Northeast Amazon

Northeast Amazon


Northeast Amazon Program Overview

ACT’s efforts in the Northeast Amazon are concentrated in Suriname and the Brazil/Suriname border region. As one of the planet’s least disturbed and, to date, least threatened ecosystems, the rainforests of Suriname have long been considered a “Major Wilderness Area.”

One of ACT’s original program sites, as well as the site of ACT President and co-founder Mark Plotkin’s initial fieldwork, Suriname has been the incubator for many successful project prototypes. These include our Shamans and Apprentices program, ethnographic mapping (we have mapped over 30% of Suriname with our indigenous partners) and traditional medicine clinics, which have received international recognition by both UNESCO/Nuffic and the World Bank.


Current Projects

  • Traditional Medicine Clinics in Kwamalasamutu and Tepu

ACT supports an innovative program for the integration of traditional medicine in Suriname in which tribal healers operate and direct traditional medicine clinics built alongside primary care health outposts. Since the program’s inception in 2000, traditional healers of two Trio villages practice on equal footing with western-trained health workers and have been restored to full honor in their communities. Operating at the interface of western medicine, shamanistic healing, public health, and conservation, ACT’s Northeast Amazon Ethnomedicine Program has been recognized by UNESCO/Nuffic as a Best Practice for Indigenous Knowledge, as well as recently as a 2003 World Bank Development Marketplace Global Competition winner.

Northeast Amazon Ethnomedicine Program Portal

  • Shamans and Apprentices Program

One of the core values by which the Amazon Conservation Team operates is the vital importance of shamanic systems. In the areas where we work, the true “experts” on the flora and fauna are the Indians, who have lived there for centuries. When Indians are acculturated, they can lose centuries of knowledge within a generation. ACT provides support to shamans so that they can continue practicing their traditional medicine, and are able to transmit their knowledge to the next generation. We also give “scholarships” to younger Indians, selected by the shamans, so that they can be apprenticed to the shamans.

Selected Achievements

  • Mapping over 30% of Suriname

ACT has worked with Indians from the Tirio communities of Suriname to map over 15 million acres of forest. The Tirio came to ACT for assistance when they needed to draw a map. We hired western-trained cartographers to explain the mapping process, and to train them in the use of GPS technology. The maps they made, completed in 1999 with Native Lands and the government of Suriname, became official government maps. When the other Tirio communities saw the Kwamalasamutu maps, they wanted their own. Indians from Kwamalasamutu traveled to Tepu to train the Indians there on mapmaking. Again, with the Indians we created official government maps that became the first written record the Indians had denoting their own place names, beliefs and knowledge. The Suriname maps have received recognition from National Geographic and MSNBC, among other sources.

  • Tumucumaque Mapping
  • In January of 2003, the maps of the Tumucumaque/Rio Paru d’Este indigenous lands, on the Brazil-Suriname border, were released. These maps cover over 10 million acres–an expanse the size of the state of Maryland–in the most detailed maps of any portion of the Amazon Basin ever created. Again, the maps are official government maps, prepared in partnership with the Apalai, Wayana, Akuriyo and Tirio Indians, as well as FUNAI and PPTAL.




The work of the Amazon Conservation Team is based on ethical relationships with its indigenous partners.



A.C.T. receives top rating for 2nd year!


Combined Federal Campaign/CFC #10410

ACT President Featured in Smithsonian Magazine

Arlington, Virginia
ACT President Mark J. Plotkin is featured in a special 35th anniversary issue of Smithsonian Magazine. Mark is included with 34 other innovators who have made a difference over the course of the magazine’s life. Read more, download the PDF >>

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ACT Newsletter

Completion of Surui Ethnographic Map – Western Brazil


ACT is pleased to announce the completion of the ethnographic mapping project of the Surui traditional lands. The effort yielded an excellent ethnographic map put forth by the Surui, totalling 620,000 acres of intact indigenous territory. read more >>


May 2008 Announcements

ACT Co-founders receive Skoll social entrepreneurship award >> Click here for press release

8/28/07 – ACT Tribal Partner on NPR

Amazon tribal leader, activist, and ACT partner Chief Almir Surui of western Brazil, appeared on NPR’s acclaimed radio show “Living On Earth”.

