Back to the rainforest! We arrived in the Manu rainforest, in southeastern Peru, on the Madre de Dios River, which is one of the many rivers that feeds into the mighty Amazon river. Here’s a picture of us about to depart down the Madre de Dios River.
The Andes Mountains are a major reason that the Amazon exists. The mountains act as a weather barrier, stopping rain from reaching the dry western coast of Peru. So lots of rain falls on the eastern side of the mountains, and that water flows into the Amazon. More water flows through the Amazon River than any other river in the world — more than the next seven largest rivers combined!
Manu is the largest tropical rainforest reserve on earth. It has an incredible amount of biodiversity because it includes three different ecosystems which provide habitats for different types of animals.
- the Puna, which is high-altitude grassland and a habitat for llamas
- the cloud forest, home to the brilliant red cock-of-the-rock and spectacled bears
- the lowland rainforest, where you can find giant black caimans, giant river otters, 13 species of primates and over 1000 species of birds — 10% of the world’s total species.
Here is a photo of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
We traveled to Manu with a Peruvian non-profit organization called CREES.
CREES works to protect the rainforest by working with local people. We’ll talk more about this in our next post. Another important mission of CREES is to study the rainforest. One of our first posts was about the rainforest in Costa Rica, and why it’s important to protect rainforests.
CREES is specifically looking at one type of rainforest: secondary rainforest, which has been cut down at some point and has since recovered. Some of these secondary forests have been disturbed by logging; others have been completely cut down and used as cow pastures, and have since been allowed to grow back.
By studying species diversity and abundance in secondary forests, CREES has found that secondary forests can have up to 90% of the diversity that you might see in primary forests (a rainforest that has never been cut down). This means that secondary rainforests provide an important habitat, and that they’re important to protect. It’s also a really hopeful sign to the world that damaged forests can recover.
This is a picture of a secondary rainforest we visited. We learned that many secondary forests like this one were cow pasture only 20 years earlier.
Excellent Animal Habitat
In recovered secondary forest, we saw some amazing birds — like the cock-of-the rock above; a hoatzin, which has two stomachs, like a cow; and the oropendola, a bird that builds a new teardrop-shaped nest each year, hanging from the same tree. The reason for this is that predators will come, find lots of empty nests, and leave.
We also saw 5 species of monkeys; a capybara, the world’s largest rodent; and even fresh jaguar and puma footprints.
We created a small photo album of some of our best wildlife pictures. You can click here to see it.
Here’s a picture of a hoatzin.
The first picture below is an oropendola and the second is a tree full of oropendola nests.
Here is a fresh puma print, our guide said from less than 24 hours earlier.
Manu’s Other Roles
Manu provides animals a habitat, but it also plays an important role in the world’s ecosystems.
Rainforest trees are a huge storehouse of carbon. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming. The trees’ leaves are constantly taking in carbon dioxide, converting it into oxygen and carbon, and then storing the carbon. This has two side benefits: it provides oxygen for us to breathe — 20 percent of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest alone! And by acting as a storehouse for carbon, the rainforest helps combat global warming.
In our next post, we’ll talk about the bio-garden we helped build in the Manu area, and explain how CREES works with local families to help protect the rainforest.
Study Guide Questions:
- What is the largest river in the world, in terms of the amount of water that flows through it? And why does so much water flow through it?
- What is a primary rainforest?
- What is a secondary forest?
- Why does an oropendola build a new nest in the same tree each year?
- Can a cow pasture ever be a forest again?
Here’s the link to our photo album of some of our favorite Amazon wildlife photos that we took.