Darvinia (Darvinia Amazonia Reserva Comunal), in the Peruvian part of the Amazon basin, is the small private communal nature reserve of the barrio Jeru (Nuevo Jerusalen), an isolated 20 family detribalized Jibaro-Achual community subsisting along the east bank of the pristine upper Rio Tahuayo tributary of Rio Amazonas. The reserve started with a community environmental conservation referendum in 2005, organized by lieutenant governor Tito Manihuari and with guidance from INRENA (Instituto de Recourses Naturales).
The reserve is inside of Nuevo Jerusalen’s indigenous Jibaro-Achual territory, which had traditionally been used for unsustainable logging, hunting, fishing, and slash-and-burn gardening. Relentlessly, outsiders commercially exploited their hardwoods and other precious natural resources. Their traditional way of life became an increasingly difficult means of subsistence, occasionally with neither enough food to eat nor enough cash for clothing. Medicines, clothing, tools, grafted fruit trees, chickens, geese, school supplies, soccer and volley ball equipment were occasionally donated by charitable visitors and organizations. Everyone in the community realized that their inevitable future, in succeeding generations, would have been greater impoverishment caused by the continuous depletion of their surrounding natural resources and their loss of attraction to eco-tourists, as had occurred with all of the older downriver communities. But they believed that if they protected their wild life, fished with hand lines and sustainably harvested their trees; then their rich natural resources would gradually be restored to again provide them and with enough building materials, food; and from eco-tourism, desperately need cash.
Presently, the families in the Nuevo Jerusalen community are economically benefiting by providing guests with accommodations, guide services, fish, eggs, garden produce and handicrafts. In addition, they are culturally benefiting by their social interactions with some eco-tourists. It is this realization of self-employment by all productive members of the Nuevo Jerusalen in eco-tourism which has made it far more desirable for them to protect and show their wildlife, rather than continue to hunt it for feathers, hides, meat and cash.
Darvinia is a 6-7 hour trip from Iquitos city by speed boat with a scenic cruise up the Rio Amazonas and Rio Tahuayo. It is located near to all of the many narrow pristine uppermost tributaries of Rio Tahuayo: Rio Yanayaquillo, Rio Tahuayillo, Rio Blanquillo, Rio Pinal, Rio Negrillo, and Rio Tampocillo. These remote tributaries provide access for exploring some of the vast pristine flooded lowland and dry upland forests with their palm swamps, floating meadows, oxbow lakes, forest streams, and clay-licks where many rarely seen fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals can occasionally be observed, depending on the phase of the flood season, the weather conditions and the time of the day.
Adjacent to Darvinia, on the opposite bank of the Rio Tahuayo, is the vast million hectare Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserva Comunal, which was created by the adjoining 18 riverside village communities, as a means of stopping the relentless commercial exploitation of their natural resources by outsiders. Conservationists politically and technically assisted in the creation of this reserve, as a means of preserving the extraordinarily rich biodiversity in the region and saving from extinction rare species, such as the endangered red uakari monkey. According the Minister of Agriculture, the reserve has at least 240 species of fish, 157 species of amphibians, 65 species of reptiles, 550 species of birds, and 87 species of mammals – excluding bats. The mammals include 14 species of primates, more than for any nature reserve in Peru.