El Cañi Sanctuary

The Cani Araucaria Sanctuary, in the Araucania region of central Chile, is modest in size, but it is noteworthy as an exceptional example of an old-growth Araucaria forest natural community, and also as one of the first privately funded protected areas in Chile. The Lahuen Foundation was formed in 1989 to acquire the initial properties for the Cani; the Conservation Land Trust later assisted in expanding the reserve.

A group of wildlands philanthropists including Alan Weeden, then-president of the Weeden Foundation, Yvon Chouinard, founder of the Patagonia clothing company, and Doug Tompkins were invited by Ancient Forest International to join Chilean conservationists (and Lahuen board members) Adriana Hoffmann, Manfred MaxNeef, Sergio Vergara, Nicole Mintz, and others to purchase and formally protect this native forest remnant. Other donors in Chile and the United States also contributed, and the Cani Sanctuary soon became Chile’s premier native forest education project.


Roughly thirteen miles outside the popular resort town of Pucon in the northern reaches of South America’s temperate rainforest region, the Cani Sanctuary sits at one of the highest elevations in an active volcanic landscape. “Cani,” which means “the vision that transforms” in the native Mapuche language, is a lagoon-studded, verdant, collapsed caldera ringed by rock towers and filled with cathedral- like primary forest, home to many rare animal and plant species. The Araucaria, or monkey- puzzle pine, is a relict, a coniferous holdout in a hemisphere where the forests have long since evolved to broadleaf species. Along with the ginkgo, it is thought to be the arboreal species with the most ancient lineage. Surviving almost unchanged for nearly a quarter-billion years, this marvelous tree from Jurassic times lives on in the Cani, which provides an inspiring setting for environmental education.