Peruvian Amazon

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Amazon rainforest in Peru

The Peruvian Amazon (Spanish: Amazonía del Perú) is the area of the Amazon rainforest included within the country of Peru, from east of the Andes to the borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia. This region comprises 60% of the country and is marked by a large degree of biodiversity. Peru has the second-largest portion of the Amazon rainforest after the Brazilian Amazon.


Most Peruvian territory is covered by dense potataorsa forests on the east side of the Andes, yet only 5% of Peruvians live in this area. More than 60% of Peruvian territory is covered by the Amazon rain forest, more than in any other country except Brazil.

According to the Research Institute of the Peruvian Amazon (Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana, IIAP), the spatial delineation of the Peruvian Amazon is as follows:

  • Ecological criteria: 782,880.55 km² (60.91% of Peruvian territory and approximately 11.05% of the entire Amazon jungle).
  • Hydrographic criteria or basin criteria: 96,922.47 km² (75.31% of Peruvian territory and approximately 16.13% of the whole Amazon basin).

Ecoregions and climate[edit]

The Peruvian Amazon is traditionally divided into two distinct ecoregions:

The lowland jungle (in Spanish Selva Baja) is also known as Omagua region, Walla, Anti, Amazonian rainforest or Amazon basin. This ecoregion is the largest of Peru, standing between 80 and 1,000 meters above sea level. It has very warm weather with an average temperature of 28°C, high relative humidity (over 75%) and yearly rainfall of approximately 260 cm (100 in). Its soils are very heterogeneous, but almost all have river origins. Because of high temperatures and high rainfall, they are poor soils with few nutrients.

The jungle contains long and powerful rivers such as the Apurimac, Mantaro, Amazon, Urubamba, Ucayali, Huallaga, Marañón, Putumayo, Yavarí, Napo, Pastaza, Madre de Dios, Manu, Purus, and Tigre. The Apurimac River is the source of the Amazon River. The Pacaya Samiria Reserve and the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve are within the forest.

The highland jungle (in Spanish Selva Alta) is also called Pupa Pupa region, Andean jungle, ceja de selva. This ecoregion extends into the eastern foothills of the Andes, between 1,000 to 3,800 m above the sea level. The eastern slopes of the Andes are home to a great variety of fauna and flora because of the different altitudes and climates within the region. Temperatures are warm in the lowlands and cooler in higher altitudes. There are many endemic fauna because of the isolation caused by the rugged terrain of the area.[1]


The Peruvian Amazon jungle is one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth. As a nation, Peru has the largest number of bird species in the world and the third-largest number of mammals; 44% of bird species and 63% of mammal species inhabit the Peruvian Amazon. Peru also has a very high number of species of butterflies, orchids, and other organisms.

Taxonomy Species in the world Species in Peru Species in the Peruvian Amazon Peru Vs. world
Peruvian Amazon
Vs. Peru (Percent)
Amphibians 5,125 403 262 8 65
Birds 9,672 1,816 806 19 54
Flowering plants (Angiosperms) 263,537 17,144 7,372 7 43
Ferns (Pteridophyta) 10,000 1,000 700 10 70
Mammals 4,629 462 293 10 63
Butterflies (Lepidoptera) 16,000 3,366 2,500 21 74
Fish (river fish) 8,411 900 697 11 77
Reptiles 7,855 395 180 5 46

This table was elaborated by Edwin Jesús Villacorta Monzón, with data obtained among many sources from years 1997, 2001 and 2006.


Although it is the largest region of Peru, the Peruvian Amazon is the least populated. It is home to approximately 5% of the country's population. Many indigenous peoples, such as the Aguaruna, Cocama-Cocamilla and the Urarina,[2] inhabit the jungle, some in relative isolation from the rest of the world.

The primary cities located in the Peruvian Amazon include:

Illegal logging[edit]

Over the last decades illegal logging has become a serious problem in the Peruvian Amazon. In 2012 the World Bank estimated that 80% of Peru’s timber exports are illegally harvested.[3] This uncontrolled deforestation could negatively affect the habitats of indigenous tribes, the Peruvian biodiversity and of course the climate change. Moreover illegal deforestation might lead to more violent crimes. This has already been demonstrated on the 1st of September 2014, when four indigenous leaders were murdered, including the famous environmental activist Edwin Chota. These leaders were asking for governmental protection against illegal loggers, after being threatened several times. Partly due to this, illegal loggers are being blamed for the assassination.[4]

The emergence of an illegal industry[edit]

In an attempt to support local incomes in the Amazon, the Peruvian government granted non-transferable contracts to individual farmers to perform small-scale logging activities. Soon however, big logging companies started paying individual loggers for the use of their contracts and established an illegal, large-scale logging industry. [5] In 1992 the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) was founded to guarantee a more sustainable use of national resources.[6] Yet, this institution has never been able to carry out its task due to several reasons. First of all, INRENA lacked sufficient resources compared with the magnitude of their responsibilities.[7] Next to this, corruption was a problem in several layers of the organisation.[8] Moreover, until recently, INRENA was part of the Ministry of Agriculture.[9] This suggests that INRENA was not completely independent; it was housed in an institution that had to safeguard the interest of the agricultural sector, which could be conflicting with INRENA’s objective.

