National Reserve Pacaya–Samiria with its 2,080 km2 is the second largest Peruvian protected area. It is located in the region of Loreto above the confluence of great rivers of Ucayali and Marañon, which after its merge create mighty Amazon. The reserve contains the largest area of protected and periodically flooded rain forest known as várzea throughout the Amazon. The area is one of the least accessible in Peru. The largest city of Iquitos is accesible by ship within two days and there is no accommodation available in the reserve. Sleeping in hemocks is an absolute necessity and a visit without a guide is not recommended.
Reservation was established in 1940 to protect paiche (Arapaima gigas), the largest freshwater fish in the Amazon, more than two meters in length. In addition to protection of paiche the reserve has a great importance for protection of Amazon river dolphin and Gray dolphins and two species of turtles – Giant South American turtle and Yellow-spotted river turtle and hundreds of species of other animals. It is the land with one of the highest biodiversity in the world. With its 550 species of birds, it is the paradise for birdwatchers.
Pacaya-Samiria is home to many bird species
In 1982 it was classified as a National Nature Reserve. The status of protected area allows to preserve the biodiversity while allowing the use of natural resources by local residents. A very important thing is also the development of ecotourism in this area. There are several Indian tribes such as Cocama, Huitoto, Bora or Yagua living in the marginal areas of the reserve. Therefore the income from ecotourism can help the tribes not only to protect the nature effectively but also to get some finances which can be later invested in the development of the community.
A lot of people of the Cocama tribe (10 000 – 15 000) live in the northern parts of Peru mainly in the Pacaya-Samiria reserve. The Cocama tribe still lives in an isolation from the outside world – the only option how to get to the main city, Iquitos, is by boat and it takes 2 days. The Cocama people are self-sufficient in their production and they are not dependent on food imports for example. Most of the people live near the rivers or lakes and therefore a substantial part of their diet consists of fish. Commercial fishing is increasing in the Cocama tribe as well. Agriculture is also an important source of their food. They grow mainly maize, potatoes and fruits.
But like many other indigenious tribes in Latin America, the Cocama people face the outside pressure. This means that mainly multinational corporations and their activities in logging and oil extraction have a negative impact on the nature and the lifes of the local people. Protection of these ecosystems is very important otherwise it can have disastrous consequences not only in local but also global scale.
The official web of Pacaya Samiria: http://www.pacayasamiria.org.