Denver Zoo: Women’s cooperative in Puno


Dina Baker

Local women’s collective and Denver Zoo band together to work on conservation efforts at Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca is facing many conservation threats to its water quality and native species of wildlife. Pollution, littering, and contamination of the water from local mining operations are a few of the contributors. The Lake Titicaca Frog (Telmatobius culeus) is facing these threats in addition to being poached from their habitats. The frogs are taken to be sold in markets in Puno and Lima to be blended into 'œfrog shakes'. These shakes are said to have medicinal properties, though none have been proven scientifically.

These are the conservation issues that have drawn Denver Zoo to Lake Titicaca. The organization has a team of conservationist and educators and have been working with scientists in the area for years to try and save the frogs. There is now an additional focus on the quality of the water, which is a concern for all wildlife and humans alike. However, conservation efforts, especially those of this magnitude, cannot be realized without the support, engagement, and participation of the local communities.

Local women of Puno and surrounding communities have come together to form Ccori Ampara (Hands of Gold), a women's collective created by the women themselves, who make handicrafts, or artesaní­a, many with frog themes to help raise awareness for the frogs. Denver Zoo acts as a mentor for Ccori Ampara and helps support and guide the women in their business ventures. They are becoming empowered to learn new skills, educate themselves and others, as well as earn income to help support their families.

'œMy name is Eudocia Mamani and I live in the Community of San Jose de Pucani. Thanks to the Denver Zoo frog project, it has taught us to care for the frog and we want to learn more.'

The women of Ccori Ampara come together from various communities around the lake, including Puno, to learn how to knit and create handicrafts to sell at fairs and markets in Puno. The women's handmade products are also making their way across the globe to be sold in Denver Zoo's gift shop. This partnership allows Denver Zoo visitors to learn about Ccori Ampara, purchase handmade goods from Peru, and learn about the conservation efforts for the Lake Titicaca Frog. Ccori Ampara's products include purses, hats, gloves, keychains and finger puppets, to name a few. They offer products such as hats and knitted children's toys that depict Lake Titicaca Frogs, which are always a big hit with customers.

(Photo: Dina Baker)

Ccori Ampara gains new members to the group every year and hold frequent trainings and workshops to teach each other new skills, designs in knitting, as well as learning about the frogs. Many of these women travel long distances from around the lake to come to Puno and participate in the collective.

The women of Ccori Ampara have learned about the history, the importance of and threats to the frogs and are now working to help educate others who live near and visit the lake. Most importantly, they are ambassadors for the conservation of the Lake Titicaca Frogs. Ccori Ampara's ever-growing partnership with Denver Zoo allows for conservation messaging to be spread throughout the Puno region while also supplying the local fairs and markets with well-made and enjoyable handicrafts. With local support from groups such as Ccori Ampara, a better future for Lake Titicaca, its frogs, and its residents is on the horizon.

(Photo: Dina Baker)

Dina Baker works at the Denver Zoo as an Outreach Specialist. She visits schools and community centers around Colorado and Wyoming and educates students and adults of all ages about animals, habitats, and conservation. She brings animals with her to help facilitate learning and connect people to nature. Her favorite animals to work with are birds of prey, and the tamandua, a lesser anteater that is native to Peru. She is a Project Contributor for Denver Zoo's Lake Titicaca Frog Project based in Puno. She primarily acts as a liaison between the women's collective and her team, as well as translating documents and communication between Spanish and English.