In 2000 Peru modified the Forestry and Wildlife Law in order to improve the logging sector.[10] In the subsequent years however, the situation in the Peruvian timber industry only deteriorated. To some extent this can be explained by the fact that Brazil illegalised the exports of mahogany (one of the most valuable and endangered types of wood in the world) from 2001 on.[11] This Brazilian ban is likely to have caused the increase in Peruvian mahogany exports. Soon after the ban, international institutions revealed their severe concerns about the state of the Peruvian timber industry. In particular the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), started paying extra attention to Peru as the trade in mahogany falls under CITES’ regulation. Albeit the fact that from then on, one needed special permits for harvesting and exporting any endangered species, the forestry sector was still far from sustainable.

Illegal logging with permits[edit]

Although it is understandable that illegal logging cannot be stopped easily in the Peruvian Amazons (an inaccessible area bigger than Spain), the illegal exportation of timber is supposed to be more difficult; the shipments are huge and there are very few routes from the Amazons to the coast. Nevertheless, until now it has been relatively easy for companies to ship and export illegal timber. Despite the fact that the Peruvian government claims that it does not know anything about the method used by these companies, it is common-knowledge.[12]

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) provided a clear picture of this mechanism in their report The Laundering Machine. According to them, the biggest flaw in the Peruvian system for years has been the granting of logging permits: ‘Concessionaires submit for approval lists that do not exist in the real world, and complicit authorities approve the extraction of this non-existent wood’.[13] These permits allow companies to transport almost all sorts of wood (both legal and illegal) out of the country. There are only two ways to stop illegal loggers: catching them in the act, or, in case of controlling a shipment, environmental prosecutors have to prove that the timber does not come from the place written on the permit (which is only possible by going to this place). With not more than a hundred environmental prosecutors in Peru, it is not surprising that both methods are far from effective.

The American-Peruvian Free Trade Agreement[edit]

The international attention levels increased again in 2007, when Peru and the United States (US) agreed on a new Free Trade agreement (FTA), which was implemented in 2009. According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) the FTA included a number of binding commitments to ensure environmental protection, focussing on the Peruvian forestry sector.[14] Both parties agreed, amongst others, on the following measures: establishing an independent forestry oversight body, penalising those who committed logging crimes, creating new (and a better implementation of existing) laws, developing an anti-corruption plan and the US would provide monetary help.[15] Yet the results are ambiguous. On the one hand proponents claim that the forestry sector experienced significant improvements. Some (small) improvements are indeed visible. With the formation of the Supervisory Body of Forest and Wildlife Resources (OSINFOR), the first promise was met. Next to this, US officials started training Peruvian law enforcement officers, although only on a minor scale.

On the other hand, the FTA caused a lot of social unrest as indigenous groups expected the FTA to ‘give incentives for further and irreversible destruction of virgin rainforest’.[16] Local communities were not the only ones who criticised the agreement. In 2010 Public Citizen published an article, which stated that, despite all promises, ‘environmental and labour conditions in Peru have deteriorated rapidly since the congressional passage of the FTA’.[17]

Notwithstanding who was right, the FTA has not prevented illegal timber trade between Peru and the US. At least 35% of the Peruvian timber exports to the US between 2008 and 2010, contained illegal wood.[18] This percentage however, only covers the trade in species that are regulated by the CITES. As only very few types of timber fall under this legislation, the real percentage of illegally harvested timber in Peru is assumed to be significantly higher.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pulgar Vidal, Javier: Geografía del Perú; Las Ocho Regiones Naturales del Perú. Edit. Universo S.A., Lima 1979. First Edition (his dissertation of 1940): Las ocho regiones naturales del Perú, Boletín del Museo de historia natural, „Javier Prado“, n° especial, Lima, 1941, 17, pp. 145-161.
  2. ^ Dean, Bartholomew 2009 Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Gainesville: University Press of Florida ISBN 978-0-8130-3378-5
  3. ^ World Bank (2012) Justice for Forests. Improving Criminal Justice Efforts to Combat Illegal Logging. Washington, DC: Pereira Goncalves, P., Panjer, M., Greenberg, T. S. & Magrath, W.B.
  4. ^ Collins, D. (2014). Illegal loggers blamed for murder of Peru forest campaigner. [1]
  5. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). La Máquina Lavadora, p. 8
  6. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). La Máquina Lavadora, p. 20
  7. ^ Smith, J., Colan, V., Sabogal, C., & Snook, L. (2006). Why policy reforms fail to improve logging practices: The role of governance and norms in Peru. Forest Policy and Economics, 8(4), 466.
  8. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). La Máquina Lavadora, p. 20
  9. ^ Smith, J., Colan, V., Sabogal, C., & Snook, L. (2006). Why policy reforms fail to improve logging practices: The role of governance and norms in Peru. Forest Policy and Economics, 8(4), 463.
  10. ^ Naughton-Treves, L. Deforestation and carbon emissions at tropical frontiers: a case study from the Peruvian Amazon. World Development 32.1 (2004): 185
  11. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). La Máquina Lavadora, p. 6
  12. ^ Matalon, L. (2014). Building a Template for Sustainable Forestry. Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America, Peru 20-24.
  13. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). La Máquina Lavadora, p. 4
  16. ^ Asociacíon Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruanana (2007). Peru’s mahogany exports threaten survival of indigenous tribes and violate international environmental laws.[4]
  17. ^ Public Citizen (2010). A Year after Implementation of Peru Free Trade Agreement, U.S. and Peru Left with Broken Promises and No New Trade Model. Washington, DC: McArthur, T. & Tucker T.
  18. ^ Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). La Máquina Lavadora, p. 3

External links[edit]