombian-Peruvian border area through the implementation of a public benefit law suit (popular action) using night monkeys as flagship species, for the protection of rights of civil society, including administrative morality, ecosystems conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Provide updated information to the court, regional environmental authorities and CITES Colombia and Peru, for the enforcement of international wildlife trade regulations at the border area.
  • Submit information on the population status and distribution of night monkeys in the area to the IUCN for further assessments.
  • Monitor Aotus spp. to determine use of space and behavioural patterns.
  • Seek sustainable economic alternatives that might replace the income obtained from illegal use of wildlife.
  • Inform local people about the current legislation regarding wildlife trade and the consequences of the trade for the ecosystem and their livelihoods, as well as raising local awareness on animal welfare.

The trade of night monkeys: Night monkeys have been traded legally and illegally in the area for being used in biomedical research for more than 30 years (Cambio, 2007). Our preliminary results suggest that the illegal trade in night monkeys for the malaria research market is decimating wild populations and is drastically affecting their ecosystems. Census at 8 localities in Peru and Colombia have reported contrasting population density estimates for Aotus (Peru - commercial hunting: 3,6 ind/km2; Colombia - subsistence hunting: 44 ind/km2). Furthermore, forest degradation related to the trapping methods has resulted in the deforestation of more than 65.000 adult trees for the capture of approximately 4000 monkeys for the period 2007-2008.

The animals are live-trapped by indigenous people in their own territories, and then sold to the FIDIC (Fundación Instituto de Inmunología de Colombia) biomedical laboratory, that has had legal permits since 1987 to collect 800 animals annually in Colombian territory. These permits were granted by the environmental authority (CORPOAMAZONIA; Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Southern Amazon) without conducting population studies prior to issuing these permits. Even though these permits are only valid in Colombia, the animals were mainly trapped in Peru (CORPOAMAZONIA, 2005; PONAL and CORPOAMAZONIA, 2013). There are no CITES permits from Peru authorising export of these primates to Colombia, however for the period 2007-2008, 75% of the animals were sourced from Peru (Maldonado, 2011; Maldonado et al., 2009).

The minimum requirements for such laboratories, in order to adhere to the international protocols for the use of non-human primates in biomedical research (SCHER, 2009), is to experiment on their own captive-breeding colonies. However, using wild-caught monkeys is cheaper. Another issue related with the trade (whether legal or illegal) is the continuous release of night monkeys into the wild after being subjected to malaria research. A percentage of these animals are splenectomized; a surgical procedure in which the spleen is removed. After the experimentation (4 to 7 months), the animals collected in Peru, Brazil and Colombia are released in Colombian indigenous territory, with the participation of the environmental authority, in groups of 20 to 280 animals without any follow up. The ecological consequences of these releases on wild populations are unknown.

Capturing the monkeys not only puts indigenous people at high risk, as they do not have the adequate equipment to carry out such activities, but also takes advantage of their financial vulnerability, since economic alternatives for the communities are limited. The trade in Aotus spp. has also made indigenous people incur in several illegalities: traffic of wildlife, corruption of indigenous authorities in order to allow the trade (bribing), use of fake IDs or use of IDs from Colombian relatives (in the case of Peruvian-Brazilian traders) to sell the animals; amongst others. Since February 2010, traders and collectors of night monkeys from three Peruvian communities (Vista Alegre, Yahuma and Chinería) were actively involved in the Aotus Project, conducting census of wildlife and implementing a hunting ban on night monkeys.

Since 2009, we have been informing and denouncing this illegal trade to environmental authorities and how it affects indigenous cultures and their ethical behaviour; no actions were taken in order to control or supervise the trade, nor did environmental authorities sanction the irregularities present in the research permits granted to the laboratory. We were forced to take legal actions to stop this trade.

Law enforcement: On 15th April 2011, Dr. Angela Maldonado and the solicitor Gabriel Vanegas filed a public benefit law suit (popular action) against the FIDIC, the Colombian Ministry of Environment, CORPOAMAZONIA and the Prosecutor for Environmental and Agricultural Affairs, with a complete portfolio of evidence of the illegal trade in night monkeys and the negligence, omission and participation of sued organisations in this trade and its environmental impacts. The hard evidence provided was compiled by more than 50 appendices composed of a) legal documents regarding the permits granted to the FIDIC since 1999 and the list of animals coming in and out of the laboratory, acquired through right of information requests to the environmental authorities, b) scientific publications from the FIDIC that proved the use of unauthorized species in their research, c) interviews from Peruvian and Brazilian collectors documenting the trade and trapping methods, d) several technical concepts from Colombian universities, e) population assessments with results published in peer-reviewed journals confirming the conservation status of Aotus spp. in the Colombian-Peruvian border and f) denounces made by Peruvian community authorities regarding the continuous trade in night monkeys inside their territories.

