Environmental problems in Peru

Familiar environmental problems threaten biodiversity

Illegal logging in the lowland rainforest along the Rio La Torre. Loggers on search for bush meat ... / ©: WWF / André BÄRTSCHI
Illegal logging in the lowland rainforest along the Rio La Torre. Loggers on search for bush meat while working in a remote area, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios department, Peru.
Peru’s natural treasures face threats which are replicated all over the world. Problems include illegal logging, over-fishing, extensive hunting, environmentally unsound oil exploitation activities, road construction, and deforestation caused by agricultural expansion.

Sources of water pollution are industrial waste, sewage, and oil-related waste. Only 87% percent of city dwellers and 62% of the rural population have access to pure drinking water. The oil mining industry is believed responsible for the pollution of many lakes and rivers. Soil erosion has resulted from overgrazing on the slopes of the costa and sierra. Air pollution is caused by industry and vehicle emissions.

An astounding 715ha of forest is lost every day. Illegal logging is a significant contributory factor, but slash-and-burn and other agricultural activities, in particular coca growing, have driven Peru's current deforestation rate to approximately 261,000ha per year.

Inadequate protection
There are about 5,528 plant species and 760 animal species endemic to Peru. However, many of these species need special and careful protection, particularly given the extensive, and often illegal, hunting. There are a total of 222 endangered species of which: 31 are facing extinction; 89 are classified as vulnerable; 22 are rare species; and 80 have an indefinite status.

Endangered species include the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda), puna rhea (Rhea pennata garleppi), tundra peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus tundrius), white-winged guan (Penelope albipennis arrau), green turtle (
Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), and Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius).

Peru's marine and coastal ecosystems comprise one of the world's most productive areas. Currently, the Paracas National Reserve is the only area that protects these ecosystems. The reserve covers 335,000ha of coastal lands and ocean water.

Adequate protection of the area is therefore critical. The reserve holds a rich diversity of marine and coastal life, from cetaceans and whales to seals and wintering migratory birds from North America, the Galapagos, Patagonia, and the Antarctic.

 / ©: WWF
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