Preface and General
The present day preoccupation all over the World for keeping natural areas, free of pollution and with non disturbed wildlife, resulted in the creation in Peru of different National Parks, Reserves and Historic Sanctuaries that involve strictly preserved and protected territories reaching approximately 5'833,648 Has. (58336 Km²; 22524 mile²) representing about 4.54% of the national territory. Inside the Inka region are the Machupicchu National Historic Sanctuary and the Manu National Park that all together involve 1'913,792 Has. (19137 Km²; 7389 mile²) that represent 11% of the regional territory.
The Manu National Park was established on may 29, 1973, by means of Law 0644-73-AG, with the aim of preserving its natural and cultural patrimony for the benefit of present and future generations. That same aim determined the recognition by UNESCO of the Manu Biosphere Reserve that today expands over a territory of 1'881,200 Has. (18812 Km²; 7263 mile²) in the provinces of Paucartambo in Qosqo and Manu in Madre de Dios; from all this protected territory 81.5% belongs to the Core Zone which is strictly preserved in a natural state, 13.5% to the Experimental or Buffer Zone that is set aside for controlled research and tourism, and 5% to the Cultural Zone where there are human settlements.
In order to get the Manu National Park by road, it is necessary to depart from Qosqo and follow the dusty road passing through Huancarane, Paucartambo, Patria, Pilcopata, Atalaya and Salvacion where the administration office of the Park is found, and continue through Burgos and finally as far as Shintuya. In Atalaya or Shintuya there are boats for rent for a day-long journey following the Alto Madre de Dios River downstream, passing through the human settlements of Ithahuania, Cruz de Mayo, Puerto Definitivo and Diamante, until arriving to Boca Manu which is the Manu and Alto Madre de Dios river junction. Over here starts the journey following the Manu River upstream in order to enter into the Park. By air, it is possible to get the airstrip in Boca Manu in small aircrafts from the airports in Qosqo or Puerto Maldonado.
Prior to any visit to the Manu Park, you must get information and authorization given by the Administration of the National Park which headquarters are in Qosqo City at least three months in advance (Park Officials do not offer any visitor-handbook with pertaining recommendations, dangers, restrictions, etc.; it would be great if they wrote something based on their gathered experiences since the Park was opened for tourism from 1980. All that information must be obtained from your travel agent). The entry farther away than limits of the Reserved Zone in the Panagua River is allowed only for authorized researchers, official visitors and scientific tourist groups that apply for entrance permits at least six months prior to the trip. Today there is a tourist lodge in the Cocha Juarez zone; in some other sectors there is nither lodging nor eating substructures for tourists, thence, visitors must take all the necessary elements for their subsistence as well as for their transportation and communication (camping will be necessary). The basic personal equipment is similar to that given in this book in order to carry out the Inka Trail towards Machupicchu; nevertheless, proper information about equipment and required elements will be given by your agent. As in the whole region, the best time in order to visit the Park is during our dry season, between the months of May and September; in the wet season, from October to April there is a bigger amount of rains and higher temperature in the woodlands.
The Manu National Park and the Biosphere Reserve are towards the east of the Eastern Range of the Peruvian Andes, and include totally the basin of the Manu River and partially that of the Alto Madre de Dios River. The landscapes involved are diverse and are found from the Amazonian Plains at 365 mts. (1,200 ft.) of altitude in Boca Manu, as high as 4,020 mts. (13,200 ft.) in the 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. Temperature averages vary according to altitude, thus, in the lower area is about 24° C. (75° F.) and about 4° C. (39° F.) in the high area. Likewise, the annual rainfall in the rain forest is over 4,000 mm. (156 inches) while that in the Andean Highlands it drops to 1,000 mm. (39 inches). The hydrographic system is formed by the rivers that flow down from the Andes; they are torrential by their sources and quiet in the Amazonian Plains; their volume vary considerably between the dry and wet seasons. The Manu River has a reddish color and its meanders with the successive change of river bed formed the several "cochas" or ox-bow lakes, that are the main wild fauna environment.