Click here to learn more

7/17/07 – ACT on NPR!

Dr. Mark Plotkin, Ph.D., President of the Amazon Conservation Team, featured in a live NPR radio interview on “Here on Earth”.

Click here to listen


3/1/07 – Almir Surui featured in Smithsonian Magazine.
Click here to view the article on


*New!* Find the Amazon Conservation Team on Come Join the Team!


The Amazon Conservation Team receives Charity Navigator’s highest rating for the second year in a row! Check out our latest Charity Navigator profile


Donating to the Amazon Conservation Team just got easier thanks to our new partnership with Use our new DonateNow page! – it’s Fast,and it’s Secure!

“Save Rainforests, Save Lives” – features Amazon awareness clip illustrating one of the most compelling reasons for saving biodiversity – your health! Click here to view


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All text and images ©2005-2006 Amazon Conservation Team unless otherwise noted.

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ACT Newsletter | November 2003 |


Dear Friends,

ACT Executive Director Liliana Madrigal is en route to Colombia with Carlos Salinas and Shayne Gardner, a new consultant at ACT Headquarters. They will be meeting with the Northwest Amazon Administration team to further refine accounting and reporting procedures. Leaders of some of the indigenous communities with whom we have the honor to work will be traveling to Bogotá to evaluate ongoing efforts and future directions.

In October, Carolina Alcover and the Brazil mapping team spent two weeks wrapping up the third Xingu mapping workshop. The Xingu mapping process is now in its final phase. One of the paramount chiefs informed Brazil Director Vasco van Roosmalen that this was the first time all 14 tribes of the Xingu had collaborated on a single project!

As part of a multifaceted project supported by the John & Marcia Goldman Foundation, ACT recently conducted a workshop toward the recovery of the traditional music of the Coreguaje Indians. Two elders taught 12 Coreguaje Indians to make traditional instruments and to perform traditional songs. The elders also taught better ways to make their traditional cusmas (dress), ceremonial collars, and rattles. This effort has inspired a series of requests from other tribes to ACT to sponsor similar cultural conservation projects.

Botanist Bruce Hoffman recently traveled to Suriname to begin his research in the southern part of the country. Aided by field assistant Beverly De Vries, he will be living with the Tirio Indians to study their use of the forest and to help them better protect their traditional lands.

As the Holiday Season fast approaches, ACT wishes to ask all of our friends and supporters to consider making a donation to ACT in honor of your friends or family as a holiday gift. For donations of $100 and above, we will send a card to your friends that states “A Gift in your Honor was made by {your name here}. Happy Holidays!”

You can send a check to us directly, or make the donation through our webpage at

We too are blessed by our widening circle of friends. As always, thank you for your support and confidence in our work!

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | October 2003 |

ACT OCTOBER UPDATE October, 2003 Dear Friends, Excellent news! We just heard that ACT’s project with the Guaymi Indians in Costa Rica has been awarded the Ford Prize for Conservation and the Environment, in the category of Conservation of Cultural Inheritance and Education. ACT works with Fundacion TUVA to train the Guaymi in communications techniques which allow them to record their traditions and culture. Even though we are phasing out of Central America to focus all our efforts on the Amazon, we send most sincere congratulations to local representative Hugh Govan and our Guaymi colleagues. The Brazil Team has also been active in the Xingu, meeting with members and leaders to complete the tribal maps. Special thanks to all of our friends and donors who are making this possible! Tied to the release of his latest book, Mark has been appearing on several radio shows recently. On October 9th he was a guest on Michael Krasny’s show “Forum” on KQED in San Francisco. This week Mark and Liliana are traveling with the Young Presidents Organization. Mark will be delivering a lecture on conservation and the history of the Spice Trade. The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | September 2003 |


Dear Friends,

The World Parks Conference is taking place this week in Durban, South Africa. This meeting – held once every ten years – focuses on the state of the world’s protected areas and features innovative projects and approaches from all over the globe.