In July 2012, the popular action obtained a first instance ruling in favour of the conservation of night monkeys, their ecosystems and indigenous people: the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca ruled against the FIDIC, the Ministry of Environment of Colombia, and CORPOAMAZONIA. The verdict recognizes the defending entities as culpable of using an unauthorized species, exceeding the number of animals captured allowed in the permits, of not complying with their duty to ensure the protection of biodiversity and environmental integrity, and of not complying with Colombia's international commitments to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – CITES, simultaneously incurring in a number of environmental, administrative and, in general, anti-juridical, irregularities and anomalies.

The court's decision was the first step in stopping the illegal trade in night monkeys as current trapping permits were revoked and the laboratory is not allowed to receive any more monkeys. The case has had wide coverage of national and international media as one of the major environmental achievements in Colombia. On top of stopping the legal and illegal trading of more than 3.000 night monkeys and the cutting down of 65.000 adult trees, the case has boosted the amendment of Colombia’s environmental legislation to prohibit the use of wild caught animals in biomedical research, emphasising that animals used in biomedical research must be sourced from certificated captive breeding facilities that meet international standards. The law case pushed CITES administrative and scientific authorities to conduct a population study of Aotus spp. in the Southern Colombian Amazon.

From the four institutions that were sued, the FIDIC and the Ministry of Environment appealed; the case was hence transferred to the State Council of Colombia (Consejo de Estado) for the appeals to be studied. On the 26th of November 2013, the State Council of Colombia emitted a second instance ruling which adheres to the first instance ruling issued by the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca. The ruling also adds that the rights of civil society have been violated by the Ministry of Environment and CORPOAMAZONIA with regards to administrative morality. The sentence, which orders the creation of a verification committee in order to guarantee compliance to the judgment, sets out a new challenge for Entropika as member of this committee: to ensure the implementation and fulfilment of the sentence. For example, if a new permit is granted, the FIDIC is obliged to implement a captive breeding program of the species it wants to use.

Magistrate Enrique Gil Botero protected the collective rights regarding administrative morality as well as the sustainable use of natural resources in border areas, focusing in the conservation of night monkeys. In addition, he ordered environmental authorities to regulate repopulation fees, as established by Colombian legislation. The courtroom emphasized that “the decision is not an attempt to undermine scientific research in the country, but that, for the use and exploitation of animals by humans, it is necessary to comply with legal requirements and to ensure they are not subject to cruel and degrading treatments". We believe the decision to be a historic achievement for the conservation of Colombian wildlife and their ecosystems.

This victory also brought to Entropika an intimidation and persecution campaign organised by affected parties. This campaign includes calumny, incitation to hate, misinforming the public through the radio, television and national newspapers, banners in indigenous communities and municipalities of the Amazon department comparing Dr. Angela Maldonado to Adolf Hitler (the vast majority of indigenous people do not know who Hitler was) or declaring her as “not welcome in the Amazon”, the bribing of indigenous authorities to write letters against Dr. Angela Maldonado and Entropika to prohibit their access to the indigenous communities and hence stopping their research within these communities and intimidating e-mails. It is important to stress that the legal representative of the FIDIC’s lab is a celebrity scientist who claims the discovery of a vaccine against malaria, and who has a huge influence on national media. However, the lack of results of his research and the unfulfilment of his promises has made him lose the trust of the government and the Colombian scientific community in recent years. A penal case (slander lawsuit) against the lab’s legal representative, his employees and involved indigenous authorities has been opened to sanction such attacks.

On the 8th of May 2014, the legal representative of the FIDIC sued (writ of injunction) the section of the State Council which emitted the second instance ruling that revoke their trapping permits, claiming that the sentence “violates his fundamental rights” and requesting the immediate revocation of this ruling. On the 12th of December 2014, the Fourth Section of the State Council ruled in favour of the FIDIC, nullifying the second instance ruling of the Third Section of the State Council completely, seemingly without conclusive arguments. In March 2015, the State Council received the appeals of the Third Section of the State Council and of Angela Maldonado, as well as the dissenting opinion of one of the judges of the Fourth Section. The case was transferred to the Fifth Section of the State Council who judged the appeals to be extemporaneous after these already had been received and accepted by the Fourth Section, leaving Corpoamazonia (sanctioned by the popular action) decide whether or not the FIDIC met with the obligations under the permits granted by Corpoamazonia. Gabriel Vanegas and Angela Maldonado filed a complaint to the Superior Judiciary Council for the lack of transparency of the State Council. Corpoamazonia reported that the FIDIC partially fulfilled its obligations and that a study on the population status of Aotus spp. is required before determining hunting quotas for malaria research. The case was transferred to the Constitutional Court, who’s rejected a revision request filed by the Ombudsman Office, arguing that the defence of animal rights is not a priority for this Court.