The scientific interest that awakens the Manu Park is based on its great diversity of flora and fauna species that is one of the biggest in the world and which is kept almost unchanged in millions of years of natural evolution. The major research spot in the Park is the Cocha Cashu Biological Station that nowadays has the best data bank about the South-American tropical ecosystem. That station was built in 1969 by professors and students of the La Molina National Agrarian University after an agreement with the Frankfurt Zoological Society. Many are the studies fulfilled in this station that gets annually between 20 to 30 scientists from all over the world; however, the works carried out 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 forms; it is estimated that at least about 10% of the plant species found in the Manu Park are unknown by science. Over here, it is possible to find basically three ecological levels: Lowland Rain Forest, Montane Rain Forest and High Andes. In the Lowland Rain Forest there is always exuberant vegetation, and gigantic trees that are even 60 mts. high and are 3 mts. of diameter, from which treetops hang lianas and creepers that make the floor relatively dark with deep shade even at midday. Among the different tree species here are: cedar, mahogany, lupuna, tornillo, renaco, cetico, palm trees, etc. In the Montane Rain Forest there are smaller trees with twisted trunks 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 High 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. Among the main flora species of the Park are:
Cetico (Cecropia spp.), Renaco (Ficus paraensis), Ojé (Ficus insipida); Q'euña (Polylepis incana); Shihuahuaco (Dipterix alata); Ipururo (Alchornes sp.); Cedar (Cedrela odorata), Requia (Guarea macrophylla), Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), Uchumullaca (Trichilia septentrionalis); Lupuna (Ceiba pentandra), Sapote (Quararibea cordata); Yumanaza (Muntingia calabura), Cocoa (Theobroma cacao); Capirona (Callycophyllum spruceanum); Pajaro bobo (Tessaria integrifolia); Lagarto caspi (Calophyllum brasiliense); etc.
Graminoids such as Dwarf Reed (Chusquea sp.), Cañabrava (Gynerium sagittatum), Ichu (Stipa ichu); palmae such as Huicungo (Astrocaryum murumuru), Pijuayo (Bactris gassipaes), Pona (Iriartea ventricosa), Ungurave (Jessenia bataua), Aguaje (Mauritia vinifera), Shapaja (Scheelea weberbaueri); musaceae such as Platanillo (Heliconia spp.); etc.
Inside the Park's three ecological levels, it is possible to find the biggest fauna diversity that constitutes 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. It is estimated that the total of species in the Park is more than 1000; the known species all over the world are not more than 9000, and from these, in Peru there are 1800, this constituting a real world record. Thus, the Manu Park shelters one of each nine bird species, an exuberance unmatchable 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 endangered animals such as the Black Caiman and the Giant Otter. Fishes are abundant in the Park rivers, as well as insects and other invertebrates from which it is estimated that there may be over one million species. Researches about the fauna of the region are still very scarce and insufficient. Among the Park's fauna species are:
Some primates such as the musmuqui or night monkey (Aotus nigriceps), duski titi (Callicebus moloch), red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons), common squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus), woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha); pygmy marmoset (Cebuela pygmaea), saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis), emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator), black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus). Anteaters such as the silky anteater (Cyclopes dydactilus), southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). Sloths such as the brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Hoffman's two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni). Armadillos as the nine-banded long-nosed armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) and the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus). Opossums such as the common gray four-eyed opossum (Philander opossum), woolly mouse opossum (Micoureus cinereus), and the white-bellied slender mouse opossum (Marmosops noctivagus). A logomorpha which is the brazilian rabbit (Sylvilagus brasiliensis). Rodents such as the South Amazon red squirrel (Sciurus spadiceus), Amazon dwarf (Microsciurus flaviventer); bicolor-spined porcupine (Coendu bicolor); capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris); paca (Agouti paca), brown agouti (Dasyprocta variegata), green acouchy (Myoprocta pratti); pacarana (Dinomys branickii); mountain vizcacha (Lagidium peruanum); coatimundi (Nasua nasua), kinkajou (Potos flavus). Weasels such as the tayra (Eira barbara), Amazon otter (Lutra incarum), giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). Felines such as the ocelot (Felis pardalis), puma or mountain lion (Felis concolor), jaguarundi (Felis yagouaroundi), jaguar (Panthera onca). More over, it is also possible to find the Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris); collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari). Deer such as the red brocket (Mazama americana), gray or brown brocket deer (Mazama gouazoubira), guemals (Hippocamelus antisensis); etc.
