ManúNational Park
ManúNational Park
Natural Peru Latin America And The Caribbean Dep. Madre De Dios Y Cusco, Provincias: Manu Y Paucartambo

The biological diversity found in ManúNational Park exceeds that of any other place on Earth. The park is located in the provinces of Manúand Paucartambo, comprising lands on the eastern slopes of the Andes and the Peruvian Amazon. The area is situated within the Amazon River basin and protects almost the entire watershed of the River Manúand most of the tributaries of the River Alto Madre de Dios. Alluvial plains are found along the rivers where sediments may be deposited on a seasonal basis. The hills occupy the lowlands between the rivers and are relatively small with slopes, forming an undulating topography, which covers much of the park.

With a park the size of Manú, with a wide range of altitude, vegetation varies widely, however the most widespread vegetation types found are tropical lowland rainforest, tropical montane rainforest and puna vegetation (grasslands). The lowland forests occur on the alluvial plains and the interfluvial hills. Those on the hills may experience seasonal water supply, given the monthly variation in rainfall, whereas the forests on the alluvial plains are likely to be seasonally flooded. The montane forests experience less variation in the water supply and are exposed to lower temperatures.

Despite the high diversity of plant species in this region, the flora of Manúis still poorly known and floristic inventories must be considered as preliminary. In the last 10 years, 1,147 plant species have been identified in the park within quite a small area, and it is likely that the number of species to be found within the park is well over this figure. More recent data indicate 1,200 lowland vascular species and a single 1 ha plot near the Cocha Cashu research station supported more than 200 tree species. Another striking feature of these forests is the high abundance of Ficus , of which there are at least 18 species. Lianas are common. With the current knowledge of the flora of the park it is not possible to give a detailed account of threatened, endemic or potentially economically important species.

A total of more than 800 bird species and 200 species of mammals have been identified. Six species of macaw occur in the lowland forest. Three Endemic Bird Areas are represented within the park: the south-east Peruvian lowlands, the eastern and western Andes of Peru. There are 13 species of monkey, over 100 species of bat, 12 species of reptile, as well as 77 species of amphibian.

The park is inhabited by at least four different native groups: the Machiguenga, the Mascho-Piro, the Yaminahua and the Amahuaca. The best known and largest ethnic group within the park is the Machiguenga, found throughout the area with the exception of the highlands and upper parts of the ManúRiver. The forest Indians are nomadic, mostly subsistent on some form of root crop agriculture on alluvial soils along river banks and lakes, on hunting along water courses and inside the forest, on fishing and on the collection of turtle eggs. Shifting cultivation is the basic agricultural practice. In this system, a patch of primary forest or an abandoned field is cleared, burned and used during the first, second and sometimes third year for cultivation. The field is then abandoned for at least five years and a new one is opened up. As it is easier to clear secondary growth on abandoned fields than to clear the primary forest, the Indians prefer to reuse old fields. These peoples are considered part of the park's natural system, and are left to use the park as they please while their lifestyle does not threaten the park's objectives.

Most of the people within the park are Indians. Very little is known about the Amahuaca and Yaminahua distribution and their numbers are relatively small. There are no towns in the park, but there are some 70,000 Quechua-speaking inhabitants grouped in 30 rural communities in the high Andean zone, which is adjacent to the park in Paucartambo Province.