Population studies of Aotus in Colombia: In this border region, the Amazon River acts as a major biogeographical barrier to species of night monkeys. To the north of the Amazon River, Spix’s night monkey (Aotus vociferans) can be found in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Its distribution is determined by geographical barriers: to the north by the Guaviare river in Colombia, to the west by the Andean Ridge, and to the east probably by the Rio Negro in Brazil (Aquino and Encarnacion, 1988, 1994; Defler, 2010; Groves, 2005; Hernandez-Camacho and Cooper, 1976). To the south of the Amazon River, Nancy Ma’s night monkey (A. nancymaae) extends from the Loreto department in Peru to the Jandiatuba River in Brazil, reaching up to the Jutaí River head. In Peru, its northern limit is the Marañon River, reaching the enclave between the Tigre and Pastaza Rivers (Aquino and Encarnacion, 1994; Groves, 2005).

Both species, A. nancymaae and A. vociferans, are considered as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), partly due to their wide distribution. Although the IUCN does not suggest major threats to these species, actual field data are lacking as there are few studies, particularly in areas where human pressures are increasing, such as in the Colombian-Peruvian border. Recently the IUCN recommended monitoring of extraction, legal and illegal, for both A. vociferans and A. nancymaae with the aim of understanding effects on wild population levels (Cornejo and Palacios, 2008).

Map 1. Historic distribution of Aotus vociferans (1) and Aotus nancymaae (2) (IUCN, 2013).

Although only the presence of A. vociferans has been registered in Colombia to the north of the Amazon River in the early 1980s both A. nancymaae and A. nigriceps were observed in the FIDIC’s laboratory (Defler, 2004, 2010). Since 1987, the Colombian environmental authorities have granted permits to this medical research laboratory in the Amazon to collect wild night monkeys, specifically A. vociferans, for malaria research. After being subjected to research procedures for up to 7 months, night monkeys are released back into the wild.

In previous papers we reported that from 2007 to 2008 more than 2,500 animals were sold to the facility by Peruvian trappers although they have a legal limit of 800 annually and there are no CITES permits for the export of Aotus from Peru to Colombia (Maldonado et al., 2009). The international trade of A. nancymaae reported by the UNEP-WCMC database provides figures for the period 1994–2011. It shows that Peru exported 3.258 animals. Of these, the US imported 86% with 61% of the total export transactions classified as “S” (Scientific). However, biomedical research (M) is not reported, neither was Colombia listed as an importer country (UNEP/WCMC, 2013). Information regarding the effect of the illegal trade on wild populations of Aotus was reported by Maldonado (2011), while Ruiz-Garcia (2009) presented genetic evidence of the presence of A. nancymaae at the FIDIC facility in Leticia.

Impact of post-experimental release in Colombian territory: On top of liberating non-native species of Aotus in Colombian territory, the releases of night monkeys carried out by the FIDIC together with CORPOAMAZONIA do not comply with the IUCN guidelines for the re-introduction of non-human primates (Baker, 2002) as: i) the release sites had not been assessed and, in most of the cases, sites are not considered suitable habitats owing to their proximity to human settlements, ii) the release-stock was subject to 4-7 months of malaria experimentation and received neither adequate veterinary screening (including genetic status identification) nor a rehabilitation process, iii) animals had been released in numbers that range from 20 to 278 individuals (CORPOAMAZONIA, 2008, 2012), while average group size is of 3-5 individuals, iv) post-release requirements are not fulfilled as animals are released without monitoring or any follow-up. The ecological consequences of these releases on wild populations are unknown.

Local people reported the presence of carcasses of night monkeys close to their crops and described that the animals have a tattooed number on their legs, which corresponds to the code given by the laboratory for experimentation. The BUAV investigation of 2012 in Los Lagos, Colombia, documented the trapping of one night monkey marked with a tattoo that was immediately released by the local collectors as the FIDIC do not pay collectors for already-marked animals. While collecting GPS waypoints in private lands in Colombia, where A. nancymaae had been released by CORPOAMAZONIA, we found several animals of this phenotype, confirming the survival of this species in Colombia. However, although released animals can survive, it is almost impossible to determine survival rates owing to the lack of follow-up.

Aotus nancymaae in Colombia: Assuming that A. nancymaae trapped in Peru and Brazil were liberated at any of the Colombian release sites over the last three decades, the map resulting from the GPS waypoints obtained from the official releases (CORPOAMAZONIA, 2012) and from our field work suggests that A. nancymaae is present in Colombia. It is distributed along the Amazon River with a broader distribution in the area between San Juan de Atacuarí and San Juan de Socó, at the western limit with Peru (see Map 2; Maldonado and Peck, 2014). As territorial species living in groups of no more than five individuals, there are likely impacts on competition for food, territory, behaviour and of course health. Maldonado (2013) and Ruiz-Garcia et al. (2013) also suggested that the releases of A. nancymaae in Colombia for more than three decades, not only created an introduced population of A. nancymaae, but also might have displaced wild populations of A. vociferans at the release sites.

Map 2. Historic distribution and predicted distribution of Aotus nancymaae following capture in Peru and post-experimental release in Colombia (Maldonado and Peck, 2014).

The first result of the public benefit law suit (popular action) presented during the conciliation was the implementation of an agreement between CORPOAMAZONIA (regional environmental authority), the Ministry of Environment (CITES administrative authority), the Research Institute for the Colombian Amazon - SINCHI - and the Colombian National University - UNAL - (CITES scientific authorities) to conduct a pilot project to gather baseline information about the genetics and ecology of Aotus spp. where the FIDIC had been trapping and releasing animals.

