A Community-Driven Conservation Success Story in the Colombian Amazon

A monkey playing in the trees at the Maikuchiga Monkey Sanctuary Photo © Sergio D. Spadavecchia

By Raye Mocioiu

The lush, green expanse of the Colombian Amazon is filled with a dazzling array of plant and animal life. But hidden in this paradise is a growing threat: illegal hunting and trafficking of endangered species. That’s where the Maikuchiga Sanctuary comes in—this incredible foundation is dedicated to preserving the Amazon’s biodiversity, protecting its fauna and flora from the devastating impact of human greed.

But what makes Maikuchiga truly special is that it’s not just a wildlife refuge—it’s also a community-driven conservation success story. The foundation, which manages the sanctuary, recognizes that protecting the Amazon’s ecosystem isn’t just about saving individual animals but preserving an entire ecological corridor vital for the planet’s balance.

To that end, Maikuchiga rescues primates and other wildlife who have been injured or confiscated from illegal traders, rehabilitates them, and releases them back into the wild. But the foundation’s work goes beyond animal care—they also work to discourage the commercialization of wildlife, managing the reception, care, rehabilitation, and release of animals that have been damaged or confiscated by government authorities.

Established in 2006 by Dr. Sara Bennett, Leoncio Sánchez, and Jhon Vázquez, the Maikuchiga Foundation has achieved remarkable success working with the local people. From the beginning, the foundation focused on conservation practices, but they soon began providing ecotourism services as well. The conservation program for monkeys, which were a threatened species, served as an economic alternative to hunting, providing sustainable well-being for the entire community.

maikuchiga monkey sanctuary
Julian Barajas, tour guide © Sergio D. Spadevecchia

Dr. Bennett, a primatologist and founder of the Maikuchiga Foundation, ran the sanctuary in true partnership with the local community. She made sure that all employees, except herself, were from the community, and when she moved back to the United States in 2019, she handed over the reins to Jhon, one of the community leaders who had worked with her for over a decade. The community is involved in decision-making, and any funds left over after salaries and running costs are given to the community to use as they wish. Each year, the community has voted to use the funds to provide school supplies for every child in Mocagua.

What sets the Maikuchiga Foundation apart from other wildlife organizations is its deep commitment to working with locals. For more than a decade, Maikuchiga has worked with the Mocagua community in conservation and ecotourism services in the area. The foundation has many goals, including discouraging wildlife commercialization, developing regional environmental education programs and materials, and promoting fair and sustainable management of natural resources.

The Maikuchiga Foundation’s work is not just about rescuing and rehabilitating animals; it’s about the impact they make on everyone. They integrate fine arts, cultural conservation, and biological conservation, train people from regional communities, and contribute to participatory participation based on traditional and scientific knowledge.

The Maikuchiga Foundation serves as a model for community-based conservation efforts. The foundation is committed to protecting the Amazon rainforest’s biodiversity while providing sustainable livelihoods for the community. The sanctuary’s rehabilitation and reintegration programs for rescued animals have been successful in protecting threatened species and helping the animals return to the wild. The Maikuchiga Sanctuary is a remarkable testament to the power of community-driven conservation efforts in preserving our planet’s precious resources.

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