The former heart of the Inca Empire, Peru has a rich history for visitors to explore and admire. Its diverse Pacific coastline, high Andean mountains, deep Amazon basins, dry deserts, and wet tropical forests form 84 different ecosystems, as well as 28 of the 32 known climates on the planet. Peru is second only to Brazil in terms of territory covered by tropical rainforests. That’s why Peru is one of the top 10 most biodiverse countries in the world and is definitely about more than alpacas!
Peru is home to more than 300 species of reptiles and 500 species of mammals, including spectacled bears, pumas, and jaguars. More than 70 mammal species and 130 birds are endemic, and close to 100 are threatened, vulnerable, or endangered. The country’s flora is just as abundant as its wildlife, with more than 20,000 species of plants that account for 10% of the world’s total. In 2015 alone, scientists discovered 71 new plants, 6 types of freshwater fish, and various forms of saltwater fish and insects.
To foster both sustainable development and preservation of the country’s natural wonders, the Peruvian government established a national system of refuges. There are currently 61 protected areas that cover 14% of the nation. Even with these protections, the country’s old-growth rainforest is only 58% of its original size. This dramatic loss is the result of deforestation fueled by mining, oil drilling, logging, and the expansion of farming lands, all of which continues today.
The western Amazon in Peru is one of the world’s most ecologically and socially fragile areas. About 70% of the Peruvian Amazon is currently slated for oil and gas extraction, which will add to the rate of deforestation, loss of natural habitat, and pollution. Today, Peru has as many as 106 threatened animal species, like the spectacled bear, Andean condor, white-winged guan, the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, and many more. In addition, there are 51 critically endangered species, many of which have populations of less than 250. The populations of some of these species are expected to decrease by 80% in the next 10 years. Some may already be extinct.
Deforestation contributes to 50% of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Peru’s Cerro Blanco, the highest sand dune in the world, stands 3,860 feet from base to summit.