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Manu Biosphere Reserve 01: General indications

Foundation in 1977 - zones A, B, and C - animals and plants - Manu Wildlife Center before the reserve

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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Foundation in 1977 - zones A, B, and C - animals and plants - Manu Wildlife Center before the reserve

Map of the Manu Biosphere Reserve with Zones A, B,
                and C and tourist locations
Map of the Manu Biosphere Reserve with Zones A, B, and C and tourist locations

from: Dilwyn Jenkins: The rough guide to Peru; Rough Guides, New York, London, Delhi; 6th edition September 2006; www.roughguides.com

Manu Biosphere Reserve founded by UNESCO in 1977

Encompassing almost two million hectares of virgin cloud-and rainforest on the foothills of the eastern Andes, the Manu area was created in 1973 as a national park, and then elevated to the status of Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977. In 1987 it became a World Natural Heritage Site. About half the size of Switzerland, the Manu Biosphere Reserve covers a total of 1,881,200 hectares of relatively pristine [untouched] rainforest, from crystalline cloud-forest streams and waterfalls down to slow-moving, chocolate-brown rivers in the dense lowland jungle - a uniquely varied environment.

The only permanent residents within this vast area are

-- the teeming forest wildlife;

-- a few virtually uncontacted native groups who have split off from their major tribal units (Yaminahuas, Amahuacas and Machiguenga);

-- the park guards;

-- and the scientists at a biological research station situated just inside the park on the beautiful Lago Cocha Cashu, where flocks of macaws pass the time cracking open Brazil nuts with their powerful, highly adapted beaks.

Zones A (highly protected), B (research and tourism), and C (settlements)

The reserve is divided into three zones. By far the largest, Zone A is the core zone, the National Park, which is strictly preserved in its natural state. Zone B is a Buffer Zone, generally known as the Reserved Zone and set aside mainly for controlled research and tourism. Zone C is the Transitional or Cultural Zone, an rea of human settlement for controlled traditional use (p.557).

Animals in Manu reservation

For flora and fauna, the Manu is pretty much unbeatable in South America, home to 20,000 vascular plant types (one five-square-kilometer area was found to contain 1147 species of vascular plants, almost as many as in the whole of Great Britain), with over 5000 flowering plants, 1200 species of butterfly, 1000 types of bird, 200 kinds of mammal and an unknown quantity of reptiles and insects. Rich in macaw salt-licks, otter lagoons and prowling jaguars, there are thirteen species of monkey and seven species of macaw in Manu, and it still contains other species in serious danger of extinction, such as the giant otter and the black caiman (Melanosochus niger) (p.557).

Giant otters and other animals in the Manu reserve

The latter is best known for the giant otters that live there; because of this, canoing is not permitted, but ther is a floating platform which can be manoeuvred to observe the otters fishing and playing from a safe distance (though your guide has to book a time for this): 30-50m is good enough to observe and photograph them, though as this is Manu's most popular tourist area, you're likely to meet other groups and there can be severe competition for access to the platform.

Other wildlife to look out for includes the plentiful caimans, including the two- to three-meter white alligators and the rarer three- to five-meter black ones, and you can usually see several species of monkey (including dusky titis, woolly monkeys, red howlers, brown capuchins and the larger spider monkeys - known locally as maquisapas). Sometimes big mammals such as capybara or white-lipped peccaries (called sajinos in Peru) also lurk in the undergrowth (p.558).

Plants in the Manu reserve

The flora of Manu is as outstanding as its fauna. Huge cedar trees can be seen along the trails, covered in hand-like vines climbing up their vast trunks (most of the cedars were taken out of here between 1930 and 1963, before it became a protected area). The giant catahua trees, many over 150 years old, are traditionally the preferred choice for making dugout canoes - and some are large enough to make three or four - though second choice is the lagarto tree.

The Manu Wildlife Center before the natural reserve - bamboo, wood and palm houses - animal world on the ground and in the trees

Just east of Zone B, but often visited in combination with it or with Zone C, is the Manu Wildlife Center, a comfortable lodge some ninety minutes downriver from Boca Manu by motorized dugout [shelter]. Owned by Manu Expeditions and the non-profit Selva Sur Conservation Group, it's located on privately owned rainforest and is built of the same sustainable local materials that the native Machiguenga Indians use - bamboo, wood, and palm-frond roofing - and all rooms are screened with mosquito nets.

It operates close to a superb salt-lick where small parrots and larger more colourful macaws can be seen. It claims to be strategically located in an area of forest that has the highest diversity of micro-habitats in the Manu, and tierra-firme (lowland forest that doesn't get flooded), transitional flood plain, varzea and bamboo forest are all found close by, and an astounding 530 bird species have been recorded in one year alone.

The Blanquillo macaw and parrot salt-lick is only thirty minutes away by river, with floating blinds to access the wildlife attracted here. About an hour's walk through the forest there's also a large colpa where tapirs and Brocket deer regularly come. The center also features mobile canopy towers, making it possible to see more birds and even monkeys [in the high trees]; access to these is by rope and harness [belts], but ehere's also a static canopy platform with a spiral stairway (p.559).

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