Peru’s high biodiversity makes ecotourism a crucial part of the nation’s development. Here are 5 facts about the system of reserves and parks that preserve a mind-blowing array of plant and animal species.
Peru is 1 of the 17 mega-diverse countries of the world. Of the 117 life zones that exist on earth, 84 can be found in Peru. At least 10% of all the world’s plant species grow in Peru. We could go on like this all day.
Instead, let’s take a look at some important facts about the system that protects Peru’s precious wildlife, the nation’s only protection for its unique biodiversity, the National Protected Natural Areas.
1. National Protected Natural Areas cover about 17% of Peru’s total area.
Relatively little of Peru’s land is protected by reserves. The top 10 countries in the world by proportion of protected area have between 40 and 54% of their total land protected by law. However, considering that in 1990, Peru had much less than half of the total protected area it has today, there has been some improvement.
2. Nearly 50% of all National Protected Natural Areas were created by only 3 presidents.
Juan Velasco Alvarado, Peru’s left-wing military dictator from 1968 to 1975, was Peru’s pioneer when it came to establishing natural areas. When he began, Peru only had 3 natural areas of about 20,000 hectares. At the end of his government, he left 8 new natural areas that covered nearly 4.5 million hectares.
Valentin Paniagua, who served as interim president after Alberto Fujimori fled the country, created 5 protected areas of nearly 2.5 million hectares in his less than 1 year in office. This was a significant step forward after Alberto Fujimori only created 1 national protected area in his entire 10 years in office.
After Paniagua stepped down and Alejandro Toledo was voted into office in 2001, he broke Velasco’s previous record by creating 10 natural protected areas for a total of about 4.6 million hectares. Alan Garcia and Ollanta Humala have continued to create protected areas during their following administrations, albeit not to the same extent as Toledo.
3. More than half of revenue generated by National Protected Natural Areas directly benefits the people.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) reports that ecotourism is an activity that brings direct economic benefits to local populations. In 2013, of the US$ 236 generated in revenue from National Protected Natural Areas, it is estimated that US$ 134 million went directly to the thousands of people who work in restaurants, lodges, and other touristic establishments.
4. The legal status of parks and reserves does not alone protect them against illegal activities.
This has been all too apparent in the recent raids on illegal mining camps in Tambopata Reserve in Madre de Dios, where illegal miners functioned in a highly organized matter while also participating in human trafficking. Issues that threaten Peru’s protected areas are climate change, poaching, deforestation, and oil extraction, among others. Many national areas are not adequately funded or supervised.
5. At least 5 new protected areas are in the works under President Kuczynski’s administration.
Although President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s administration has yet to create any new national protected areas, it appears that there are 5 in progress. One of these, Tres Cañones in Cusco, is a high priority so as to “alleviate some of the strain on Machu Picchu” by drawing some tourists to a major ecological attraction, according to COHA. One of Kuczynski’s promises when taking office was to fight with total commitment against deforestation.
Will Peru’s young national protected area system continue to grow and protect one of the world’s mega-diverse places?