Peru's ecological and archaelogical assets create niche tourism markets

Home to 25,000 plant species, 2000 species of fish, more than 500 mammals and 500 amphibians, Peru is considered among the 12 most biodiverse countries in the world. With a total of 158 protected areas that cover over 22m ha – approximately 17% of the country’s land mass, Peru has enormous potential for boosting growth in eco-tourism. This type of tourism is becoming a niche market, where a range of products are being developed, from cruises in the jungle to bird-watching and science-oriented excursions.

Eco-Treasures

Crops with Andean origins, such as tomatoes and potatoes, are early examples of how Peruvian ecology has helped enhance and improve human nutrition throughout the centuries. Additionally, indigenous crops such as quinoa and kiwicha, are considered “superfoods” and are used by astronauts because of their nutritional content. Advances have also been made on the pharmaceutical side. These range from using properties found in quinoa to treat malaria – evidence of which has been recorded as early as the 17th century – to the use of uncaria guianensis to treat a range of health problems.

Diverse Attractions

The Natural Reserve of Paracas, located in the Ica region south of Lima, owes its name to the Paracas culture, an ancient pre-Inca civilisation. The specific climate found in Paracas has made it an ideal site for attracting anchovies, which have served as the basis for an entire ecosystem where sea lions and Humboldt penguins, as well as guano birds, have co-existed for many centuries.

The desert that surrounds the Bay of Paracas has high concentrations of salt. This, combined with archaeological discoveries of fish skeletons from previous eras, has led scientists to conclude that the whole region used to be a part of the ocean. However, this is not the desert’s biggest mystery. Northwest in the same bay, a 120-sq-metre candelabra is drawn in the sand. The geoglyph can be seen from nearly 20 km away. Many theories have arisen to explain the origin of this drawing, with some pointing to the Paracas culture as a religious monument similar to the Nazca lines. Others claim that it might have been created by the Spanish conquistadors as a signal for their sailors. While theories of its origin may vary, the fact is that several archaeological treasures like this remain to be discovered throughout Peru. Paracas is just one example out of eight national reserves, seven national parks, six national sanctuaries, three historic sanctuaries and 11 reserved areas, among other minor natural protected areas (Áreas Naturales Protegidas, ANPs).

Protecting Biodiversity

The government created the ANPs to ensure that the water resources, indigenous communities, flora and fauna are protected. These areas are administered by the National System of Natural Protected Areas of the State and divided into different categories: parks, reserves and national sanctuaries, reserved areas, hunting parks, protected forests and communal reserves.

Moreover, on October 30th 2015, The presidents of Peru and Colombia – Ollanta Humala and Juan Manuel Santos – signed an agreement to create the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Programme, an initiative aimed at protecting over 80% of the Amazon and boosting efforts to combat climate change. The Global Environment Facility, an organ established at the Rio Earth summit to help tackle environmental issues, works in partnership with several development banks and institutions such as The World Bank, the US Food and Agriculture Organisation and the UN Development Programme, among many others. The organisation will commit $113m to the initiative while an additional $682m is expected to be raised in the coming five years. The Brazilian government is also expected to join the programme, which the presidents have taken to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference as part of a broader strategy to defend the protection of biodiversity in the Amazon region and to expand global awareness of issues in the area.

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