Tambopata National Reserve
This reserve is composed of 274,690 hectares (1,060.6 square miles) of lowland Amazonian rainforest, riverine forest, and oxbow lakes near the Malinowski, Tambopata, and Madre de Dios Rivers in southeastern Peru. The large area of biodiverse habitats protected in the reserve play host to well over 1,000 species of butterflies, more than 100 species of mammals, around 600 species of birds, and hundreds of species of trees and plants. In short, this reserve (and the Madre de Dios region) acts as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Originally home to the Ese-eja people, many Es-eja families still make their homes in the buffer zone of the protected area. Within the boundaries of the reserve itself, the only places of permanent residence are a few ranger stations, and the Tambopata Research Center (TRC).
TRC is in the national reserve because it was established before the declaration of national reserve status in 1996. Before then, the area that includes the present day national reserve and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park was known as the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved-Zone. This status was given to the area in 1990 after some form of protection was proposed by several biologists and conservationists. They were interested in establishing protected status for the Tambopata area because much of it (and adjacent Bolivia) represented one of the last remaining, large areas of intact, nearly untouched lowland and foothill rainforests in Peru (and the world) that were also connected to cloud forests at higher elevations, as well as wet savannahs. Those forests also had very few people living in them, and conservationists realized that the Tambopata area could act as a major corridor between Manu and rainforests in Bolivia, especially because it harbored healthy populations of tapirs, Jaguars and other felines, Giant Otters, Harpy Eagles, several species of macaws, and other animals that have disappeared from many other parts of Amazonia.
While reserved zone status did afford the area some protection, it still left the window open for changes in land use. To help close that window and give the area permanent status, conservation organizations carried out further studies to assess its importance for biodiversity, and if giving it strict protection would work with local cultural and social dynamics. Those studies helped build a strong case to change the status of the “reserved zone” to that of an officially protected “national reserve”, and the Tambopata National Reserve was born. This is also why guests of TRC have to sign in and out at ranger stations during travel to and from the research center.