Established on May 12, the Bosques Secos del Marañón Regional Conservation Area will protect the rare Marañón dry forest ecoregion, an area underrepresented in the Peruvian National Protected Area System. Situated along the Marañón River in the Cajamarca Region, this new area protects 53,856 acres containing one of the highest rates of endemism of plant and animal species in Peru. Referred to as the Grand Canyon of South America, this area boasts a unique microclimate and landscape that acts as a genetic island hosting many species found only in this region.
The new conservation area is positioned in a set of rugged canyons covered by a seasonally dry tropical forests along the Marañón – the second largest river in Peru and one of the precursors of the mighty Amazon. The conservation of the landscape around the Marañón and its tributaries, the Crisnejas and Miriles Rivers, is key to sustaining the livelihoods of local communities. This river system is not only their source of water for agriculture and livestock, but also an opportunity to generate local ecotourism enterprises. The Marañón River is one the world’s most exciting destinations for river rafting, for it runs through deep, rugged, and colorful canyons covered with giant cacti and a bizarre vegetation, making for spectacular views. The management plans for the new conservation area will include helping communities develop new adventure tourism and birdwatching ventures to generate income and ongoing support for the area’s protection.
“Since we created our first regional conservation area last year, we have been acquiring not only experience but have also been coordinating with different entities, both public and private, to generate opportunities for sustainable development.”– José Huamán, Assistant Manager of Natural Resources and Natural Protected Areas for the Regional Government of Cajamarca.
Initial biological inventories reveal that the new conservation area is home to at least 65 species of plants of which nearly half are endemic to the Marañón River valley. Nine out of 55 species of birds are unique to the area as well, in addition to half of its reptiles. This area is an important destination for nature lovers and birdwatchers looking for endemic species. Flagship species include the buff-bridled Inca finch (Incaspiza laeta), thechestnut-backed thornbird (Phacellodomus dorsalis), the endemic Marañon Ameiva lizard (Ameiva aggerecusans), and the critically endangered Palo Verde tree (Parkinsonia peruviana). Further biological evaluations will certainly bring many more surprises.
The creation of the Bosques Secos del Marañón Regional Conservation Area was made possible thanks to a collaboration between the Regional Government of Cajamarca, the Peruvian Protected Area Service (SERNANP) and AAF grantee Nature and Culture International. A special thank you to the leaders and inhabitants of the municipalities of José Sabogal and Sitacocha and the provinces of San Marcos and Cajabamba where the new protected area is located.