Tatiana Espinosa: the voice of Shihuahuaco

Among the strong women and the voices that we still must hear, this March 8th we want to tell you the story of Tatiana Espinosa: the voice of the Shihuahuaco. A woman who, with effort, dedication, and the energy of the Amazon, has taught us the importance of this ancient tree about which we knew so little. That’s why on this date we want you to get to know her a little more.


Her early years – just a little girl

Tatiana was born into a busy family which lived in Callao. She is the fourth of five siblings of that home. Tatiana enjoyed doing the common activities that every kid does, but she also loved the trees which were in the park in front of her house, she adored the nature that surrounded her, and she felt very happy there.

When Tatiana was 10 years old, she used to go with her sister Rocío to Agraria La Molina University. And it is from that age that Tatiana became fascinated with that place and decided to study there.

Tatiana Espinosa de pequeña 

Her career, Costa Rica and the Almendro tree

Tatiana grew up and met her goal, she got a place to study at Agraria La Molina University and studied Forestry; she graduated in 2001. During the years of study, Tatiana fell in love with expeditions to the jungle and learned about the forest; moreover, she also learned about the use of large trees as a timber resource and the little value given to them as beings that keep the ecosystem stable and their importance for the planet. In 2004, Tatiana requested a forestry concession to the Peruvian state to carry out in Madre de Dios.

Tatiana en uno de sus primeras expediciones a ala amazonía

Tatiana and don Manuel (expert in Amazonian fauna) during an expedition in the jungle of Madre de Dios for her thesis research.

Looking for more opportunities, Tatiana got a scholarship to study a master’s degree in Tropical Forest Management and Conservation and Biodiversity in Costa Rica.

Tatiana learned very important information that would later play a crucial role in her career, which was about the Almendro tree (Dipteryx panamensis) located in Costa Rica. This tree was protected by law since the “Green Macaw” (Ara ambiguus) nests there, an endangered macaw which is one of the most representative birds of this country.


The return to Peru; destruction and action

In 2009, Tatiana returned to the Madre de Dios region, place where she had requested the concession years before. Tatiana realized very quickly the deforestation in that area, a result of mining and indiscriminate logging. And knowing that, for the good of all, that destruction had to be stopped, Tatiana understood that she had to protect this forest.

In the process, Tatiana realized that the Peruvian Amazon had a tree equivalent to what the Almendro was in Costa Rica, the Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx ferrea). However, unlike in the Central American country, the Shihuahuaco in Peru was not protected, and even worse, not much was known about it beyond its timber value.

Tala indiscriminada 

The birth of ARBIO and the history of the Shihuahuaco

In 2010, Tatiana decided to take direct conservation actions in this area of the Amazon Forest, since due to the construction of the Interoceanic Highway, notable deforestation was projected in this part of the Amazon. In 2010, she and her sister Rocío, founded ARBIO – Asociación para la Resiliencia del Bosque frente a la Interoceánica (Association for the Resilience of the Forest against the Interoceanic).

The project is supported with small funds and the great effort of the Espinosa sisters, and after much research, finally in 2020, Tatiana published a scientific article in the Revista Forestal del Perú (Peruvian Forestry Magazine) focused on the Shihuahuaco and made the information about this tree public. She mainly wrote about its slow growth in the natural forest and how it takes 300 years to grow just 50 centimeters in diameter in its trunk. Moreover, she wrote about how the illegal extraction of this species is the beginning of a chain of deforestation in the Las Piedras river basin in Madre de Dios.

Primera cabaña ARBIO y Shihuahuaco 

Tatiana Espinosa: the voice of Shihuahuaco

Thanks to the work of the ARBIO team, the Shihuahuaco tree began to be known for its live value and not only for its price in the market.

Tatiana Espinosa: la voz del Shihuahuaco

Illustration by Alfredo Vítor Ayala, for the book Héroes y Heroínas de la Peruanidad by Editorial Planeta, 2021.

In 2019, Tatiana won the international award called Dr. Jane Goodall Hope and Inspiration Ranger Award. In the same year the Ministry of Women awarded her the Order of Merit. In addition, she was considered a Heroine of Peruanity in the book “Héroes y Heroínas de la Peruanidad, Historias para Celebrar el Bicentenario” (Heroes and Heroines of Peruanity, Stories to Celebrate the Bicentennial) by Planeta publishing house in 2021. And thus, Tatiana has little by little begun to be recognized as an important figure in conservation, in science, and in the fight to defend the Amazon Forest of our country.

Like Tatiana, many women are on the front lines of forest conservation on a voluntary or communal basis. They not only face risks due to great gender inequality but also due to the defense of their territories, vital ecosystems for the well-being of all humanity.

Without forests there is no future.

Written by Nicoletta Zucconi

Translated by Selene Sanchez García

a Arbio

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