El Cañi Sanctuary

1,294 acres/524 hectares
Acquired in 1989
Araucanía Region, Chile

El Cañi Sanctuary, in the Araucanía Region of central Chile, is modest in size at 1,186 acres. 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 Cañi; 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 Max Neef, 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 El Cañi Sanctuary soon became a pioneering native forest education project in Chile.

Situated roughly thirteen miles outside the popular resort town of Pucon, in the northern reaches of South America’s temperate rainforest region, El Cañi Sanctuary sits at one of the highest elevations in an active volcanic landscape. “Cañi,” 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, 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 Cañi, which provides an inspiring setting for environmental education.