A showcase for life at its most prolific
Peru's Manu is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. It is home to over 1,000 species of birds, 300 species of trees, and countless other life forms. The entire area is situated within the Amazon River basin and protects almost the entire watershed of the River Manu and most of the tributaries of the River Alto Madre de Dios. In 1968, Manu was declared a national reserve, and 5 years later, it was upgraded to a national park.
Today, the entire region of Manu, 1,881,200 ha, is considered a biosphere reserve. The Manu Biosphere Reserve is composed of 3 parts: the Manu National Park, a region protecting the natural flora and fauna; the Manu Reserved Zone, an area reserved for research and tourism; and the Manu Cultural Zone, a place used for human settlement.
With these recent conservation efforts, life in Manu flourishes. Presently, scientists and researchers are learning more about the indigenous Machiguenga Indians that still inhabit Manu, as well as of the regional flora and fauna.
With its size just smaller than New Jersey, Manu protects a greater number of plant and animal species than any other such South American park (with the exception of remote Madidi in Bolivia). The list includes 1,000 species of birds, more than 200 species of mammals (100 of which are bats), and 15,000 species of flowering plants.
Manu National Park is probably the most biologically diverse protected area in the world. It contains nearly all the ecological formations of eastern Peru: tropical lowland forest; montane forest and puna grasslands, with their respective flora and fauna. Some botanists claim that Manu has more plant species than any other protected area on the earth.
There are at least 13 wildlife species in the park known to be globally threatened including Black caiman, Giant otter and Ocelot. There is also a diverse number of fish, amphibians and invertebrates and it has been estimated that the park contains at least 500,000 species of arthropods.
Ecotourism is an important economic activity for the inhabitants of the rainforest that permits its use without destroying the rainforest resources. Macaws provide a great incentive for tourism in Manu. While pursuing the ingestion of clay on the riverside clay licks, they congregate in large numbers, providing visitors with a spectacular display of color and sound.
Manu Wildlife Centre boasts of the world's largest known Tapir Clay Lick. A record 19 tapirs have been counted during one night at this lick. Currently, this is the best place in the world to see these amazing beasts, which are the largest terrestrial animals in South America. Manu Wildlife Center also reports that over 10% of their guests are able to observe Jaguars, a percentage unrivaled elsewhere in the Neotropics.
UNESCO officially recognizes this natural paradise as a world heritage site. In 1977 it designated Manu as a World Biosphere Reserve because it contains the best existing example of bio-diversity in protected areas of rain forest, as well as endemic areas of cloud forest.