10 things I learned in the Peruvian Amazon

WWF January 18, 2017 1

A photo essay based on Natural Habitat Adventure’s Great Amazon River Cruise in Peru.

#1:  The next installment of Mad Max should be filmed in Iquitos

© Dana Swan

© Dana Swan

Three-wheeled ‘tuc-tucs’ and other rolling contraptions dominate Iquitos – the biggest city in the Peruvian Amazon, and our trip’s jumping off point.  But the most fascinating thing about this home for 500,000 people is that NO ROADS connect Iquitos to Peru’s other major cities.  Everything not made here has to come by riverboat – because in this part of the Amazon region, the only roads that connect to the rest of civilization – are rivers!

#2:  River color can depend which side of the boat you’re on

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

On our first excursion, we came to a spot in the Marañón River (a principal source of the Amazon River) where water turned black from decomposing leaves abruptly met tan water colored by sediment.  In other words, nature’s own ‘black and tan’!

#3:  Visiting Peru’s Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve was like being on a movie set

© Hugh Smith

© Hugh M. Smith

A movie set, that is, whose supporting characters are monkeys (like the night monkeys pictured above), sloths, tarantulas – and birds in quantities that would make Alfred Hitchcock blush.

#4:  It’s the kind of place where real estate is at a premium – for plants

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

The battle for sunlight and nutrients means that epiphytes – plants that grow on other plants – abound, sometimes obscuring the trees they grown on.

#5:  And where giant water lilies can reach seven feet across

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

Giant water lilies in the Amazon provide food and shade for insects, catfish, and even freshwater stingrays.  Frogger, anyone?

#6:  Some people are butterfly whisperers

© Dana Swan

© Dana Swan

This Baeotus butterfly took a particular liking to one traveler, and repeatedly landed on the same spot on her hand.  (Surprisingly, travelers were just as calm when a baby tarantula was discovered on our skiff – though I’m guessing that’s because the tarantula wasn’t discovered on someone’s hand!)

#7:  Amazon sunset = pure serenity

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

Seen from the deck of our ferry boat, this tranquil sunset’s colors against the undulating river were unforgettable.  (For a sense of scale, bust out your magnifying glass to spot two dugout canoes gliding near the riverbank at far left.)

#8:  Spectacled caiman could be on the rebound in Pacaya-Samiria Reserve

© J.J. Huckin

© J.J. Huckin

We spotted a group of baby spectacled caiman (named for the bony ridge between their eyes that evokes eyeglasses), a possible sign that the species is making a comeback after years of overhunting for their skins and meat.  Better demarcation of the reserve’s boundaries, more frequent communication with local communities, and enhanced enforcement are necessary to protect these and other at-risk species.

#9:  The reserve protects resources on which local communities depend

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

Residents of the more than 200 communities in and around the reserve are allowed to fish in sustainable quantities.  This helps ensure plentiful catches, like the one this fisher proudly displayed in his dugout canoe.

#10:  Local people are key to Pacaya-Samiria’s future

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

© Jon Tua/WWF-US

Community representatives participate in regular stakeholder meetings, which channel the voices and concerns of local citizens, leading to better decisions about the how to manage the reserve.  Peru’s Natural Legacy is a collaborative initiative between Peru’s national park system and other organizations that will strengthen such participatory management and enforcement efforts in Pacaya-Samiria and many other national parks in Peru.  It will secure conservation and livelihoods gains made to date for local Peruvians – including for those living in towns in the reserve, like the family we met above.

By Jon Tua, Director, Strategic Planning & Finance, WWF

One Comment »

  1. Jayne Keay February 5, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Inspirational! Thanks for sharing.

Leave A Response »