Located at the southeast of Peru, Manu National Park covers the Cusco and Madre de Dios regions and has a 1,716,295.22-ha area. It is the core zone of the Manu Biosphere Reserve and was declared by UNESCO as a Natural World Heritage in 1987. It is inhabited by 30 Quechua-speaking and farming communities and several native Amazonian populations such as the Matsiguenka, Amahuaca, Yaminahua, Piro, Amarakaeri, Huashipaire and Nahua. The park contributes to the acknowledgement and protection of cultural diversity preserving the archaeological heritage through investigation, education and leisure.
We can find more than 1,000 bird species such as harpy eagles, jabirus, Orinoco geese, Andean cocks-of-the-rocks and roseate spoonbills; 200 mammal species as the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, spider monkeys, river otters, jaguars, oncillas, spectacled bears, Andean deer and more than 100 bat species. On the Manu National park tour we can also find trees that are more than 45 meters high and 3 meters in diameter, the lupuna or kapoktree, the cecropia, the balsa tree, the cedar, the tornillo and the strangler fig stand out.
Manu holds the title of the most mega diverse area in the world, the Manu National Park is a vibrant paradise between the Andes and the Peruvian Amazon in which numerous rare and exotic bird species can be spotted by the observer including the cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana).
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Manu National Park was created on May 29th, 1973. It is later declared by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserve in 1977 and as World Heritage Site in 1987.
There is evidence of ancient cultures in the park, such as the Pusharo petroglyphs, a set of engravings with unknown origin and meaning that were found on the right bank of the Shinikibenia river. There are other petroglyphs on the great Xinkiori rock on the Q’eros river, that is legendary for the Huachipaeri.
The Manu zone was conquered by the Inca Pachacútec and Túpac Yupanqui to be part of their empire.
Further on, with the arrival of the Spaniards, the Paucartambo town was founded. There, they established their farms and encomiendas, a Spanish labor system in which thousands of natives were entrusted to Spanish conquerors or officers. Charles III from Spain even ordered the construction of a bridge to facilitate the trade of produce such as coca, corn, cotton, wood, among others.
In 1567, the Spaniard, Juan Álvarez Maldonado started an expedition up to what is nowadays Pilcopata. The same year, Manuel Escobar started an expedition on the Madre de Dios river up to the Manu river.
The Manu National Park is located at the southeast of Peru, between Cusco and Puerto Maldonado in the Paucartambo and Manu provinces. It has a total area of 1,716,295.22 hectares that are divided in three zones:
The National Park. It has an area of 1,532,806 hectares. It is dedicated only to conservation; access is only allowed for biological and anthropological research limited to the observation of life and their processes in a natural way. Any kind of manipulation is forbidden. It is even known that there are uncontacted tribes in the park. It is an intangible zone and it is necessary to have a special authorization to visit it.
Reserved Zone. It has an area of 257,000 hectares and it is located in the low part of the Manu river. Tourist visits are allowed (organized by authorized agencies) as well as research with minimum manipulation. It is possible to watch nature showing us its flora and fauna in wild state.
Transition or Cultural Zone. It has an area of 120,000 hectares. It is comprised of Madre de Dios river’s riverside and the high Andean territories that border the south part of the reserve, between the dividing line of the National Park and the Mapacho river. Settlers communities that developed agriculture, cattle raising, and forestry activities live in this area. They have basic health, education and development services.
The Manu National Park is all nature. In the organized tours you can trek through the rainforest, ride on a boat, see birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. There are also, some tribes that make handicrafts and show us a little bit of their culture. The experience of being surrounded by pure nature is unique.
In the Manu river’s lower basin, we can see the exuberance of the Amazon plain. There are five zones to visit. In these zones there is a high diversity of wild flora and fauna concentrated. These zones are: Salvador, Otorongo, Juárez (these are cochas, cocha means lagoon in Quechua) Pakitza y Limonal.
In these zones, there is a wide variety of circuits and paths to contemplate the beauty of the tropical rainforest. There are also horseshoe-shaped lagoons or cochas in which it is possible to watch species that have disappeared in other ecosystems such as the giant otter and the black caiman.
Another attraction are the woods at both sides of the Manu river in which it is possible not only to watch a wide variety of flora but a variety of associated fauna. The colpas (clay lick) where several fauna species go to, are a highlight attraction. The aguajales (swamps) also enable the concentration of native fauna, such as macaws.
The Manu National Park hosts a wide variety of wild fauna species. About 160 mammal species, more than 1,000 bird species (mostly residents) about 140 amphibian species, 50 snake species, 40 lizard species, 6 turtle species 3 caiman species and 210 fish species have been recorded.
Among the big mammals we can find jaguars (Panthera onca), ), jaguarundis (Felis yagouaroundi), South American tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), white-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari), collared peccaries (Tayassu tajacu), red brocket deer (Mazama americana), white tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis), capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus), yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha), white-fronted capuchins (Cebus albifrons) tufted capuchins (Cebus apella).
The number of insects is also high. It is estimated that there are about 30 million species. It has been recorded more than 1,300 butterfly species, 136 dragonfly species, at least 300 ant species (in only one tree more than 40 species were found) and more than 650 beetle species.
Regarding the flora, The Manu National Park has an important number of plant species. Several records indicate that there are, at least, 162 families, 1,191 genera and 4,385 species identified. In only one hectare there were 250 tree varieties found. The swamp woods are one of the most important ecosystems where the most common species are the aguaje palms (Mauritia flexuosa) and the forest acai (Euterpe precatoria). They grow in areas that are almost permanently flooded on the Manu river’s right bank.
We can also find cedars (Cedrela sp.), cecropias (Cecropia sp.), tornillo trees (Cedrelinga catenaeformis), Brazil-nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa), lupuna trees (Chorisia sp.) and rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis).
The climatic conditions of the park are highly varying. It is generally very rainy, and the precipitations vary according to the altitude. In the south zone (which is the highest), 1,500 to 2,000 mm are recorded annually. In the middle area, the precipitation volume increases to 3,000 to 3,500 mm. The northwest area has the highest record with more than 8,000 mm.
On the dry season, from May to September, the precipitations decrease, and the temperature arises. The thermal regime is also very varying since the Amazon area is hot with an average annual temperature of 25,6 ° C and the Andean area is cold, with an average annual temperature of 8°C.
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