The preliminary results from the UNAL/SINCHI study presented on 4th July 2014 confirms the presence of A. nancymaae in Colombian territory, but only found A. vociferans at the control site (San Pedro de Tipisca), confirming our hypothesis that this species might be displaced by A. nancymaae. The study proposes a distribution map for A. nancymaae in Colombia (see Map 3; IGUN, 2012) which coincides with the findings of Maldonado and Peck (2014). The results also suggest the existence of a historical distribution of A. nancymaae north of the Amazon River in Colombian territory, as well as of another population of A. nancymaae, not of historical lineage but problably introduced in Colombia in more recent times. The IGUN report (2012) states that "in spite of the identification of unique haplotypes (collections of specific DNA sequences) in the FIDIC, the association between haplogroups (collection of haplotypes sharing a common ancestor) found in the FIDIC and in the field does not totally exclude Colombia as the source of the individuals used by the FIDIC". It is important to note however that the main limitations of this study are the short fieldwork period and the reduced number of sampling sites.

Map 3. Taken from the IGUN (2012) report. Distribution and frequency of A. vociferans and A. nancymaae at five localities sampled in the Colombian Amazonian trapezium. The circles show the proportion of each species found at each locality.

Furthermore, the study reports that from 169 animals collected in five localities, 19 animals were released by the FIDIC as they were marked with their tattoo number. They compared body weight of the FIDIC’s animals when they arrived at the laboratory, before and after the release, and recommend that, owing to the significant differences in weight (very low weight after releases), the release plan should be adjusted to improve the physical conditions and survival rate of the animals. Another recommendation done by this study is to forbid the captures and releases of monkeys in the western part of the Colombian Amazon (between the western frontier and Naranjales) as long as the origin and distribution of the historical population of A. nancymaae is not determined.

Recommendations for the conservation of Aotus spp.: Maldonado and Peck (2014) strongly recommend a long-term study in the trapping/release sites in order to determine the status of A. vociferans to allow environmental authorities to implement a management plan for this species as it appears to be locally extinct. If the populations of A. nancymaae in Colombian territory, identified by the UNAL/SINCHI study, are considered to be naturally distributed in Colombia, its distribution area is extremely restricted and would be composed of a very small population. Therefore, it is suggested that this species should be included in one of the Endangered (EN) categories for Colombia, according to the criteria of the IUCN, and Appendix I of CITES. In addition, we recommend that Peru completes non-detriment finding reports to prove that international trade is not harming resident populations of regulated species (CITES, 1992).

It is also critical that the UNAL and SINCHI continue with the phases II and III of their project to compare their genetic results with animals from Peru and Brazil. This will improve our understanding about the population dynamics of the genus Aotus regarding their evolutionary patterns at the Brazil-Colombia-Peru tri-border area, and will also clarify the origin of the two populations of A. nancymaae found in Colombia, which might correspond to an endemic population (western limit with Peru in the Atacuarí region) and an introduced population owing to the continuous releases of the FIDIC.

Campaign against the trade of wildlife at the Colombian – Peruvian border: Our results have been widely distributed by national and international media, putting pressure on the environmental authorities who have neglected the magnitude of the illegal trade for over 33 years. Dr. Angela Maldonado won in 2010 the Whitley Gold Award (UK) for her outstanding contribution to species and habitat conservation in the Colombian - Peruvian Amazonian frontier. Furthermore, she was nominated as one of the 15 most important people in Colombia in 2010 by the newspaper El Espectador, and as one of the 100 most influential people from the Colombian society in 2010 by the Gerente Magazine. These nominations were based on her conservation work in the Amazon, her efforts to communicate effectively to a broad, national and international audience about the consequences of over-exploiting natural resource and for denouncing the corruption and negligence of environmental authorities in Colombia.

Since January 2011, the Aotus Project, Fundación Entropika and the Colombian Primatological Society, with the financial support of The Whitley Fund for Nature, The Rufford Small Grants, Rainforest Concern, WWF - EFN, The International Primate Protection League, The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, The Kilverstone Charitable Trust, and The American Society of Primatologists, embarked on this campaign using night monkeys as flagship species. Up to date we have received the attention of the presidency of Colombia (Office of Environment, Biodiversity, Water and Climate Change), the European Commission, the International Primatological Society, the European Federation for Primatology and regional authorities such as the Fiscal Control of the Amazonas Department (Contraloría Departamental Amazonas).

