Asia-Pacific forestry information

Yaguas National Park, another great attempt at conservation in Peru

21 January 2016, Mongabay news - Much is known and has been studied about the rampant deforestation in Madre de Dios due to illegal mining and logging. The destruction of primary forest in Peru's Amazon region has left in its wake degraded soils and mercury contamination, as well as the irreversible loss of ecosystems on which the lives of many indigenous communities and threatened species depend.

Within this context, a few months ago Peru celebrated some big news: Sierra del Divisor, a "reserved zone" located in the middle of the Ucayali and Loreto regions, would go on to become a national park. Its 1.3 million hectares possess a geography not found anywhere else, and they are home to uncontacted tribes and wild fauna such as the red Uakari monkey and sloths. According to Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), of all the possible categories, that of national park status represents the strongest possible final designation in Peru.

After the success of Sierra del Divisor following ten long years of negotiations, conservationists hope that more national park designations will help preserve the rest of Peru's Amazon region. Yaguas National Park is next in line.

Yaguas has been a reserved zone since 2011. It has an extension of almost 900,000 hectares of primary forest in the lower basin of the Putumayo River, in Loreto; it's the most diverse region when it comes to fish species and migratory birds in all of Peru.

But unlike Sierra del Divisor, Yaguas is a very remote area and far away from human settlements, which explains how well preserved its forests are. Satellite imagery hads not detected any deforestation within or outside the zone. The nearest communities are located at least within at three days of travel.

The committee that will be in charge of Yaguas' new designation will include government agencies and indigenous federations. In the next few months, they will meet numerous times until they reach a consensus. However, before they seal a deal, the government will have to secure the free, prior, and informed consent of the eight indigenous communities that live in the area, as is required by the U.N. Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"Our hope is that these final participatory processes are completed by June, giving the Humala administration the chance to declare the park before leaving office at the end of July," said Megan MacDowell, project director of the Andes Amazon Fund, a philanthropic organization which contributed $1 million for the creation of Sierra del Divisor. "This could build on his legacy after already declaring Sierra del Divisor as a National Park, which was widely popular."

Experts hope that Yaguas National Park will become a paradise for scientific research, too. In the last decade, various discoveries have been made in the region: eight fish —Ituglanis, Centromochlus, Mastiglanis, Batrochoglanis, Ancistrus, Ammocryptocharax, Characidium and Synbranchu— three anfibian species, and one bird species.

According to a biological inventory produced by the Field Museum in 2010, Yaguas could be a habitat for the greatest diversity of fish in all of Peru –with around 550 species.