A tributary of the Amazon River, the Purus flows for a distance of 3,211 kilometers through dense Amazon rainforests. The Purus is also a part of the international boundary between the two Latin American countries of Brazil and Peru. It runs in a zig-zag fashion, with its drainage basin spreading out across 63,166 square kilometers, and its origin lying in southeastern Peru. It shares its name with the Alto Purus National Park located in Peru. The most striking feature of the river is that it has five river channels, or "furos", running in a parallel direction to each other at a regularly held distance. The river is also navigable to a considerable extent of its course (specifically, around 2,650 kilometers of navigable waterways) and ultimately drains into the Amazon River as a tributary.
4. Historical Role
The Purus River has a great historical significance, and has its name derived from the name of a local branch of the native inhabitants of the area, named after the Amazonian tribal group who had settled in the Purus River region before the First Millennium BC. It has also supported the civilization of multiple tribes since then, like the Apurinã and Dani peoples in Brazil. Both of these tribes have their own native languages, and still little contact with modern civilization. Some other native tribes supported by the Purus River Basin are the Amahuaca, Apurina, Junikuni, and Sharanahua. It has long been a prominent source of rubber for European markets as well.
3. Modern Significance
The Purus is a river of economic importance for both Brazil and Peru. Many of these two nations' rubber plantations are concentrated along the course of the river, and the Purus River basin is a major supplier of such commodities as Manioc (a root crop also referred to as Cassava), Jute (used for rope making), and Guarana (used in caffeinated beverages, such as energy drinks). These are some of the major cash crops that sustain the employment and food sources of many local people. As a home to large number of indigenous communities, the river basin is also now a strong attraction for tourists, birdwatchers, anthropologists, and wildlife lovers alike. In short, it has emerged as a major destination for South American riverine tourism.
The River Purus supports the life of approximately one million aquatic species, wild animals, and plants combined. Among the birds here, notable ones include the Blue Heron, Egrets, Green Parrots, Scarlet macaws, and Jabiru Storks. There is also an abundance of plovers and toucans along the river's course. In and along the waters of the Purus River, there are huge predatory Caimans, as well as Water Lizards, massive Boa Constrictor Snakes, and many more.
1. Threats and Disputes
Deforestation across the River Purus region is a major threat to its many species' respective existences. Pollution has now reached alarming levels as well, and consequently the biodiversity of the river basin is being depleted fast, which is a reason for grave concern. Easy access to the river basin due to the Trans-Amazonian Highway has served as a lucrative route for loggers, gold miners, and turtle smugglers, all of which carry out activities detrimental to the natural environs of the Purus River Basin. Furthermore, the cocaine trade has increased across the river region, and smugglers are using the river as a means of transporting themselves and their illicit goods in and out of the dense forests, which is a matter of great concern for the safety of the native tribes here. The presence of Brazilian rubber tappers is also posing a risk to the existence of these tribes, who have largely remained untouched by any outside civilization for thousands of years. However, there is no international dispute over the possession of the Purus River's waterways at present.