Click below to see some of the documents used in the campaign:

Legal actions: Sentence Consejo de Estado, 26th November 2013
Sentence Consejo de Estado (short), 26th November 2013
Sentence Administrative Court of Cundinamarca, 6th July 2012
Sentence Administrative Court of Cundinamarca (short), 6th July 2012
Sentence Administrative Court of Cundinamarca (short, English), 6th July 2012
La República judicial notice, 26th May 2011
Acceptance of the public interest suit, 25th April 2011
Media: W Radio interview, 4th February 2015
Nocturna RCN interview, 14th May 2014
AnimaNaturalis campaign, 1st May 2014
Radio Fantástica interview, 30th April 2013
BUAV investigation, 21st August 2012
Noticias RCN interview, 31st July 2012
Noticias RCN interview, 6th July 2012
Day of the Environment 2012 pictures, 5th June 2012
Leaflets on the illegal trade of Aotus
Banners against the trade
IPPL (US) campaign
Caracol TV video, 23rd November 2010
Planeta Caracol Radio interview, 13th July 2010
Whitley Awards 2010 pictures, 12th May 2010
Whitley Awards 2010 video, 10th May 2010
Popular articles: Radio Macondo article, 26th June 2015
MiPutumayo article, 24th June 2015
El Espectador article, 7th February 2015
Semana article, 4th February 2015
SciDev.Net article, 7th August 2014
La Silla Vacía article, 1st August 2014
La Silla Vacía article (long version), 1st August 2014
Yale Environment 360 article, 21st July 2014
AnimaNaturalis article, 25th June 2014
PrensAnimalista article, 11th June 2014
El Tiempo article, 28th May 2014
Defenzoores article, 27th May 2014
El Espectador article, 12th May 2014
Perspectiva article, 12th May 2014
El Espectador article, 7th May 2014
El Espectador article, 6th February 2014
Vanguardia article, 4th December 2013
Semana article, 29th November 2013
Kien&Ke article, 29th November 2013
El Espectador article, 29th November 2013
La Silla Vacía article, 22nd July 2012
Semana article, 15th July 2012
Kien&Ke article, 12th July 2012
El Espectador article, 6th July 2012
El Espectador article, 5th July 2012
El Tiempo article, 5th July 2012
Semana article, 5th July 2012
El Colombiano article, 5th July 2012
El Espectador article #2, 4th July 2012
El Espectador article, 4th July 2012
El Tiempo article, 4th July 2012
La República article, 4th July 2012
Correo Confidencial article, 4th July 2012
El Comercio article, 21st August 2011
Kien&Ke article, 12th July 2011
Cañamo article, 21st June 2011
Inter Press Service article, 5th April 2011
El Espectador article, 11th December 2010
Revista Gerente article, November 2010
Los Angeles Times article, 10th July 2010
El Tiempo article, 15th May 2010
El Tiempo article, 13th May 2010
The Telegraph article, 13th May 2010
Cambio article, 22nd November 2007
Scientific American article, December 1996
Presentations: Presentation on the role of primate conservation to fight illegal trade
Poster on the illegal trade of Aotus
Poster on the process of lyophilisation
Presentation on the Conservation biology of Aotus
Presentation on the Illegal trade of Aotus

Sustainable economic alternatives for local people: This is done in an attempt to reduce pressure on natural resources by providing alternative income to vulnerable groups and, as such, replacing their current revenue of the illegal trade of wildlife. One of these initiatives is the freeze-drying of fruits surplus (for example, lyophilisation of “Ají maicito”, a chilli from the Amazon). We are currently conducting a market study to determine the viability of this initiative. The freeze-dried chilli resulting from the preliminary study is currently being sold in the Wingham Wildlife Park (UK). The Aotus Project has also been training two Colombian communities in the elaboration of essential oils and personal care products (i.e. shampoo, soap, repellent oil) with the hope these can be sold in the future; right now, these are being used by the indigenous communities themselves. Furthermore, we are currently looking at the possibility of training indigenous communities in the making of ecological handcrafts using plastic bags and other re-usable materials.

The PDF version of this project can be downloaded here.

The Water Cycle Project

Access to water is a fundamental human right that is crucial for poverty reduction, sustainable development and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The figures provided in 2006 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund indicate that 93% of the Colombian population has access to potable water, however the reality of the country in isolated regions such as the Amazon and the Pacific coast shows contrasting figures to those reported. According to the Prosecutor’s office (2006), 25% of the inhabitants of the department of Amazonas have access to potable water in urban areas; however, 80% of the land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous people where less than 10% have access to potable water.

The lack of potable water was accentuated during the drought of 2010 that was reported as the worst of the last 40 years (Reuters, 2010). Furthermore, the heavy rains of March-May 2012 flooded most communities located along the banks of the Amazon River, forcing them to evacuate. Both events, which were attributed to climate change by experts, left indigenous and colonist communities along the river banks without access to safe drinking water and exposed them to a sanitary crisis that saw a significant increase of waterborne diseases. The lack of potable water in the communities has also drastically limited the implementation of economical sustainable initiatives such as community tourism and fish farming, leaving as main sources of income extractive activities that drastically affect the ecosystem and the survival of these communities in the long term (Maldonado, 2012).

The Water Cycle Project aims to improve the living standards of indigenous people and mitigate the impacts of climate change, in areas where governmental support is non-existent. This project is being implemented in collaboration with Fundación Ancla (Sweden).

