Origins & Timeline


Amazon Conservation Team Founders Liliana Madrigal and Mark Plotkin

Amazon Conservation Team Founders Liliana Madrigal and Dr. Mark J. Plotkin

Dr. Mark J. Plotkin and Liliana Madrigal, both veterans of large environmental organizations, founded the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) in the mid-1990s. From its beginning, ACT veered from the well-worn paths of the conservation community.

Most conservationists at that time believed in protecting forests from human activity. Governments were persuaded to wall off significant tracts of forest as national parks, hoping to “save the rainforests.” It wasn’t working.

From Liliana’s pioneering work in Central America, the founders knew that the most pristine and continuous forests were not in parks - they were on lands inhabited and controlled by indigenous people.

Mark and Liliana believed that by enlisting the support of local communities that live in the forests, they could achieve conservation results that were as impressive as they were sustainable.

The founders formed a small, like-minded team to apply this approach worldwide. They would later come to concentrate efforts on Amazonia and finally on greater South America, where the core of the mission thrives through today.

Timeline of Prominent Successes


Matawai Maroons, Suriname

Matawai Maroons, Suriname

First complete map of Matawai ancestral territory of Suriname

Expansions of Colombia’s Puerto Sábalo-Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves by 1.4 million acres (~567K ha)


Pure River National Park

Pure River National Park

ACT provides essential support to Colombian National Parks Service to practically eliminate illegal goldmining from the Puré River National Park


Yunguillo, Colombia

Yunguillo, Colombia

Yunguillo Indigenous Reserve expanded fivefold to more than 50,000 acres (~20K ha), connecting two Colombian national parks

Collaborative partnership commences between ACT and the Matawai Maroons of Suriname to compile the group’s land-use and cultural maps in anticipation of the establishment of a community development plan

Indigenous peoples’ public policy and coordinating council inaugurated for the Colombian department of Caquetá, empowering communities significantly

Colombia’s Inga-Kamentsa communities achieve historic territorial expansion of their lands of approximately 100,000 acres (~41K ha)




Yachaikury School officially recognized as an autonomously-administered indigenous public school and central administrator of a regional school network

National first-contact contingency plan drafted to ensure the security and health of Colombian isolated indigenous groups


Jaba Tañiwashkaka site visit

Jaba Tañiwashkaka site visit

Kogi sacred site Jaba Tañiwashkaka officially declared by the Colombian government in a new and unique conservation category

Junior Park Ranger training manuals developed by ACT included in Suriname’s national Environmental Education Box


Maloca of isolated indigenous group, Colombia

Maloca of isolated indigenous group, Colombia

ACT research determining the existence of isolated indigenous groups in Colombia’s Puré River National Park areas provides the basis for an official national decree mandating their protection


Territory mapping of indigenous communities in Suriname

Mapping of ancestral lands in Suriname

90% of all indigenous and native lands in Suriname cumulatively mapped

25 million acres (~10M ha) of indigenous lands collaboratively mapped in the northern Brazilian Amazon


Signing ceremony Orito Ingi-Ande

25,000-acre (~10K ha) Orito Ingi-Ande Medicinal Plant Sanctuary established, the first Amazon reserve specifically created for the conservation of traditional medicinal flora

First indigenous-led carbon credit project in Brazil


Indigenous forest ranger, Suriname

Indigenous forest ranger, Suriname

Indigenous ranger program commenced in Suriname, subsequently recognized by the International Ranger Federation

Half-million-acre (~202K ha) Sete de Setembro indigenous reserve in Brazil collaboratively mapped


Wayana indigenous land mapping, Suriname

Wayana indigenous land mapping, Suriname

Six million acres (~2.4M ha) of Wayana indigenous lands in Suriname collaboratively mapped

First indigenous ranger training and certification course initiated in Brazil


Women healers of the Colombian Amazon

Women healers of the Colombian Amazon

First large-scale gathering of indigenous women healers of the Colombian Amazon serves as the foundation for the establishment of the Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas “La Chagra de la Vida” (ASOMI)

Seven-million-acre (~2.8M ha) Xingu Indigenous Reserve of Brazil collaboratively mapped


Tumucumaque indigenous reserve, Brazil

Tumucumaque indigenous reserve, Brazil

Brazil’s 10-million-acre (~4.5M ha) Tumucumaque Indigenous Reserve collaboratively mapped with indigenous communities

Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park established, the first National Park of Colombia designed to be co-managed by local indigenous communities and the National System of Protect Areas (SINAP)

Founding of Yachaikury, the first school in Caquetá, Colombia to integrate teaching from a Western and indigenous perspective


Map presentation in Kwamalasamutu, Suriname

Map presentation in Kwamalasamutu, Suriname

15 million acres (~6M ha) of indigenous rainforest lands collaboratively mapped in southern Suriname


Tradicional medicine clinic, Suriname

Tradicional medicine clinic, Suriname

First of four traditional medicine clinics established in the Suriname rainforest


Meeting of shamans, Colombia

Meeting of shamans, Colombia

First large-scale shamans’ gathering in the Colombian Amazon inspires the establishment of the Unión de Médicos Indígenas Yageceros de la Amazonia Colombiana


Shamans apprentice meeting, Colombia

Shamans and Apprentices programs initiated in the northwest and northeast Amazon


Founding of ACT