Rapid Biological Inventories: Results from the Field: Perú 02

02 - Peru: Biabo Cordillera Azul

Report at a glance | Downloadable files | Acknowledgements

Report at a glance

Dates of field work
23 August - 14 September 2000

Region surveyed
Northeasternmost extension of the Cordillera Azul mountain range in central Perú, between the Huallaga and Ucayali rivers (Figures 2 and 3). This section of the Cordillera Azul lies almost entirely in the departments of Loreto and San Martín (with a small overlap into Huánuco and Ucayali), spans altitudes of 200 - 2400 m (RAP 1999), and includes a portion of the upper Río Biabo.

Sites surveyed
One area in the upper Río Pauya (with five subsites at different elevations), and two areas in the upper Río Pisqui (with a total of five subsites) —see Figures 2 and 3 and Overview of Sites Sampled in the Technical Report.

Organisms surveyed
Vascular plants, fishes, reptiles and amphibians, birds, large mammals.

Highlight of results
The diversity of habitats is extraordinary; the northern Cordillera Azul region may well have the highest concentration of habitat types among all Peruvian protected areas within this altitudinal range. Unusual highland swamps and isolated lakes hidden deep in the Cordillera add to this diversity (Figures 8D, 8E, 8F).

During the three weeks in the field, the rapid inventory team registered species of restricted range and habitat distributions for all groups of organisms sampled. Several of the records are new for Peru and 28 or more species encountered appear to be new to science. A brief summary per organism group follows.

Plants: The team registered about 1600 species of plants (and estimated 4000 - 6000 for the region), with more than 12 species new to science. The diversity of palms — an important food resource for maintaining high densities of several mammals and birds —is remarkable. In just three weeks, the team encountered 43% of the 105 palm species known from Peru.

Mammals: The team registered 71 species, including one small, black squirrel possibly new to science. Noteworthy mammal records include bush dogs, spectacled bears, 10 species of primates (with 3 of the large species —woolly, spider, and saki monkeys—common and tame), and daily sightings of large herds of white-lipped peccaries. The sightings include 13 CITES I and CITES II species (i.e., species globally threatened or potentially threatened with extinction).

Birds: More than 500 species are now registered for the region, with one new species— the Scarlet-banded Barbet (Capito wallacei) —newly described from a single group of ridges in the northern section of the Cordillera. Three species are new records for Peru. The Cordillera has large populations of game birds (cracids) and moderately large populations of some species of large parrots and macaws. It is likely the center of distribution for two poorly known, habitat-restricted species: the Royal Sunangel (Heliangelus regalis) and the Bar-winged Wood-Wren (Henicorhina leucoptera).

Amphibians and reptiles: The inventory team registered 82 species, with eight new records (possibly new species) of frogs and one new species of salamander (only the fourth known from Peru and at a higher altitude than previous records).

Fishes: A sampling of fishes in the headwaters revealed a rich fauna with at least 22 new records for Peru, of which 10 are possibly new to science.

Major opportunities
Virtually no people live within the northern Cordillera Azul. The eastern slopes beyond and adjacent to the sheer eastern rock face of the Cordillera remain intact, with a very light human "footprint." To the west, the coca fields of the Huallaga valley border but do not penetrate the Cordillera. To the north, colonists are pushing into valleys of small tributaries of the Río Huallaga, but only up to the edge of the Cordillera.

The opportunities in the region are immense. Conservation measures in the northern Cordillera Azul region can:


protect endangered, highland ecosystems before degradation and deterioration set in;


protect the entire, contiguous range of biological communities, from tall floodplain forests along the lowland rivers to elfin forests and meadows on the mountain crests;


protect a mix of geological features that are not represented in any current national park in Peru;

support integrated management of land and resource use between the protected highlands and the adjacent logging-concessions in the eastern lowlands;

catalyze close collaboration with an interested, resident indigenous community—the Shipibo at Nuevo Edén—to develop ecologically sound harvest methods and markets for non-timber products in these forestry concessions; and

promote the development of economic alternatives, for local residents and nearby urban centers (e.g., Pucallpa, Contamana), that are compatible with the long-term survival of plants and animals within the spectacular landscapes in the region.

Main threats
Imminent threats include logging, new roads, and the inevitable colonization that follows roads and leads to damage far beyond the immediate sites of timber removal. Coca plantations already have destroyed portions of the western mountains, but many of these coca fields around the Santa Lucía police base are now abandoned and are reverting back to forest. Disorganized expansion of small-scale agriculture, however, remains a threat, particularly from the north.

Current status
On 7 September 2000, the Peruvian government declared nearly 1.14 million hectares in the northern Cordillera Azul "Zona Reservada Biabo Cordillera Azul," literally a reserved zone, signifying temporary protection from timber harvest and agriculture. The adjacent 984,000 hectares of lowland forests to the east were designated simultaneously for "permanent harvest" of timber (Bosque de Producción de la Zona Forestal Permanente). An additional 64,700 hectares, also within the Bosque de Producción, belong to indigenous communities, have been designated for colonists, or were in litigation in 2000.

Principal recommendations for protection and management
The northern Cordillera Azul offers remarkable opportunities for protection and coordinated management of a rich array of habitat types, of range-restricted and endemic species, and of unique assemblages of species. The rapid biological inventory team recommends the following:


Categorize the "Reserved Zone" as a National Park (Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul Biabo) with limits that follow natural contours of the terrain (Figure 3). National Park status will promote protection of the globally significant plant and animal communities, as well as the abundant populations of large mammals, fishes, and game-birds, which can act as recovery sources for populations of animals hunted elsewhere in the region. The proposed limits offer protection to the endangered biological communities of the highlands— including unusual highland swamps—while forming natural, easily identified, and easily controlled borders for the protected zone.


Coordinate management of the protected area with the adjacent lowlands—currently targeted as logging concessions.


Develop collaborative, ecologically sensitive alternatives for the economic well-being of residents in the region.

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