The reserve is located in the department of Madre de Dios, Tambopata province. It has 274,690.00-ha area and it is one of the best places to discover the Amazonia since it has one of the highest biodiversity indexes in the world: 632 bird species, 169 mammal species and 1,200 butterfly species. It limits on the south with the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, both constitute a very important conservation area in Peru.
The Sandoval Lake, just half an hour by boat from Puerto Maldonado, is the park’s main attraction. We can find lodges to stay in and an observation tower to have a panoramic view of the huge landscape, which is home to macaws and river otters.
The collpas (clay licks) at the rivers´ shores, are also this place’s attractions. Hundreds of macaws, hawks and parrots gather between 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. to eat mineral salts. There are also bush or inland collpas where we can see (usually at night) collared peccaries, white-lipped peccaries and South American tapirs. The biggest inland collpa in the whole Amazonia is the collpa Colorado.
The Ese Eja ethnicity, that is currently divided in three communities: Palma Real, Sonene and Infierno, has lived in Tambopata National Park from ancient times and they know the reserve to the millimeter. The Infierno community works with private companies to offer accommodation and several tourist services such as activities and guided tours.
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The name Tambopata is a Quechua word that means tambo: lodge and pata: high. Though the name doesn´t reflect the zone’s geography, it might have taken the name from the Incas that visited the zone`s high areas. However, Tambopata was not occupied by the Incas, it had already been colonized thousands of years ago by Amazonian ethnic groups as the Ese’Eja. These tribes lived in small villages, they grew yucca, hunted to eat and used several plants as medicine and to build.
After the colonization, in 1567, the Spaniard Juan Álvarez Maldonado, explored the Madre de Dios rainforest searching for gold, but after losing more than 200 men due to viruses and attacks from the zone’s tribes he had to abort the expedition. The memories of this event prevented others from entering these lands for a long time.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century due to the rubber boom that foreigners entered Tambopata again, this time, to cut down trees and extract this material subduing many locals to slavery and forced work. Though the rubber boom didn’t last long, it had a great impact on the population. Many died because of the diseases brought by the settlers.
Decades later, some people arrived at the zone looking for a better life and for the gold found in the rivers. This is how the first shelters began and the number of tourists has increased. Thousands of tourists arrive in Tambopata to admire the rainforest’s biodiversity.
Tambopata National Reserve was created on September 4th, 2000 and its objectives are to preserve the wild flora and fauna as well as the beautiful landscapes of a sample of a subtropical rainforest, to create preservation processes with the population to sustainably use its resources such as the chestnut trees, landscapes for recreation and the regional development.
Tambopata National Reserve is located south of the Madre de Dios river, in the Tambopata and Inambari districts, Tambopata province, Madre de Dios department. It has an area of 274,690 hectares.
The Tambopata river’s basin has one of the highest biological diversity indexes in the world. The reserve is in the middle and lower part of this basin and neighbors the Puerto Maldonado city. Among the most common ecosystems we can find the aguajales (palm swamps), swamps, the pacales and the riparian forests that have physical characteristics that allow the residents to benefit from the natural resources.
It is located next to the Bahuaja Sonene National Park that surrounds the Tambopata reserve at the south. The two form a high importance protection unit for the country. The existing connection between the department’s protected areas (the communal Amarakaeri Reserve and the Alto Purús and Manu national parks) and the protected areas of Bolivia supports the existence of the Vilcabamba Amboro Conservation Corridor.
The reserve hosts mainly aquatic habitats that are used as a stop for more than 40 transcontinental migratory bird species. Important species that are considered endangered are protected in the reserve and it is a privileged destination to observe wild flora and fauna.
The Palma Real, Sonene and Infierno native communities, that are part of the Ese’Eja ethno-linguistic group and the Kotsimba, from the Puquirieri ethno-linguistic group are settled in the buffer zone.
