Peru is a diverse country that contains a large variety of plants and animals. Mongabay.com notes that, "Peru has some 2,937 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre." Over 17,000 species of plants are found in Peru as well. The people of Peru have a close connection with many of the plants and animals of their country.
Animals of the Andes
Some of the most common animals found in the Andes mountains of Peru are alpacas. These animals are cousins of the llama and live both in the wild and as domesticated animals. They are used as pack animals and have thick fur to protect them from cold winters in the high elevation of the Andes.
The Andean condor is the largest vulture in all of South America. It can weigh up to 33 pounds and has a wing span of ten feet. These condors live as long as 50 years. They take one mate for life.
Chinchillas are endangered animals that live in the Andes. They are small nocturnal animals that live in large groups of 100 or more. Their fur is soft and attractive, so they were hunted extensively until they became almost extinct in the 1940s.
Plants of The Andes
Potatoes are farmed in the Andes region where farmers grow over 250 varieties. Potatoes are believed to have originated in Peru, where they were an important part of the diet of the Incas.
Maca, a root plant, is used for medicine and also provides a large amount of iron and other nutrients when eaten. It is very popular in Peru as an aphrodisiac and is dried and ground into a powder for a food supplement.
Protection of The Amazon
Almost half of Peru is covered in forest or jungle, including a large portion of the Amazon rain forest. There are several national preserves that protect portions of the Amazon. The Matses National Reserve, set aside in 2009, encompasses over one million acres. Logging is illegal in most of Peru, though illegal harvesting of mahogany does occur. Gold mining and road construction are both threats to the Amazon and other forest areas of Peru.
Plants and Animals of the Amazon in Peru
Many species of animals are found in the Amazon including piranha, crocodiles, pythons and monkeys. About 16 percent of the animals found in Peru are indigenous only to that country, according to Mongabay.com.
Orchids, water lilies, lianas and rubber trees are just a few of the many plants found in the Amazon in Peru.
Plants and People in Peru
Lianas are woody vines that grow in the Amazon. They have porous wood and contain drinkable water. People can cut a small section of this plant and drink the water right out of the vine.
The coca plant is an important part of Andean culture. It grows in the Andes at an elevation of over 4,800 feet. Leaves are chewed as part of rituals or initiation ceremonies or to give extra stamina. The coca plant is also used for medicinal purposes. Prior to childbirth, coca is chewed to induce labor and decrease pain. Coca tea is drunk to mitigate altitude sickness.