Main activities of the project:

  • Provide clean water and basic sanitation through the installation of clean technologies in indigenous communities of the Amazonian frontier between Colombia and Peru.
  • Reduce the risk of waterborne diseases through the implementation of a sanitation campaign (waste management).
  • Implementation of an automatic weather station in order to improve the collection of meteorological data in the area and raise local awareness on climate change issues.
  • Building a conceptual model of the “Biotic Pump” theory to quantitatively assess its existence and determine the properties of its physical basis.

Biosand filters: Since January 2014 we have installed biosand filtration systems for obtaining clean water in 80 households of the indigenous communities of Mocagua, Colombia, and Chinería, Peru, as well as 2 communitarian filtration systems in the communities of Mocagua and San Martín, Colombia, benefiting a total of approx. 1350 people. We also monitor communitarian and household filters in 11 other communities and supervise the installation of water systems in 3 communities, 2 schools, an orphanage and a retirement home. Biosand filters are cost-effective and have been used successfully in various parts of the world (e.g. Africa and Latin America). Studies assessing the effectiveness of the system found that between 88% and 100% of E. coli bacteria (causing, amongst others, diarrhoea) are removed by the filter (e.g. Baker et al., 2006), reducing on average by 44% cases of diarrhoea in the population. Furthermore, Liang et al. (2007) have determined that 88% of the filters installed in a community in Cambodia are still in use after 8 years of operation; demonstrating the feasibility and viability of this alternative in rural areas. One significant advantage of the filter is that it does not require any chemicals to function. Water processed by the filter is not "potable" in the scientific sense; however the filter significantly improves the quality of the water and, as such, health in general.

Pictures of this work can be seen here.

Waste management: This part consists of a process of action learning in waste management for school teachers and primary school students. The process serves as a strategy to raise the communities’ awareness on local issues such as water pollution and the increase of water borne diseases, as well as on the impact these have on public health and the environment. It also actively involves the families in the process and stimulates dialogue with local authorities to guide the design of solutions to tackle these problems. To this end, we conducted workshops to train environmental leaders, community awareness actions and meetings with local leaders (e.g. role-playing activities with children on the environmental and sanitarian impact that rubbish produces, implementation of compost facilities at family level that are then used for the school's seed nursery which is maintained by the children, construction of waste basket infrastructures at community level, etc.). In order to present adequate solutions to the communities, it was necessary to collect updated information on the communities and issues related to the management of waste and wastewaters. This information can be found here (in Spanish):

The Biotic Pump Theory: The Biotic Pump Theory, as described by Drs. Makarieva and Gorshkov, defines the mechanism by which water vapour is transported from areas of low evaporation to areas of high evaporation, conveniently termed “donor” and “acceptor” regions, respectively, and where only the latter exhibits condensation. The implications of such a theory are critical, especially to moisture regulation of tropical rainforests, yet highly controversial. Unfortunately, most of the theory’s physics cannot be evaluated due to the lack of atmospheric observations over such areas. This study thus aimed at building a conceptual model of the theory over the Amazon basin to quantitatively assess the existence and determine the properties of donor and acceptor regions through their respective condensation rates. The model used the predictive capabilities of Time-Delayed Neural Networks to downscale available atmospheric observations to calculate condensation rates at a scale suited for this analysis. Findings quantitatively support the existence of a biotic mechanism regulating the transport of water vapour as these clearly show the presence of donor and acceptor regions. Results also show an increase in average condensation rate over the last 9 years (Lafon, 2012), which does not strictly adhere to Makarieva and Gorshkov’s views on the impacts of deforestation on precipitation, suggesting a more complex relationship between evaporation and condensation, and therefore highlighting the necessity to further refine this novel theory. Click here to read the full study.

Other results: During 2011, Entropika provided tanks for storing water to the group of co-investigators from Yahuma and Chinería, Peru. With the financial support of the $10 Club, an artesian well was drilled and a pump was installed in Vista Alegre, Peru, to supply clean water to the school and the three adjacent neighbourhoods. In May 2014, an automatic weather station was installed in Mundo Amazónico by Entropika’s team as a donation from Rainforest Concern (UK). The data collected by this station are accessible to the public through the "data" page of Entropika.

Waste management campaign

Leticia, capital of the Amazonas department of Colombia, is a city of approximately 41.300 inhabitants, the majority being indigenous people who left their communities to find better opportunities. The city is divided into 24 neighbourhoods, most of which can be classified as “marginal” because of their precarious living conditions. For being isolated from the central government, Leticia counts with huge social inequality and a vast amount of organizational problems. One of these problems is the management of waste, which, being badly dealt with by the company in charge of its disposal and the general lack of civic culture with regards its management, is causing much trouble to the Municipal Administration of Leticia. In 2015, two major manifestations were organized by civil society to express their discontent and highlight the critical nature of this issue to the local government.

