Peru

Peruvian Classroom Photo
At Peruvian schools, WCS teaches local children about the importance of conservation.
©Pablo Puertas
River Photo
Pablo Puertas
Red-faced Uakari Monkey Photo
This red-faced uakari monkeys is among the threatened species of Peru’s rainforests.
©Pablo Puertas

Peru is located in the central Andean region, which includes some of the planet’s most biologically diverse and environmentally vulnerable landscapes. Its ecosystems range from the driest desert on Earth to dry tropical forests, mountain valleys, and grasslands, and from perennial snow peaks to lowland and montane rainforests, palm swamps, cloud forests, and savannas. They provide habitat for an array of threatened wildlife species including bears, jaguars, and condors. The country’s human population is a mix of indigenous and European cultures, based on its colonial heritage. Struggles over land, water and other natural resources, some of which are rooted in the European conquest, influence patterns of land use and attitudes about wildlife. These conflicts often undermine traditional systems of land management that are compatible with conserving biological diversity, and complicate efforts to maintain the physical integrity of Peru’s many protected areas. However, long-term conservation plans are being developed as a result of both new environmental threats and growing public awareness.

Fast Facts

  • Threatened Peruvian wildlife species include the vicuña, guanaco, and condor in the highlands, and jaguar, tapir, and uakari monkey in the rainforest.
  • The flooded forests of Loreto, in the Amazon basin, are among the most crucial threatened areas in Peru.
  • Peru is home to South America’s only bear, the Andean bear, which inhabits tropical dry forests west of the Andes and cloud forests in the eastern slopes of the Andes. These bears spend lots of time up in trees, feeding, resting, and sleeping in nests they build there.
  • About 15 percent of Peru’s land area is under some form of protection as part of its national protected area system.

Challenges

Major threats to Peruvian wildlife result from limited implementation of the management plans of the country’s protected areas, and weak regulation of resource extraction activities. Land conflicts related to ill-defined property and use rights also jeopardize Peru’s wildlife and their habitats. Specific threats include uncontrolled settlement of lowland areas that are rich in biodiversity and unsuitable for agriculture; inadequately regulated logging, mining, and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation; and poorly planned road construction and infrastructure development.

WCS Responds

In Peru’s Greater Yavari-Miri Landscape, WCS seeks to bring greater areas under protection, promote the sustainable use of natural resources, and coordinate conservation efforts across the region. Based on 20 years of experience here, we have helped to promote community-based conservation and improve the livelihoods of local inhabitants through sustainable management of wildlife, fisheries, and forest products. WCS researchers have also conducted 20 years of research on peccary ecology in this landscape, and provided recommendations to permit a certified and limited commercial harvest of peccary pelts in the region. This will provide local communities with the means and incentives to better manage wildlife populations.

WCS researchers also study the impacts of subsistence hunting and human-wildlife conflicts on Peruvian wildlife. We assess the main threats to the Tambopata watershed—home to endangered jaguars, Andean bears, harpy eagles, and macaws—and other protected areas to inform planning. Through our educational outreach programs, we are also helping to raise public support for local conservation work.

In the capital city of Lima, WCS staff and local partners recently organized an annual Andean bear symposium. The conference included planning sessions and a workshop to establish the historical and current range of the bears in Peru and Bolivia. In addition, a WCS zookeeper who cares for Andean bears at the Queens Zoo in New York led a training session to explain how to improve exhibit design, animal enrichment, and husbandry efforts for the bears in Peruvian zoos.

WCS is building alliances with local government and community stakeholders to create long-term conservation solutions. We provide technical support to regional and national government agencies to help them complete and implement protected area management plans, regulate industrial resource extraction, and address the impacts of large-scale infrastructure investments. The goal is to promote economic development that is consistent with biodiversity conservation and the use of renewable resources, provide solid information about the environmental costs and benefits of development interventions, and promote participatory discussion about economic development options.

From the Newsroom

Amazon Waters: Conserving Wildlife, Securing LivelihoodsApril 29, 2013

Dr. Julie Kunen, Director of WCS’s Latin America and Caribbean Program, describes the value of Amazon waters to the lives of millions of people and a spectacular array of wildlife. These waters are facing steep threats from a combination of infrastructure development and climate change.

Paradise Found for Latin America’s Largest Terrestrial MammalJanuary 22, 2013

WCS conservationists have scoured the Peru-Bolivia border for signs of lowland tapirs—large herbivores that possess distinctive markings and snouts. After 12 years of research, they’re able to report that these animals are thriving within five national parks.

365 New Species Discovered in Peruvian ParkFebruary 3, 2012

The giant leaf frog is one resident of Peru’s Bahuaja Sonene National Park, where 50 reptiles and amphibian species, along with hundreds of other undocumented birds, mammals, insects, and plants were recently found during an extensive survey.

Bolivia’s Jaguars Set a RecordOctober 19, 2011

In a recent study conducted in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, WCS researchers have identified a record number of jaguars through a digital camera trap survey.