The snow-capped Quelccaya, at 5600 meters above sea level, rises in Cusco as the most extensive tropical glacier in the world, and since 2008, through a project for the creation of protected areas of the Regional Government of Cusco, it was chosen to turn it into a protection zone called the Ausangate Regional Conservation (ACR) Area.
However, ten years have passed and there are struggles to protect the region. The snow, which was only a few kilometers away from the community of Phinaya, is now two hours away. The rivers that stream down from the mountains have much more water in them, which represents a danger to the local inhabitants.
Donato Bermúdez, a local sais to RPP Noticias that “if there is enough water now, it means that the ice melts faster.” This matches an accelerated deglaciation process, according to geologist Lonnie Thompson, who said to this website that the retreat of the Quelccaya is 60 meters per year.
“Along with the spiritual and water value of the area, the Regional Government of Cusco has identified other ecological elements in flora and fauna of importance to create this ACR”, said RPP Noticias. “The regional management of Natural Resources has found seven species of endemic plants for Peru, such as Chersodoma ovopedata, which is considered Vulnerable according to the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)”, they added.
In addition, there are other species that are in danger of extinction such as the Wayracora plant (Bowlesia tenella meyen), the Pisque (Paronychia) or the llanchalla (Pycnophyllum).
As for the fauna in the region, it is considered a strategic zone for the conservation of the vicuna and the puma. With regard to birds, the black ibis (Theristicus melanopis) and Endangered the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) are considered vulnerable.
Some of the struggles the Quelccaya has experienced for being protected have to do with bureaucracy. The paperwork involved with the process of declaring this area ACR has been cumbersome, which has made many communities feel discouraged.