Together with Fundación Habitat Sur, Mundo Amazónico and Fundación Amazonas Sin Límites, Entropika is leading a campaign to improve waste management in the city of Leticia and raise awareness on recycling, empowering people in making decisions at local level by focussing on marginal neighbourhoods and schools. In schools, our classes and workshops include a) participatory video on the local problem of waste management and its possible solutions where videos are part of an exchange program with the children of the Terra Institute in Miami, USA, b) waste separation for recycling, c) environmental lectures, d) excursions to points of interest to the subject (e.g. recycling plant, eco-theme park, municipal dump), and e) using recyclable materials in intelligent ways. We also work with groups of women of marginal neighbourhoods in the elaboration of handcrafts from plastic bags as a sustainable economic alternative.

In 2014, 14 environmental workshops were given to children of the Pacho Vela and Selvalegre schools, which included the separation of organic waste from the schools’ kitchens. A forum was also organized, which reunited key stakeholders on this issue. Furthermore, we installed 15 household composts and realised of 25 workshops in the elaboration of eco-bags in marginal neighbourhoods of Leticia. In August 2015 we started a collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and the first recycling plant in Leticia to certify these two schools as “green schools”, making them an example to other schools in the municipality.

Check out the photo album of the campaign here.

Pattern recognition

Recent work in the tropical forest environment has begun to focus on rapid inventory methods that allow conservationists, environmental scientists, land managers and carbon market related studies to quickly, accurately and efficiently gain an understanding of the ecology of large tracts of tropical forest in relatively little time. To this end remote sensing using satellite imagery and airborne sensors has generated high expectations for biodiversity assessment, however it is still in relatively early stages of development.

This study aims to further current efforts in this direction by developing an intelligent process used for the automatic taxonomic identification of prominent tropical tree species in the Southern Colombian Amazon. The process will use artificial intelligence techniques (i.e. machine vision and neural networks) to gather information from very-high resolution aerial imagery to compare patterns and textures in order to determine a percentage of certainty in the identification of the tree species present in the photograph. If successful, the project has the potential to open new doors for the rapid and automatic identification of large areas of rainforest. This study is a continuation of a pilot project done in 2012 in Ecuador by Dr. Mika Peck (University of Sussex, England), and is an international collaborative effort between Entropika, Colombia, and the Universities of Sussex and Lincoln, England. The project will begin in March 2015 for a period of two years.

Very-high resolution aerial imagery will be collected using the GoPro Hero3 camera mounted on the DJI Naza quadcopter. The multi-rotor device was built by Dr. John Murray of the University of Lincoln, UK, and donated by Dr. Mika Peck.

Test flights of the DJI Naza quadcopter in Europe:

Computing classes

The lack of organization of the indigenous communities is one of the biggest obstacles for improving local livelihoods and implementing community-led projects. Computers are a powerful tool for the management of information. With the internet, computers become an unlimited source of information that accelerates educational development and establishes a global collective perception. Unfortunately, this technology is inaccessible to most indigenous communities due to the lack of resources for buying computers, and the lack of training in using and maintaining these. Only schools count with a small number of computers. This initiative aims at enhancing community organization, education and access to information through computing classes that will improve local skills and empower local people in the management of information in order to facilitate the design and implementation of sustainable economic alternatives.

So far, a total of 51 people from the communities of Mocagua, San Martín and Chinería were trained in basic navigation and the use of Microsoft Word and Excel. Moreover, 8 staff members of the Amacayacu National Park also attended classes in basic computing. Entropika is currently putting a computing guide together, designed specifically for the schools of the communities.

The Omagua Project

"Omagua" is the name of the group dedicated to recording footage and making videos that will address the necessities of the indigenous community of Mocagua, Amazonas. The needs of building a collective memory, documenting Tikuna traditions and recording the knowledge of the wise elders of the community are all part of the incentives that drive this project.

The Omagua Project makes use of participatory videos as a way for the people of Mocagua to express themselves and define the community as such. The dynamic of the project covers several sessions in which we alternate training in the use and maintenance of video cameras, audiovisual language, photography, and the use of video editing software; more importantly, we focus in getting the members of the Omagua group to practice these skills. We start the learning process by making short videos in order to cover each aspect of audio-visual production. The ultimate aim of the project is to produce a longer video, that will be of higher quality, richer in content, and entirely produced by the Omagua group. This project has been funded by the Kilverstone Charitable Trust and the Whitley Fund for Nature (UK).

Main activities of the project (click on the links for watching the videos):

  • Training in using and maintaining video cameras
  • Training in audiovisual language
  • Making of the “Mocagua Indigenous Reserve” video
  • Making of the “Maikuchiga” video
  • Making of the “La Ola Invernal” (The Winter Wave) video
  • Training in video editing
  • Making of the “La Pelazón” (traditional celebration) video

The Calderon Project

The general aim of the project was to design and implement a conservation strategy for the Calderon basin, buffering zone of Amacayacu National Park (ANP), the only protected area in the trapecio amazonico, using the ecosystem approach combining scientific and traditional knowledge. This strategy was used for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way and will minimise adverse impacts affecting the Calderon basin, ANP and its neighbouring indigenous land, by identifying sustainable livelihoods for local people.

