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Updated on July 15th, 2011
This ‘research’ is about a controversial figure, the american biologist Charles A.Munn and his organization Tropical Nature. Around 2009 we casually stepped on a lot of disturbing rumours about his involvement in building eco-lodges in South America and his modus operandi in these countries.
Under the umbrella of research (he is a renowned biologist with a long time experience in research) and the excuse of conservation he is building a system of private luxury eco-lodges in areas that are extremely interesting and sensible for wildlife.
The tactics seem to be similar: a local conservation NGO is founded (in most of them he is part of the board or consultant) and this NGO buys land in sensible areas, using the funds of international donors. In these areas he builds ‘his’ lodges, often disregarding local legislation (Peru, Brazil) and getting in conflict with local communities (Bolivia, Ecuador)about the management.
It is unclear how the funds enter the countries and where the profits of these lodges go (see Parliamentary Commission of Investigation, interrogation of C. Munn), being in remote areas some are extremely expensive (see Jaguar Research Center, Pantanal).
The ‘net’ of TN related NGO’s is intricated, they are all intertwined and it seems that funds are moved in between this net.
In 1999 Munn was denounced in Peru for building and operating Sandoval Lake Lodge without permission and license, today it seems he is still involved with it (general manager of the lodge is Victoria Zamalloa Blanco, we guess wife or relative of Daniel Zamalloa Blanco, whose name is frequently found in association with Munn’s, he is listed as ‘director’ of Tropical Nature on tax forms).
In 2003 (concluded in 2006) a Parliamentary Commission of Investigation about Biopiratery in Brazil investigated Charles A. Munn and the NGO BioBrasil he was working with at that time.
BioBrasil disappeared from the net (on tax form 990 of 2006 payments BioBrasil is still between the receivers)
Between 2003 and 2004 relevant changes can be noted on tax forms 990, Peter English (former CEO) is out and new persons appear as directors.
In November 2009 Charles A. Munn was denounced by the Public Ministry of Mato Grosso for Environmental Crimes, destruction and harm of preserved forests, cutting of trees from these forests, directly damaging conservation unities and impeding the regeneration of these forests and unlicenced touristic activities.
He had bought land after the creation of the Parque Estadual Encontro das Aguas (Northern Pantanal) in 2004 and built a luxury tented camp deep inside the park area, operative from 2006, without governmental license.
He is accused to practice feeding of jaguars with dead animals to attract them and guarantee the sight to tourists, an accuse he had already faced in the past in Bahia, in the region As Barreiras he administered together with the late NGO BioBrasil, planting corn fields to attract birds.
The Jaguar Research Center is not a community based project (leading positions seem to be hold predominantly by foreigners), not a research center (if research and conservation is only about observing certain species while earning money on it, well, than all tourists that casually visit these areas and all tourism entrepreneurs should be considered researchers..) but a very profitable venture of Charles A. Munn in Brazil.
Maybe Charles A. Munn is ‘honest’ and really deeply involved with conserving nature at any price, even going against the local law.
This blog hasn’t the pretention to give evidence of dishonesty (this is the job of the Brazilian authorities), even if the evidence of irregular behaviour in more than one occasion seems glaring to us.
We would like it to be on one side a constructive instrument/incitement for all the voiceless people that try to live and work honestly and respectful of nature and local laws in the area. We hope that the very few who have the courage to speak out the truth don’t give up the fight.
On the other side we think it should be imperative for travelers to know who they are dealing with.
After having been closed down, dismantled and fined by Brazilian authorities in 2009 the ‘Jaguar Research Center’ is scheduled to reopen on July 1th, 2011 under the name of ‘SouthWild’, same location as far as I know, same owners (Charles A. Munn and his Peruvian wife Mariana Valqui) but different managers (foreigners again).
July 2011 update
SouthWild Jaguar Camp started indeed operating with tourists on the other side of Piquiri river in Mato Grosso do Sul. After about a week it was again embargoed, this time by Enviromental Police of MS. Their collegues in MT should take example…it took them 3 years to put an end to Munn’s operations inside the park.
*All information gathered in this blog is publicly available through the web, nothing has been obtained by any illicit mean. It is only the result of patient searches.
Any additional contribution is welcome of course!