The satellite’s eye view from high above northern Peru in mid-2013 laid out a stark reality: Ecologist Matt Finer and his colleagues were watching “blow by blow” in a series of images from NASA’s Landsat satellite as a once-unbroken blanket of green Amazonian rainforest was giving way to neat strips of bare land. The systematic dismantling of nearly 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of decades-old, closed-canopy rainforest was at first thought to be a frontier foray into Peru’s growing oil palm sector at the time. But it soon became clear that the big push was altering the landscape for a huge estate in the remote Amazon by a company — or rather, a chain of companies controlled by self-described “serial plantations entrepreneur” Dennis Melka. Neither the companies nor Melka were trying to hide the results of their work, at least from the people they hoped would invest in the operation through United Cacao, a publicly traded umbrella company based in the Cayman Islands. In fact, they were celebrating their progress outside the Amazonian hamlet of Tamshiyacu. At times in 2013 and 2014, crews were clearing as much as 100 hectares (250 acres) of forest a week in a bid to make United Cacao “the largest and lowest cost corporate grower of sustainable and traceable cacao beans,” according to a quote from Melka on the company’s website as it existed in 2015. To drum up early interest ahead of United Cacao’s initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market, Melka as…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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