In celebration of the International Year of Forests, we are highlighting those individuals, communities and businesses actively safeguarding the lungs of the planet.
In 1972, Max Gunther was working as a veterinarian, assisting sheep and cattle farmers in the Peruvian Andes. But when a national land reform eradicated all large, private land holdings in Peru and converted most farms into worker-owned cooperatives, the demand for Gunther’s veterinary services was eliminated.
Forced to find another way to earn a living, Gunther and a few friends purchased 260 acres (105 hectares) along the Tambopata River in Peru, where they built the Explorer’s Inn, an Amazonian ecolodge that caters to birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. While Gunther was not immediately aware of the extent of the natural riches surrounding his property, several visiting biologists quickly uncovered the area’s extraordinary biodiversity and encouraged the government to create a 13,590-acre (5,500-hectare) reserve around it. “Our lodge is situated within a pristine rainforest which has been untouched for 35 years [and safeguards] abundant wildlife, including several endangered species,” says Gunther. “We also hold world records [for an area of this size], with 600 bird species and 1,232 species of butterflies.”
While he hasn’t always thought of himself as a conservationist, today Gunther is deeply committed to ensuring the continued protection of the astounding natural resources surrounding his property. He has already installed solar panels, begun recycling, is educating guests about wildlife and conservation and participated in a number of Rainforest Alliance workshops on sustainable tourism best practices and aims to earn Rainforest Alliance verification for his inn.