The most visited tourist destination is the Sandoval Lake, located in the Madre de Dios river’s basin. This 127-hectare water mirror is surrounded by palm trees full of macaws and it is only an hour by river from Puerto Maldonado. In its waters, which can be navigated on boats that the locals and the lodges rent, there is a numerous family of otters that can be seen hunting and grooming on logs. There is also an observation tower to have a panoramic view.
Upstream the Tambopata river’s basin, , there are other important lagoons, such as Cocococha, 2 hours from Puerto Maldonado, where we can also find otters, and the Sachavacayoc lagoon, 3 hours from Puerto Maldonado where there is a camping area to spend the night.
Navigating along the river, we can find the El Gato stream and its waterfall. Very close, we can find the Baltimorillo rapids. The characteristic attractions of Tambopata are the clay licks at the rivers’ shores where hundreds of birds (macaws, hawks and parrots) gather, offering a show full of color and sound (specially between 5:30 a. m. and 9:00 a.m.)
Mammals such as collared peccaries, white-lipped peccaries and South American tapirs can be found in the inland or mount clay licks where they usually go at night. The Chuncho and Colorado clay licks are located on the Tambopata river’s left bank. The latter is considered the biggest clay lick known in the Peruvian Amazonia. Several places with clay licks have been identified inside de reserve and, in their beaches, we can find caimans, South American tapirs, capybaras and other species.
It has been reported the presence of more than 632 bird species, 1,200 butterfly species, 103 amphibian species, 180 fish species, 169 mammal species and 103 reptile species. Inside the reserve we can find healthy habitats for the recovery and refuge of threatened species such as the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis), and felines species such as the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), the cougar (Puma concolor), the jaguar (Panthera onca), the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and the margay (Leopardus wiedii).
Among the primate species, we can find the spider monkey (Ateles chamek) the Andean saddle-back tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis), the black-chinned emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator), the red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), the black-headed night monkey (Aotus nigriceps), the woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha), the black-headed squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis), the common squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus), the Humboldt white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons) and the brown capuchin (Cebus apella).
Other mammal species that stand out in the wild fauna are the South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris), the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), the collared peccary (Tayassu pecari), the red brocket (Mazama americana), the gray brocket (Mazama gouazoubira), the two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) and the three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus).
Regarding the birds we can find harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), crested eagles (Morphnus guianensis), razor-billed curassows (Mitu tuberosum) southern helmeted curassows (Pauxi unicornis) and wattled curassows (Crax globulosa). Practically all the macaw species in Peru can be found in the reserve.
The reptiles are mainly represented by the emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus), Amazonian palm viper (Bothrops bilineatus) and the boa constrictor (Boa constrictor). It is also common to see black caimans (Melanosuchus niger), spectacled caimans (Caiman crocodilus), and yellow-spotted river turtles (Podocnemis unifilis).
We can also find a great variety of fish. Among them: the black prochilodus (Prochilodus nigricans), the paraiba (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum), the yahuarachi (Potamorrhyna latior), the dorado (Brachyplatystoma flavicans), and the red-bellied pacu (Piaractus brachipomun). Among the non-commercial species we can find the sabalo (Brycon spp.), the lisa (Schizodon fasciatus), and the catfish (Pimelodus sp.).
There are several types of vegetation in the reserve. The main plant association are the palm swamps in the alluvial plains, the pacales, the floodplain forests and the gallery forests. 17 plant associations by forest type and 1,255 plant species have been identified.
The chestnut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) is a very important species that is preserved in the Tambopata National Reserve. It grows in non-floodable plains in the Amazonian lower rainforest. In Peru, this is located only in the eastern part of the Madre de Dios department. The chestnut tree is the most important non-timber species and it has a great impact on the local economy. It is a valuable habitat for several mammal species because it is their food source and it serves as a shelter for birds of prey’s nesting.
The average annual temperature is 26o C. It fluctuates between 10o C and 38 o C. The cold Antarctic winds that arrive through the Andes enter the Amazonas basin. The presence of cold winds is more intense between June and July. The rainy season is from December to March.
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