ACT is extremely proud of the fact that our efforts in the northwest Amazon are being highlighted at the conference. ACT worked in close partnership with the Ingano Indians and the Colombian Park Service to establish Indi Wasi National Park –  the Amazon’s first biocultural reserve. The presentation in Durban is being given by Mario Jacanamijoy (an Ingano shaman’s apprentice) and Ignacio Giraldo of our Northwest Amazon Program accompanied by Juan Carlos Riascos, Director of Colombia’s highly-regarded National Park Service.

We are happy to report that we were able to raise the $100,000 necessary to match the $100,000 challenge grant for the Xingu Reserve in the southeast Brazilian Amazon. The Xingu is home to 14 very traditional tribes and represents the largest tract of forest (7 million acres!) in  the southeast Amazon. Our special thanks to all of you who made it possible.

And a big thanks to Board Member Heather Thomas for arranging and hosting a benefit for ACT at the Hogan boutique in Los Angeles on September 9th.  Hogan is a purveyor of fine shoes and handbags, and they held a special preview of their fall and winter line to benefit ACT.  We will receive a portion of the proceeds from all shoes and bags that were sold.

This Saturday, the 20th of September, there is another benefit for ACT.  Proceeds from food and t-shirt sales at the Funkjunction concert in Apple Valley, Minnesota will be donated to ACT.

We would like to welcome some new staff to ACT Headquarters.  Dr. Darron Collins is joining the Team on Sept. 21. Darron is an ethnobotanist who will be working at ACT Headquarters as the Director of Development

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | July 2003 |


Dear Friends,

Summer is here, but that has not brought any lazy days to the Amazon Conservation Team.  Most of you will be receiving our latest postcard update by snail mail next week which features a striking photograph that Liliana took on her recent trip to Brazil. ACT Brasil is currently hard at work mapping the rest of the Xingu Reserve–the second workshop was held in June.

We recently received three great pieces of news from our Northwest Amazon Program.  Marta Rosero, an Afro-Colombian who has been working with ACT, has just received a fellowship to complete her Ph.D. on the history and development of our work in Colombia.  The Ingano Indigenous Reserve of Yurayaco has now received official status–a big victory for our partners who live there.  And the Research Group on Traditional Health Systems sponsored by ACT has just been incorporated into the Colombian Academy of Sciences – a great honor, and an important step towards the establishment of a Masters Program in Ethnomedicine at the Universidad del Rosario.

ACT Staff members from four countries will travel to Colombia at the beginning of August for an institutional meeting.  We will be working on improving our internal communications and accounting systems–increasingly important as ACT grows.

Thanks for all of your support, and enjoy your summer!

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | March 2003 |

ACT UPDATE   March, 2003

Dear Friends,

We have just received some very good news!

An anonymous donor has offered a “challenge grant” of $100,000, meaning that she will match every donation dollar-for-dollar until we (hopefully) reach the sum of $100K.

We have until the end of April to reach this goal. All donations can be sent to us here at headquarters. We thank you in advance for your continued support!

Meanwhile, Mark Plotkin, ACT President and Neville Gunther, ACT Suriname Director, recently spent two weeks in Suriname, visiting field sites and meeting with government officials to talk about our projects. They also discussed the new Tumucumaque map that ACT Suriname and the Indians worked on with Vasco van Roosmalen, Brasil Program Director, in Brasil. This map, as we wrote about in an earlier newsletter, covers 10 million acres of Amazonian forest in northern Brazil.

This map of the Tumucumaque Indigenous Reserve continues to garner accolades and attention. It was recently featured in an opinion piece in the New Scientist, an influential British publication.

ACT also expects to be featured in Scholastic News later this month, where 25 million students will read about our work.

Best wishes from your friends and colleagues at ACT!

The Amazon Conservation Team