Manu National Park: Stunning biodiversity
The Manu National Park (in Spanish Parque Nacional del Manu) east of Cuzco is a paradise of organic diversity. 15,000 species of flowers and plants thrive here. More than 1,000 of the world’s 9,700 bird species live in Manu National Park. In addition, more than 200 different mammal species – such as the famous giant otters, magnificent jaguars, tapirs, sloths, nocturnal monkeys, glorious bright butterflies – inhabit the area. We only speak of the species discovered so far! Every year new, previously unknown specimens are added. Some researchers even consider the Manu National Park to be the most biodiverse in the world.
This still-pristine region in the Peruvian Amazon, divided between the regions of Madre de Dios and Cusco, offers eco-tourists day-long breaks, surrounded by an incredibly diverse flora and fauna – not for nothing the park is one of the so-called hotspots, areas extreme biodiversity in the smallest space. Located in southeastern Peru, the unique organic reserve is far from civilization and still best reached by boat.
Although the Manu National Park covers an area of 18,812 square kilometers (for comparison: this corresponds to about half of Switzerland). However, only limited areas have been opened up for tourism to protect people, animals and plants living there. The rest of the area can develop free from external influences and is among other habitual habitat always settled here Amazon Indians.
Habitat of the Amazon IndiansThe foundation of the National Park in 1973 put an end to the economic exploitation of the area through logging, commercial hunting and agriculture – all three are banned within the boundaries of the Manu National Park. As part of this, UNESCO declared the National Park a biosphere reserve; since 1987 he is also World Heritage Site.
Within the Manu National Park, lodges await visitors at different elevations. A number of carefully selected, licensed tour operators offer tours of one to several days in designated areas of the park, with priority given to preserving and respecting the natural environment. This sustainable travel concept, which is a prerequisite for a tour permit, leaves the plant and animal world of Manu National Park virtually untouched.
Its incomparably varied topography leads from 4,000 meters above sea level over the so-called (and indeed enchanted) Elven and cloud forest all the way down to the Amazon lowlands at only 300 meters above sea level. Geographically, it lies between the eastern Cordillera of the Andes and the Amazon lowlands.
Three ecological zones – each a paradise
The height difference of 3,700 m divides the Manu National Park into three different ecological zones, the Andean Grassland (Puna), the Elven and Cloud Forest and the tropical rainforest. In addition, a further segmentation of the park area was defined in agreement with UNESCO, which is defined by the type of use. Since 1977, the Manu National Park has a core zone, a subsistence culture zone and a tourism or buffer zone. Core zone and buffer zone serve to preserve the autochthonous (always in the park resident) flora and fauna.
They also provide a habitat for a number of tribes of Indians in which they can preserve and live their culture (if desired) without contact with the outside world. A number of them, but probably not all, are known: the Machiguengas, the Yaminahuas, the Yora, the Mashco-Piros or the Amahuacas.
The locked core zone accounts for 81.5 percent of the total park area.
13.5 percent are reserved for the buffer zone, which allows eco-tourism and research projects. The remaining 5 percent may be populated with strict conditions, but are mostly reserved for the Indians as residents.
A threatened idyll?
When Manu National Park was established by the Peruvian government in the 1970s, this form of ecological protection was the only way to ensure 100% conservation of the area. In principle, nothing has changed. Since then, the reputation of this area as one of the most diverse and valuable biosphere reserves in the world has only been consolidated.
Nevertheless, the natural gas project “Camisea” is now seriously endangering the Nahua-Nanti Reserve in the Manu National Park. There live as so-called “uncontacted peoples” not only the Nahua and Nanti, but also the Matsigenka and Mashco-Piro-Indians, for whom the forest is their only livelihood.
“Camisea” is Peru’s largest energy project. 75% of “Block 88”, one of the central sections of the Camisea project, is located within the Nahua Nanti Reserve. Already there explosions, oil and gas works have led to evictions and a reduction of the flora and fauna. If you want to engage with this form of natural exploitation, you can find more information here.