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Guardian of the Forest

Santa Rosillo, Peru

by Sarah Fretwell

Published March 2024

Apu Quinto Inuma was a former lumber trafficker turned park ranger turned rogue Forest Guardian. He became a tireless international advocate for the environment and Native rights and his community of Santa Rosillo in the Amazon of Peru.

To prevent the devastation of land, logging, and drug cartels operating in neighboring communities, Quinto organized other Natives to patrol the forest even after the government denied their ancestral rights to the territory. They worked to protect their children’s future and “their brothers who could not speak” — the trees of the forest.

With old guns, machetes, and rubber boots, they volunteer beside their village in San Martin. On patrols, they look for new burn and grow areas, document it with cell phones, and send the notes back to local officials. Struggling to survive in this remote region, many people here work for illegal logging and drug cartels.

In November of 2023, Quinto was shot and killed in retaliation for his environmental work.

His spirit still lives on in the forest.

Sarah's project, "Guardian of the Forest" will be on display at the Bridge Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 13-May 25, 2024, and at Photoville in Brooklyn, New York, June 1-16, 2024.

Sarah Fretwell

Journalist, climate activist, and political scientist, Sarah Fretwell, works as a multimedia storyteller. Her work focuses on the intersection of the environment, people, and business with one question: What if the new bottom line was love? Her award-winning photojournalism explores the lives of everyday people with extraordinary stories and creates a human connection that engages people on a personal level. Her work offers individuals a voice for justice, insight for solutions, and the human connection needed for international engagement. Some of her notable work and clients include the BioCarbon Fund, United Nations, USAID, The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, World Bank Group, and Tara Oceans Foundation. Sarah is a storyteller with Blue Earth Alliance. She loves collaboration, working as a team, creating compelling stories, and living outside of the box. Some of her favorite pastimes include sipping on farmers market green juice, meditating on mountain tops, spiking her espresso with superfoods, surfing in Papua New Guinea, hitchhiking through remote jungles of Indonesia, biking Gibraltar peak in Santa Barbara, discovering Tahiti by trimaran, and road-tripping through Banff Canada. When she is not adventuring for good, she resides in Santa Barbara, California.

Follow Sarah Fretwell on Instagram

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