LETICIA, COLOMBIA—When you think of the Amazon you may think of an immense tropical forest covering more than 2 million square miles and spread across nine countries. It’s one of the world’s great natural wonders, known as the Earth’s lung. Without a healthy Amazon, we can’t have a healthy Earth. But hidden in the rainforest is a story of intense pressure and exploitation: the entire paradise is for sale.

From the rubber industry and the trade in animal hides to drug trafficking and mass tourism, humans' role in the Amazon has been one of exploitation. In the Colombian part of the Amazon alone, more than 20,000 wild animals were trafficked in 2016, and almost 300,000 acres deforested.

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Fusion traveled to Leticia, the capital of the Colombian Amazon, to explore its burgeoning tourism industry and see how it’s pressuring indigenous communities and threatening wildlife. Some in the region believe that if harnessed correctly, ecotourism—an alternative to predatory tourism—can help conserve the rainforest. But more and more people are coming to the Amazon in search of adventure, and the need to sustainably manage the rising tourism gets more pressing each day.

Credits:
Executive Producer: Nicolás Ibargüen
Producers: Lara Fernandez and Alejandro Bernal
Correspondent: Enrique Acevedo
Director of Photography: Federico Pardo
Editor: Jose L. Cuesta
Researcher: María Gabriela Gómez
Original Music: Alejandro Reyes
Audio Mixer: Carlos Hurtado

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Born and raised in Spain, Lara is a digital producer and writer for Fusion — covering stories in culture and technology as well as in-depth environmental issues across the globe.

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Nicolás Ibargüen is an environmentalist and director of the Planet Initiative of the Americas Business Council Foundation, an organization that supports innovative social and environmental impact projects.

He is the environmental Correspondent for Fusion and Univision.

Nicolás organizes expeditions and events with world leaders to raise awareness about our relationship with the planet. He produced the award-winning documentary “Amazon Gold” and he is a board member of NRDC’s Voces Verdes and the Humane Society International. He was the Editor and Publisher of Poder Magazine.