A New Route through Life and History

Jose Rosales Vargas - El Comercio
Translation: Vanessa Castro Chesterton - Living in Peru

A New Route through Life and History: Ica, PeruThe vast Ica desert demonstrates the perfect trilogy within its ecosystem along the extent of its 260 km span which unites the beauty of the sea and coast, fossilized remains and a rich cultural backdrop. It probably constitutes the only place in the country where culture and ecotourism in its different expressions manage to coexist harmoniously meriting its appraisal and conservation.

It is due to this that a team of experts was recommended to help preserve and protect this fragile coastal ecosystem, to investigate the paleontology related findings and to study the archeological remains.  

The team of researchers inspected the area for a period of five days together with a team of journalists. The group went from the bay of Paracas (Pisco) to the San Fernando cove (Marcona-Nasca).

During their trek through the hot Iquenian desert, the team made up by experts specialized in different fields, came up with the proposal to continue and in some cases restart previous paleontology, archeology and environment protection plans.

Vera Alleman Haeghebaert, Professor of Biological Sciences and Paleontology at the Ricardo Palma University summed up the experience as “unique and extraordinary” given that this was the first time that a diversified group of specialists visited the Paracas desert and Ocucaje. The area has numerous marine vertebrate and invertebrate fossils to be studied.      

Dr. Alleman went on to stipulate that “La Mina is one of the few fossilized areas studied within the Paracas National Park, it is there that the only continental carboniferous spurt can be found dating back to 350 million years ago. The fossils in it are extraordinarily well preserved”

Similar findings in Ocucaje may now be added to those in La Mina seeing as the area had not been thoroughly registered or investigated in the past. Ruins in the region are permanently exposed to the elements and looting at the moment.

The opinion of Dr. Vera Alleman is that the areas containing fossils in Paracas as well as the region of Ocucaje should be declared as National Paleontological Resources of Peru. For this she proposes that an extensive study be carried out to limit the areas which should be preserved and put under the supervision of specialists.   

Alleman is adamant about the need there is to have the support of the private sector in order to help protect these sites. Special deals with universities as well as museums could help to save and develop these areas as well as integrating them back into the lives of the local people.

To the experienced explorer Robert Penny Cabrera who led the expedition through the area of Ocucaje, the hike was an opportunity to see “animals which are still alive after 50 or 60 million years”.

“Measures to ensure the preservation of the species of the area and the protection from looters must be taken at once, this however will make the study of the origin of man in the region impossible. This type of predatory behavior is irreversible and it takes Mother Nature around 10 thousand years to put whales, large amphibians, giant turtles, lizards, penguins, sloths or wolves on the surface. It is to say, real sea monsters which are almost 60 million years old”, he explained.

A New Route through Life and History: Ica, PeruOn that note he commented that the University of Berlin has proposed to initiate a study on Ocucaje, limiting the area to be researched, registering specimens and building a museum on site. In so doing they would put on display the cultural richness of the area on display. The proposal would cost between 5 and 10 million dollars. Up to now there has been no answer from the state.

During the trek the ancient Nasca and Paracas archeological sites were also assessed. The state of abandonment and the little which has been done in order to preserve these ruins became clear.

Regional director of the National Ica Cultural Institute, Susana Arce Torres and the National Park director Ruben Garcia Soto both acknowledged the state the ruins were in was due to the lack of resources the INC had to invest.

However they did point out that the damage caused to the structures could be reversed if there were to be an association to protect, investigate and promote between the state, the enterprises and the regional communities.      

This year the INC – Ica has petitioned to regularize its inscriptions in the public records office to put them at the disposal of different research teams interested in studying them.

The director went on to stress that these changes could lead to similar experiences to those had by Guiseppi Orefici in Cahuachi – Nasca and Johnny Isla Cadrado in Pernil Alto – Palpa. These models may serve as an important archeological incentive in the region which has more than 2000 observation sites.

The team also had a chance to get to sea the beauty of the coastal landscape of Paracas and the San Fernando cove.

Both spots have an astounding amount of flora and fauna found no where else along the Peruvian coast.  At one point in time Paracas and San Fernando were joined. It was here where the biodiversity of the Andes met that of the sea.

At a specific point in time there can be seen up to 15 condors flying over the cove and eating the placenta of the newly born seals. This does not happen in Paracas anymore or anywhere else on the Peruvian coast for that matter.  

It is a place of productivity which has a certain appeal and a large quantity of fauna because it was isolated for such a long time due to its remoteness. That began to change when four wheel drive vehicles became available.

The excessive amount of people and the noise they bring with them has disturbed nature. This will lead wild life to retreat as it happened 30 years ago in Paracas.

Today the preservation efforts have been aided by 40 native fishermen who volunteer their time as park rangers and patrol the beaches. This has also led to further social and economic developments harmoniously balanced between the community and the ecosystem. 

The chief in charge of the National Park of Paracas has admitted that even though there are some fishermen who still resort to dynamite and other disruptive methods for fishing their activities have reduced considerably.