Sustainable use of resources in the Tambopata region has a long history. Indigenous groups lived off of the natural resources in the forests and tropical savannahs of Tambopata for thousands of years, and continue to do so in some areas. Although this involves the hunting of wild animals, traditionally, certain areas were set aside for hunting and local people managed such places to avoid depleting wildlife populations they depended on for food. In addition, population sizes of those communities were too small to make a big impact on animal populations. In modern times, larger numbers of people and access to firearms have resulted in higher levels of unsustainable hunting in some areas although this has been alleviated by establishing protected areas as well as various would-be hunters opting to work in ecotourism instead of hunting in the forest.
Many local people in Tambopata have also worked in one of the most sustainable activities in the region, that of Brazil nut harvesting. This type of “farming” is about as sustainable as one can get because it can’t be done without the protection of mature, old growth trees in a forest setting. However, since the limited number of Brazil nut trees and subsequent market can only support so many people, many other families in Tambopata make a living off of small farms that were established by cutting down forest. To help curtail further deforestation by farming families in Tambopata, and promote reforestation, the Althelia Climate Fund has invested in a project that improves agricultural practices, finances biological monitoring and research, and the development of organic, deforestation-free, fair-trade cocoa farms. The goal of this project is sustainable land use in buffer zones of the Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.
Gold mining is a major problem in the area between the Tambopata National Reserve and Manu National Park. About 50,000 hectares of primary rainforest have been lost to illegal and informal small scale artisanal gold mining. The current government is trying to find ways to contain gold mining and mitigate its impact. A group of scientists working for the Center of Innovation and Technology is discovering the ways of operating that cause the least damage using smaller water pumps and mercury free methods.
Several ecotourism ventures in Tambopata have also been involved with sustainability efforts by protecting rainforest and oxbow lakes where endangered Giant Otters live, and employing local people who would otherwise be earning a living through such unsustainable activities as deforestation, hunting, or gold-mining. Several lodges and companies are also involved with conservation research projects and training local people in sustainable development practices as well as implementing various green initiatives used at the lodges.