MANÚ NATIONAL PARK
Peru’s treasured Manú National Park is the world’s top biodiversity hotspot for reptiles and amphibians.
The park, which encompasses lowland Amazonian rain forest, high-altitude cloud forest and Andean grassland east of Cusco, is well known for its huge variety of bird life, which attracts ecotourists from around the globe.
Since its creation 41 years ago, Manú National Park has become recognized as globally irreplaceable. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1987. Herpetologists – experts in reptiles and amphibians – first surveyed the region in the 1970s, primarily along the road that connects the city of Cusco to villages in the cloud forests of the Kosñipata Valley. Starting in the ’80s, research was broadened to include remote lowland rainforest locations, such as Cocha Cashu Biological Station, inside the park. Subsequent expeditions have continued to reveal new species of amphibians and reptiles, especially in the cloud forest and high-Andean grasslands, which are rich in endemic species.
Before becoming an area protected by the Peruvian government, the Manú National Park was conserved thanks to its inaccessibility. The park remains fairly inaccessible by road to this day. In 1977, UNESCO recognised it as a Biosphere Reserve and in 1987, it was pronounced a World Heritage Site. It is the largest National Park in Peru, covering an area of 15,328 km². The Biosphere Reserve includes an additional 2,570 km², and a further 914 km² are included in a "Cultural Zone" (which also is afforded a level of protection), bringing the total area up to 18,811 km².
The Manú National Park is divided into three zones: the "core zone" which is only accessible for scientists and researchers; the "reserved zone" which is only accessible for a limited number of tour operators and their tours; and the "cultural zone" which is openly accessible and where local people live in small villages. When choosing a trip to Manu National Park, keep in mind that chances to see exotic wildlife are by far higher in the reserved zone than in the cultural zone.
There is a lot of tropical wildlife to be seen in the National Park, including jaguars, giant otters, several species of monkeys (red howler, black spider, capuchin, squirrel), caimans, turtles. Birds are abundant, including macaws, herons, cormorants, hawks, storks and many more.
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