Undulated tinamou (Crypturellus undulatus), ornate tinamou (Nothoprocta ornata), great tinamou (Tinamus major); anhinga (Anhinga anhinga); great egret (Casmerodius alba), capped heron (Phiherodias pileatus), fasciated tiger-heron (Tigrisoma lineatum); wood stork (Mycteria americana), jabiru (Jabiru mycteria); roseate spoonbill (Ajaia ajaia); horned screamer (Anhima cornuta); orinoco goose (Neochen jubata), muscovy duck (Cairina moschata); king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), black vulture (Coragyps atratus); roadside hawk (Buteo magnirostris), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), ornate hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), crested eagle (Morphnus guianensis); black caracara (Daptrius ater), bat falcon (Falco rufigularis); spix's guan (Penelope jacquacu), razor-billed curassow (Crax mitu); hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoatzin); pale-winged trumpeter (Psophia leucoptera); wattled jacana (Jacana jacana); large-billed tern (Phaetusa simplex), yellow-billed tern (Sterna superciliaris); black skimmer (Rynchops nigra); blue and yellow macaw (Ara ararauna), scarlet macaw (Ara macao), chestnut-fronted macaw (Ara severa), tui parakeet (Brotogeris sanctithomae), blue-headed parrot (Pionus menstruus), yellow-headed parrot (Amazona achrocephala); crested owl (Lophostrix cristata); Amazon kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona); lineated woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus); Cuvier's toucan (Ramphastos cuvieri); red-capped cardinal (Paroaria gularis); yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela); Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola Peruviana), etc.
Yellow-spotted sideneck turtle (Podocnemis unifilis); Amazonian ground tortoise (Geochelone denticulata); white caiman (Caiman crocodylus), black caiman (Melanosuchus niger); anaconda (Boa constrictor); fer-de-lance (Bothrops atrox), bushmaster (Lachesis muta), etc.
Sting ray (Potamotrygon hystrix); electric eel (Electrophorus electricus); Amazonian sucker catfish (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus); lesser silver catfish (Sorubin spp.), Amazonian catfish (Pseudoprimelodus spp.); lakeside grazer (Prochilodus magdalenae), pirahna (Serrasalmus spp.); etc.
In the Manu and Alto Madre de Dios River basins there are native human settlements that are established possibly since millennia ago; their inhabitants enjoy of 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 do not represent any danger for that balance. Among those groups are the Machiguengas, the Yora or Yaminahuas, the Mashco-Piros and the Amahuacas. Today, the Park authorities got in touch just with Machiguengas and Yoras. The inhabitants of those human settlements have a very peculiar way of life with effective ancestral customs and beliefs; they live in wooden houses with palmtree-leaf roofs; they weave in cotton, make pottery, cultivate goods such as manihot, uncucha, maize, papaya, pineapple, banana, etc. They hunt with arrows, spears, peashooters and stone axes. Today, some of those people live a slow process of westernization due to their approach to modern society and influence of education and communications.
On the other hand, people through the last centuries created the famous "Paititi" myth; that is, a "lost Inkan City" in the Amazonian Forest, that according to many authors would be located in the Park's area. That city would be according to the myth, the place where the last Quechua emperors had sent their treasures in order to protect them from the Spanish destruction; however, there are no evidences of that. But, in the eastern flank of the Andes facing towards the Park there are cultural remains of past civilizations that were not seriously studied; among them are the "Pusharo petroglyphs" in the low Palotoa zone. In Inkan times, according to their territory expansion policies, the Madre de Dios River was discovered and named as "Amarumayo" (Snake-Dragon River). In colonial times, many expeditions went into the region moved by the gold fever; and during the first years of the present century some religious missions were established and all the area was broadly explored and exploited for extraction of rubber latex that is found in important amounts mainly in the lower Manu. Thus, the movement of workers in the region determined the foundation of Puerto Maldonado in 1902 and later the creation of Madre de Dios in 1912 as one department of the country. During the following decades and after the breakdown of the rubber industry in Peru and Brazil, hundreds of hunters went into the zone looking for animal furs highly demanded in the international market, with emphasis in the chase of jaguars, ocelots, giant otters and black caimans. Since the 1960s, the exploitation of valuable timber such as mahogany and cedar was started; that prosperous extractive activity led to the construction of an airfield in Boca Manu.