Manu National Park

The present time, the world worriness for keeping the natural areas free of pollution and with non disturbed wildlife, resulted in the National Parks,Reserves and Historic Sanctuaries creation in Peru, which involve strictly preserved and protected territories reaching an approximately 5’833,648 Has. (58336 Km2; 22524 mile?) area covering about 4.54% of the national territory. In Inca region, the Machu picchu National Historic Sanctuary and El Manu National Park which all together involve1’913,792 Has. (19137 Km2; 7389 mile?)covering 11% of the regional territory.

The Manu National Park was created in may 29, 1973; by Supreme Resolution 0644-73-AG, for the purpose of preserving its natural and cultural patrimony to benefit the present and future generations. That same purpose determined the El Manu Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO acknowledgement which at present time covers a territory of 1’881,200 Has(18812 Km2; 7263 mile?) wide in Paucartambo province in Cusco department, and Manu in province in Madre de Dios department. 81.5% from all this protected territory belongs to the Core Zone which is strictly preserved in a natural state, 13.5% to the Experimental or buffer Zone which is saved and asigned for controlled research and tourism, and 5% to the Cultural Zone where there are human settlements.

To get to El Manu National Park by road, it is necessary to depart from Cusco and follow the dusty road passing through Huancarani, Paucartambo, Patria, Pilcopata, Atalaya and Salvacion where the administration office of the Park is located, and to go on through Burgos to finally reach Shintuya. In Atalaya or Shintuya, there are some boats for rent for a day-long journey following the Allo Madre de Dios River downstream, passing through Ithahuania, Cruz de Mayo, Puerto Definitivo and Diamante, until arriving to Boca Manu where the Manu and Alto Madre de Dios river junction is located. Here the journey starts following the Manu River upstream in order to enter into the Park. It is possible to get to Boca Manu by small airplanes, hiring them from the airports in Cusco or Puerto Maldonado too.

Prior to any visit to El Manu Park, it is necessary getting information and an clearance given by that National Park Administration which headquarters are located in Cusco City at least three months in advance. The Park Officials didn’t make any visitor-handbook with pertaining recommendations, dangers, restrictions, etc; so it would be great if they wrote something based on their gathered experiences since the Park was opened for tourism from 1980. So, all that information must be obtained from the travel agency in charge. The entry farther. away from the Reserved Zone in the Panagua River boundary is allowed only for authorized researchers, official visitors and scientific tourist groups, which had applied for entrance permits at least six months prior to the trip. At present time there is a tourist lodge in the Cocha Juarez zone; not being any lodging and eating sub-structures for tourists in other areas, thence visitors must take with them all the necessary food and goods for their subsistence as well as for their transportation and communication, so camping will be necessary. The basic personal equipment is similar to that listed in this book in order to carry out the Inca Trail to Machu picchu, nevertheless the proper information about equipment and required components will be given by the corresponding travel agent. As in the whole region, the best time to visit that Park is during the dry season, which goes between April and October; because along the rainy season, which goes from October to April bad rains and higher temperature take place in the woodlands.

The Manu National Park and the Biosphere Reserve are located east of the Eastern Range of the Peruvian Andes, and wholly include the bank of the Manu River and partially the one of the Alto Madre de Dios River. The landscapes involved are diverse and found from the Amazonian Plains at 365 mts. (1,200 ft.) altitude in Boca Manu, as high as 4,020 mts. (13,200 ft.) altitude in Waskar Mountain with steep and rough mountains. The altitude difference determines a climate variety from the hot and humid Amazonian Jungle to the cold and dry Andean Highlands. The temperature averages change according to the altitude, thus in the lower area it reaches about 24° C. (75° F.) and about 4° C. (39° F.) in the highlands. Likewise, the annual rainfall in the rainforest goes over 4,000 mm. (156 inches) while the one in the Andean Highlands drops to 1,000 mm. (39 inches). The hydrographic system is made up of the rivers which flow down from the Andes; which are torrential at their sources and quiet in the Amazonian plains. Those rivers volume change considerably between the dry and rainy seasons. The Manu River has a reddish color, and its meanders after the successive change of the river bed made several “cochas” or ox-bow lakes, which make up the main wild fauna environment.

The scientific interest that El Manu Park awakens is based on its great flora and fauna species diversity which is one of the most assorted in the world, and which is kept almost unchanged along the millions of years of natural evolution. The major research spot in the Park is the Cocha Cashu Biological Station which nowadays has the best ecological data bank from all over South American tropical ecosystem. That station was built in 1969 by professors and students of La Molina National Agrarian University after an treaty with the Frankfurt Zoological Society. They are lots of fulfilled studies carried out in this station which gets annually about 20 or 30 scientists coming from all over the world; however the works carried out here are very humble compared to all the possibilities offered by the Park.

