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Peru considers fate of Amazon wildlife paradise

The green iguana is one of more than 100 species of reptiles and amphibians found in La Sierra del Divisor. Photos by Rhett A. Butler.

The fate of La Sierra del Divisor, a 1.5 million hectare reserve lauded for its megadiversity of wildlife, will soon to be decided.

According to El Comercio, next week the Peruvian government is expected to rule whether Divisor will be declared a national park. The designation, which was requested by local groups nearly a decade ago, would strengthen legal protection of the area, which faces logging, mining, coca cultivation, and agricultural encroachment. It would also establish rules for the buffer zone around the park.

Protection is important because Divisor lies in an area that has some of the highest levels of biodiversity ever recorded on the planet, including 550 bird species, 120 mammals, and nearly 80 amphibians documented within the borders of the reserve. However designation has been held up by concessions granted to two energy companies — Maple and Pacific Stratus Energy — in the area. Under Peruvian law any exploration or extraction rights granted to those companies prior to the establishment of the protected area would need to be upheld.

Volcanic rainforest cone and landscape in Sierra del Divisor. Photo by Diego Pérez.

Global Forest Watch image showing La Sierra del Divisor, including recent forest loss and gain in the region. Click image to enlarge.

Nonetheless some officials believe the park could still be created without infringing on the energy companies’ rights.

“There is much understanding with the company,” Gabriel Quijandría, vice minister of Strategic Development of Natural Resources at the Ministry of Environment, told El Comercio. “It is a suitable partner and I would say even desirable.”

Divisor lies near the Peru-Brazil border, adjacent to Brazil’s Serra do Divisor National Park. Besides an incredible wealth of wildlife, including jaguar, tapir, and endangered primates like the red uakari monkey and Goeldi’s monkey, the area is home to traditional indigenous peoples.

La Sierra del Divisor is home to stunning caterpillars and jaguar, among other species.

The effort to create the park has been supported by several local and indigenous organizations, including CEDIA, as well as the U.S.-based Rainforest Trust.

Joe Lowe of Rainforest Trust said park’s creation would represent an “incredible success” for conservation efforts in Peru.

“If the park is created it will be a spectacular victory for a group of conservation groups both in Peru and abroad that have labored intensively to ensure its protection,” Lowe told Mongabay. “It will also be an incredible success for local indigenous communities that have urgently petitioned the Peruvian Government for protection of their forests.”

Peru has second largest extent of rainforest in South America after Brazil. It accounts for just over a tenth of the Amazon rainforest.

With 15 primate species La Sierra del Divisor holds one of the highest levels of primate diversity in the Western Amazon.