The Manu Biosphere Reserve is situated in the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru. Its lowest point is located at 300 m, while its highest point – the summit of Apu Kañahuay – measures 3,800 m. The reserve includes 19 different habitat types, constituting one of the most diverse places for birds in the world with 860 different species identified. The population in the reserve amounts to 8,600 people, with numerous settlements of native communities including the Matsigueka, Yine, Harakmbut and Quechua.
Designation date: 1977
Ecosystem-based network: Mountains, Tropical Forests and Wetlands
Surface : 2,292,806 ha
- Core area(s): 1,532,806 ha
- Buffer zone(s): 260,000 ha
- Transition zone(s): 500,000 ha
Location: 11°17’S – 13°51’S; 70°50’W – 72°22’W
The Manu Biosphere Reserve is the largest rainforest reserve in the world. Its altitude ranges from 3,800 m at the top of Apu Kañahuay down to 300 m, where the Manu River converges with the Alto Madre de Dios. The predominant plant formations are highland Punas, then a transition belt of woody scrubland followed by low montane forest. Below this altitude lies montane rainforest and finally tropical moist forest or lowland forest stretching along the great Amazon plains.
Manu is considered to be among the sites with the highest biodiversity in the world. Over 3,000 plant species have been identified. Fauna is similarly impressive with over 1,000 vertebrate species observed, including at least 200 species of mammals and more than 800 species of birds. Recorded mammals include the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator), brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus), 13 different species of primates and eight felids, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), cougar (Puma concolor), and the elusive and endangered Andean mountain cat (Leopardus jacobita).
As a vast, geographically and economically isolated watershed, the reserve has been spared from most human impacts and remains difficult to access with no road system. The population amounts to approximately 8,600 people, with numerous settlements of native communities including Matsigueka, Yine, Harakmbut and Quechua. All communities practise traditional activities (swidden agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering of wild fruits), while some also incorporate more modern economic alternatives such as logging, rice cultivation and tourism.
The evidence of Incan and Pre-Incan ruins and petroglyphs bears witness to a long history of indigenous occupation. The local legend of Paititi locates the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ within the reserve, luring both researchers and adventurers alike. Today, various indigenous peoples are the only permanent inhabitants, some of whom are sedentary and in regular contact with the ‘modern world’, while others maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle as hunter-gatherers living in voluntary isolation.
Last updated: June 2020