Indigenous stewards identify growing threat posed by ranchers within Nicaraguan forest reserve

21.07.2017

Bullock enclosure located within the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve Photo: Onda Local/Mongabay

The indigenous government which manages 70% of a Nicaraguan reserve has condemned illegal deforestation within the reserve by ranchers seeking land for pasture, in a statement supported by the Nicaraguan Federation of Livestock Associations. 

The reserve is among Central America’s most important Intact Forest Landscapes, home to jaguar, tapir and more than 1,000 species of bird. Before this year, it was assumed that its remote location and system of management by indigenous rangers had kept it largely safe from the extensive clearances for cattle ranching that have affected other Nicaraguan reserves.

But this is rapidly changing. In March 2017, indigenous rangers found a large cattle ranch located seven kilometres inside the reserve. In May, the NGO Fundación Rio identified 123 points where illegal deforestation had taken place or paths had been cleared. And on 11 July, the Rama and Kriol Territorial Government officially called for government action to tackle illegal incursions into the reserve, reporting that their investigations had found extensive areas where primary forest had been cleared and replaced with cattle pasture.

Also in July, a separate investigation by Mongabay LatAm in partnership with Nicaraguan outlet Onda Local charted deforestation spreading inwards for about ten kilometres from the western boundary of the reserve. Local informants told the investigators that most of this deforestation is driven by cattle ranches. While some are small, between seven and 35 hectares, others are reported to have brought in herds of up to 200 heads of cattle. From pastureland located within the reserve, the journalists were told, cattle are herded out along trails to Las Maravillas, a gateway to the interior, then sold into domestic and export markets.

The Mongabay investigation tracked down one specific farm within the reserve, covering 1,397 hectares, according to a worker interviewed at the site. More than 244 hectares of forest had been illegally cleared to make way for pasture which, local workers said, supports at least 70 heads of cattle. Journalists traced ownership of the farm back to José Solís Durón, a wealthy cattle rancher from the municipality of Nueva Guinea, which is at the heart of Nicaraguan cattle ranching country.

Durón told the journalists that the high price of land in Nueva Guinea had pushed him south in search of land. But journalists at Onda Local posit another explanation, pointing to controversial plans for the creation of a canal that will cut across the northern tip of the Indio Maiz Reserve. In line with these plans, Nueva Guinea lies in an area which will be turned into a large reservoir. This could be causing the area’s many cattle ranchers to seek new areas for pasture before their current holdings are swamped.

More from Illegal Deforestation Monitor

ISPO / Indonesia's recent “reform” of palm oil sustainability scheme criticised for threatening forests and human rights

Continue reading
UK military / Brazil beef supplier used by Ministry of Defence buys from farmers guilty of illegal deforestation, fires and fraud

Continue reading
Cameroon / Local women fight back against controversial palm oil, rubber firms accused of destroying community way of life 

Continue reading
Mexico / Decline of monarch butterflies shows need for greater forest protections

Continue reading
Cocoa / New report emphasises threats major firms face in not having a full picture of their supply chains

Continue reading
Colniza massacre / Repórter Brasil investigation reveals links between JBS and Marfrig and  farmer accused of brutal 2017 killings

Continue reading
Tanah Merah / Auditor kayu Indonesia akan menyelidiki tuduhan izin-izin palsu bagi kayu senilai $6Milyar



Continue reading
Norges Bank / Norwegian sovereign wealth fund divests from consumer giant Alicorp over palm oil-linked destruction in Peru

Continue reading
JBS / Brazil meatpacking giant urged to improve monitoring as  politicians and NGOs pile on pressure 

Continue reading
SVLK / Indonesian timber auditors to probe allegations of faked permits for $6bn of wood at Tanah Merah mega-project 

Continue reading

Stay up to date with all Earthsight news & updates

Receive email updates for the latest news and insights from Earthsight and be among the first to read our new investigations.

We keep your data secure and don’t share anything with third parties. Read full terms.