Category: Blog


Published: March 20, 2012

Science Action's 23rd rapid inventory leads to protected expanse in northern Peru

Corine Vriesendorp, MacArthur Senior Conservation Ecologist and Director of the Andes-Amazon Program, Keller Science Action Center

Days before the change in government in July 2011, Peru’s outgoing administration established Zona Reservada Yaguas. The new protected expanse, the target of our 23rd rapid inventory, harbors exceedingly diverse communities of plants and animals, and more than a dozen species new to science. There were two unexpected highlights. We found that this region shelters more fish species than anywhere else in the entire country (the two rivers support 65% of Peru’s known freshwater fish diversity). In addition, perhaps our most remarkable discovery was a large archipelago of peat swamps, covered by a specialized vegetation that includes savannas and dwarf forests, previously unknown in the Putumayo watershed. 

One of the peat swamps in the Putumayo drainage in Peru, as seen from the air. Photo: R. Stallard

We handed the final inventory report to government officials in June and the area was officially protected a month later. In our report we proposed a 2.7 million-acre strict-protection area encompassing a portion of the Cotuhé as well as most of the Yaguas, and an additional 864,000-acre wildlife reserve adjacent to the riverine communities along the Putumayo. The government protected 2.14 million acres. We will be working with Peru’s new administration to propose national park status for Yaguas and to keep working for the protection of the rest of the inventoried area.

Our 23rd rapid inventory report. 


Corine Vriesendorp

Corine directs the Andes-Amazon program in the Keller Science Action Center. She is a field biologist with deep experience with the flora and vegetation of the remotest corners of the Western Amazon. She works closely with South American partners to bring science to bear on conservation and the quality of life of local people.