The altitude variations found inside the Park make possible the existence of an impressive diversity of plant species and other living beings. It is estimated that at least about 10% of the plant species found in the Manu Park are unknown to science. Over here, it is possible to find basically three ecological levels: the Lowland Rain Forest, the Mountain rainforest and the highland Andes. In the Lowland Rain Forest, there is always green thick vegetation, and gigantic trees which reach up to 60 mts. high and 3 mts in diameter, from which treetops lianas and creepers hang relatively darkening the ground in deep shade even at midday. Among the several tree species here: cedar, mahogany, lupuna, tornillo, renaco, cetico, palm trees, etc; outstand. In the Mountain rainforest, there are smaller twisted trees but with even thicker vegetation and an extraordinary species diversity. The fog and rains enable abundant existence of lichens, mosses and ferns, and a great selection of beautiful orchids. The Highland Andean Zone has also thinly scattered woodlands with some species like the classic “q’euña”; besides dense clumps of dwarf reeds and “ichu” the ever present Andean graminoid.

On the other hand, tradition has created the famous myth about “Paititi”, which is a lost “inka town” in the Amazon rainforest, which according to lots of authors would be located in this park area. According to that mith, that town would be the place where the last inca emperor sent their treasures to be protected from the Spaniards destruction, nevertheless there aren’t any evidences about that. Besides, in the Andes eastern side overlooking to the park, there are cultural remains belonging to past civilizations, about which there aren’t any serious studies fulfilled, the any “Petroglifos de Pusharo” outstanding from all of them located in the low Palotoa. In inca times, by the territory expansión program, Madre de Dios river was discovered, which was named as “Amarumayo” or the dragon-snake river, and later along the colonial times; lots of expeditions got deeply into the jungle pushed by the gold fever. Along the XX century first years, some religious missions settled, and all the area was widely explored to extract rubber-latex found by great amounts maily in the low- Manu, So the workers movement in the región decided the Puerto Maldonado founding in 1902 and later the Madre de Dios department creation in 1912. Along the following decades, after the robber- industry decay in Peru and Brasil, lots of hunters got into that area looking for animal-fur, which got a great demand in the international market, maily jaguar, tigrillos, river wolfs, and black alligators. Since the 1960s, the valuable wood such as cedar and mahogany extraction industry started, which became very prosperous, so pushing an airport building in boca Manu.

In the Manu and Alto Madre de Dios River-basins, there are native human settlements possibly since millennias ago; which inhabitants enjoy free traffic as well as freedom in order to practice activities such as hunting, fishing, gathering and farming. They are part of the Park’s natural balance, and are allowed whenever their activities as they do not represent any danger for such a balance. Among those native groups the Machiguengas, the Yora or Yaminahuas, the Mashco-Piros and the Amahuacas. At present time, the Park authorities got in touch only with Machiguengas and Yoras. The inhabitants of those human settlements have a very peculiar way of life with effective ancestral customs and beliefs, so they live in wooden and palmtree-leaf roofed houses. Those people weave in cotton, make pottery, cultivate foods such as manihot, uncucha, maize, papaya, pineapple, banana, etc. They hunt with arrows, spears, peashooters and stone axes. At present time, some of those people live a slow process of westernization due to their approach to modern society, education and communication influence.

Inside the Park three ecological levels, it is possible to find the biggest fauna diversity, which as a whole becomes a very valuable species reserve, many of which remain still relatively unknown. Most of the research is still concentrated in the Cocha Cashu Biological Station in which surroundings more than 550 bird species were registered, being estimated as more than 1000 the whole species in all around the park. In all over the world, the all known bird species are not more than 9000, and from them there are 1800 in Peru, so getting to set a real world record. Thus, El Manu Park shelters one of each nine bird species, an unmatchable vegetation exhuberance by any other Park in the earth. Moreover, 200 different mammal species were registered; among which stand out the primates with about 13 species; besides there are also approximately 100 types of bats. Over here, it is possible to easily find extinction-endangered animals such as the Black Caiman and the Giant Otter. Besides, fish are abundant in the Park rivers, as well as insects and other invertebrates about which it is estimated that there may be over one million species. Researches about the fauna in the region are still very scarce and insufficient.

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