Peru's Twelve National Parks

Macaws in Peru's Manu National Park.
Macaws in Peru's Manu National Park.

Alto Purús is Peru's largest protected area, while Cutervo is the country's oldest national park. Also, the country has one of the largest and most diversified reserves in the world in Manu National Park. There are also the highest mountain ranges in the world found in Huascarán National Park containing a spectacle of glaciers and deeply intersected ravines. With 12 protected areas, covering around 10% of the country's total area, Peru boasts of being a mega-diverse country with more than 1700 bird species making it the second most diverse avian country in the world after Colombia. The Amazon Basin also adds to the diversified ecosystem of the country with many biological systems.

Alto Purus

Situated along the Brazilian border, Alto Purus is a vast expanse of uniquely flooded savannas, lowland tropical moist forests, and extensive bamboo-dominated forests. The park lies in the Southwestern Amazon Forests ecoregion with a high biodiversity, unique ecology, and evolutionary process. The ecosystem provides a refuge to the highly valued big-leaf mahogany. There is a great diversity of fauna 80 species of terrestrial mammals, 100 fish species, 157 species of reptiles and amphibians, and some endemic birds and butterflies. Within the region are the rare Goeldi’s monkey (Callimico goeldii), endangered black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), Bush Dog (Spheothos venaticus, Jaguar (Panthera onca), and the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). The ecoregion covers an area of 9,694 square miles. For years, illegal logging and poaching have impacted on these forests and biodiversity, disturbing the natural set up and generating inconceivable effects on the indigenous populations. In 2004 the government partnered with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to guarantee the integrity and conservation of the site. Also, ECOPORUS, an organization formed by the local communities, surveys and complement actions of the WWF in protecting and conserving the park.

Cutervo National Park

Cutervo was established in 1961, and is the oldest National Park in Peru. Located in the northern Peruvian Andes, Cutervo protected area covers an extended 32 square miles of Andean Montane forests and Paramo conservation. It is a vast expanse of wet montane forests, highly high grasslands, rivers, and small lakes. The Peruvian Yungas ecoregion lies partly in the Cutervo National Park. The park houses 741 species of vascular plants many of which are broad-leaved trees, conifers, palm trees, and 88 species of orchids. The park provides the last homage to the critically endangered mammal species such as the mountain tapir, the Neotropical bear, the mountain paca, the spectacled bear, the giant anteater, and the wild cat (Leopardus colocolo). Birds include the golden-headed quetzal, the Oilbird, and the Andean cock-of-the-rock, and species of catfish (Astroblepus rosei) in the underground streams inside the park. The forests have a cloud and fog coverage all year round. The area experiences a mild and temperate climate with Average rainfall of 800 millimeters and temperatures of 14.0° Cesius. Wood extraction and clearing of forests for agriculture and pastures and rejection of new park boundaries threaten these parks.

Manu National Park

The Manu biosphere reserve located in Cusco is an expanse of ecological zones. It is found covering parts of the Central Andean wet puna at 4,200 meters above sea level, the Peruvian Yungas at middle elevations, and Southwest Amazon moist forests at 150 meters above sea level. The park, with its 6,627 square miles of area, encompasses the Manu River watershed, the lowlands below and the high-Andean ecosystem of Grasslands, Montane forests, and scrub. The topography confers to the city one of the highest biodiversity of any park on the planet. There are more than 15,000 species of plants and up to 250 tree varieties and 40% of the Park is the tropical rainforest of Amazonian lowland. The wildlife of the biosphere is enormous with 14 species of monkeys, including the pygmy marmoset, Goeldi’s marmoset, and the shock-headed capuchin. Its 222 species of mammal include the Peruvian Jaguar, the marsh deer, Brazilian tapir, the South America Red Brocket and the wild tayra. There are also some 99 reptilian species, 140 amphibians’ species, 1000 bird species, and other fish and insects.

Huascarán National Park

Huascaran, located in the Cordillera Blanca mountains area, is in the world's highest tropical mountain range, rising to around 6,768 meters above sea level. The park, covering an area of 1,300 square miles, is a spectacle of plateaus intersected by deep ravines watered by many torrents, glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains, and vegetation. The thick vegetation includes the small pockets of tropical montane forests of the valleys, a diverse collection of Paramo and Puna grasslands and scrublands and tropical tundra at the higher elevations. The park boasts of the most spectacular conservation and recovery of the emblematic Vicuna in South America. Other mammals in the region include Mountain Lions, the North Andean Deer, the vulnerable species of the Spectacled bear, and the endangered Andean mountain cat. There are more than 100 species of avian fauna including the Andean Condor, the Giant Hummingbird, and the giant cone bill. More than 800 plant species, including the endangered Queen of the Andes, grow here. Huascaran climate is the warm, humid winds blowing from the Amazon Basin generating abundant rain from December to March and a pronounced dry season from May to October with intensely cold nights below 0° Celsius. The growing human population living in the park poses a threat to the parks resources and integrity. Tourism though a potentially less damaging threat also impacts on the ecosystem. The National Service of Protected Areas under the Ministry of Environment leads in the conservation efforts of the park.

Ecological Roles of National Parks in Peru

National Parks, reserves, and biospheres are places that confer protection to Peru's wild flora and fauna. The sites are protected and conserved to maintain their integrity so that no negative pressure is impacted on the isolated indigenous communities. The exploitation of natural resources by humans in the protected areas is forbidden in Peru.

Peru's Twelve National Parks

Peru's National Parks Area
Alto Purús 9,694 square miles
Amotape Hills 585 square miles
Bahuaja-Sonene 4,214 square miles
Cordillera Azul 5,225 square miles
Cutervo 32 square miles
Huascarán 1,300 square miles
Ichigkat muja – Cordillera del Condor 342 square miles
Manú 6,627 square miles
Otishi 1,181 square miles
Rio Abiseo
Tingo Maria
1,060 square miles
18 square miles
Yanachaga–Chemillén National Park 470 square miles

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