The pilot project conducted in March 2008 established that human activity was a threat to many important species in the area. A programme of further research into the ecology and geology of the area, and careful monitoring of human activity, with the co-operation of the local people, was assessed to be essential for the area’s future protection.

The Calderon Project received an Associate Whitley Award in July 2008.

The Woolly Monkey Project

The goal of The Woolly Monkey Project was to develop a biologically and culturally contextualized strategy for the long-term conservation of the primate community (nine species) in Amacayacu, with the involvement of two indigenous communities. This project started with a pilot project in 2003. The Common woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha) is widely distributed throughout the Amazon. However, it is restricted to primary and continuous forest, and 50% of its total distribution is represented by the Colombian population. L. lagothricha is one of most threatened Amazonian species due to hunting, so that even at subsistence level, the wild population has been depressed to the point of local extinction. Owing to the important role of this charismatic species in the fragile Amazonian ecosystem, woolly monkeys were chosen as the flagship species.

In 2003 Mocagua, one of the indigenous communities involved in this research, agreed to implement a hunting prohibition for woolly monkeys and a hunting restriction for tapirs. Currently, Entropika is working with Amacayacu National Park in the elaboration of an updated version of the management plan using the results provided by The Woolly Monkey Project. This document will provide baseline information on the sustainability of hunting by Tikuna people and recommendations for the implementation of economic alternatives to decrease extraction of natural resources.

Summary of results: Subsistence hunting has been identified as a global conservation issue not only for the stability of tropical ecosystems, but also for securing the long-term livelihood of local people. Little is known about the impact of subsistence hunting by indigenous people within protected areas and on indigenous land (Maldonado, 2012). This community-based research provided baseline information on the sustainability of hunting by two Tikuna indigenous communities – Mocagua and San Martin de Amacayacu – overlapping Amacayacu National Park, Colombian Amazon. During 2005-2009, game species’ densities and biomasses were determined using transect sampling methods, with 2,262 km of census effort, while simultaneously monitoring the hunting rate of game species. A total of 2,101 prey items were hunted, corresponding to 49 species of vertebrates. The sustainability of hunting was calculated for the 10 most hunted species using qualitative as well as quantitative approaches. The quantitative approach included four models: density/standing biomass model, the production model, the stock-recruitment model and the unified-harvest model. The results suggested that eight game species were overhunted. Furthermore, primate biomass was significantly higher in the Tikuna community where a hunting ban for woolly monkeys has been applied (Mocagua 398 kg/km²; San Martin 199 kg/km²). Click here for more information.

Amazonian Fruit Guide: This educational material was the result of this participatory research. Combining traditional ecological knowledge with scientific knowledge, Andres Barona with a group of local co-investigators from the Tikuna indigenous communities of Mocagua and San Martin de Amacayacu, identified key plant species for local people and wildlife. This material provides baseline information for education in botanic for indigenous people and students at Amacayacu National Park and its overlapping Tikuna communities, in the Colombian Amazon. Click here to see the Fruit Guide (in Spanish).

UK-Colombia Conservation Exchange

In June and July 2007, the Entropika team together with Don Azulay Vasquez and Mamerto Gregorio (members of the Tikuna indigenous community, San Martin de Amacayacu) went to the UK to participate in a series of workshops, talks and lectures to interested parties from both the fields of conservation and sustainability and also the wider public to encourage an exchange of ideas on conservation and sustainable development both in the UK and in the Amazon.

On the 22nd June 2007, a day-long event was held at The Living Rainforest - an education centre based in Newbury - for professionals in the fields of botany and conservation and for other interested parties. The event, entitled “A Meeting of Minds”, explored the convergence of local indigenous knowledge and “western” science as a way forward for conservation in the Colombian Amazon. The day included talks from high-profile professionals in the fields of conservation and climatology as well as speakers from the charity and Tikuna indigenous communities. Also included in the event were practical training and demonstration workshops led by the charity’s team of skilled botanists and the opportunity to participate in an open forum during a panel discussion with all of the featured speakers.

Following this, the group worked for three weeks with the Eden Project, a world-renowned charity and visitor centre attracting millions of visitors each year. Whilst there they worked with members of the Eden staff to impart their knowledge to them in the hope that it can be utilised within Eden’s educational work on an ongoing basis, thus leaving a legacy from their time there that can be used to great advantage in future years. We are keen for this visit to form the first in a series of ongoing exchanges with Eden, and indeed all of the organizations involved, where all parties can learn from one another, allowing the development of a firm and lasting relationship between Colombia and the UK.

Ultimately, the aim of this project was for people in the UK to gain an otherwise inaccessible insight into the indigenous peoples' use of tropical plants, their sustainable way of life and the environmental problems facing them and their surrounding habitat. In addition, we hoped to address the wider issues concerning the conservation of our tropical rainforests by creating a forum for discussion via the planned events, as the basis for ongoing communication and collaboration between all of the organizations and individuals in the future.

The project was finished in July 2007.