Tambopata harbors some of the wildest, least impacted habitats in the world. In the one million plus hectare protected areas of this region, rainforests and tropical savannahs meet in a land where roads have never existed and rivers are the only means of access. This huge wilderness gets its name from the Ese-Eja words for “Tambopata” (Bahuaja) and “Heath” (Sonene). These are, in turn, names for two prominent waterways in the modern day Tambopata province.
In a part of Peru already known for wild rainforests, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park stands out for its vast, wild character. Buffered by the 274,690 hectare Tambopata National Reserve, the deep, wildlife-filled jungles are rarely visited by people, and very little access is given to the national park to preserve it as Amazonian wilderness.
The forests and savannahs of Bahuaja National Park have existed for 30 to 50 million years. The vast rainforests of the Amazon basin are believed to have formed around that time in conjunction with a warm, moist climate related to widening of the Atlantic Ocean. The rainforests of the Amazon and Bahuaja-Sonene are also thought to have gone through dry periods associated with glaciation in other parts of the globe. As climate in some parts of the Amazon basin became drier, Tambopata and much of southeastern Peru retained their forest cover. Arguments for this are supported by southeastern Peru being one of the most biodiverse areas of the entire Amazon rainforest, and the existence of several species of plants and animals found nowhere else.
During most of their history, the rainforests of Bahuaja-Sonene were untouched by people.
Although it’s hard to say when humans first walked through the cathedral-like rainforests of southeastern Peru, nomadic tribes may have arrived anywhere from 10,000 to 5,000 years ago. Since that time, the main people residing in Tambopata have belonged to the Ese-Eja culture. Living in small communities, they cultivated manioc (yuca), foraged for wild fruits and plants in the forest, and hunted for wild animals such as tapirs, deer, and gamebirds.
Communities of Ese-Eja people continue to live near the boundaries of the national park but since the creation of Bahuaja-Sonene in 1996, very few people have penetrated the heart of the park.
Habitats in Tambopata National Reserve
The 1,091,416 hectares of the Tambopata National Reserve include such habitats as:
· Large tracts of old-growth Amazonian rainforest with trees 30 meters (90 feet) or more in height.
· Thick groves of bamboo.
· Beautiful floodplain rainforests that flood during the wet season and harbor small wetlands.
· Oxbow lakes.
Biodiversity in Tambopata
The lowland forests and tropical savannahs of Tambopata are some of the most biodiverse areas on the globe.
Birds: 670 bird species have been identified, including the Harpy Eagle, a large, rare raptor that preys on monkeys and sloths, the strange Hoatzin, and eight macaw species (six of which can be seen at the Tambopata Research Center clay lick).
Mammals: 200 species, including healthy populations of Jaguar, Giant Anteater, Amazonian Tapir, and, in the savannah habitats of the Rio Heath, the Maned Wolf.
Reptiles and Amphibians: 210 species, including several species of tree frogs, the colorful Tambopata Poison Frog, and the beautiful Rainbow Boa.
Insects and other arthropods: The number of species of insects and spiders that live in the rainforests of Tambopata number in the thousands. Many are expected to be species unknown to science.
Trees and plants: Over 10,000 species of plants have been identified in Tambopata, Peru, making it one of the highest areas for plant diversity on the planet. A few of the more noteworthy plants are the Brazil Nut Tree, the huge Ceiba, and quick growing Balsa trees.