There are people settled around the protected area that make use of it in different ways and at different intensity levels. The communities found in the national park’s buffer zone include: La Capitanta and Rica Playa (in the province of Tumbes, district of San Jacinto); San Marcos, Tamarindo, Charanal, Huaquillas, Cañaveral, El Palmo, Tacna Libre, Bellavista, Cherrelique, La Choza, Cienago, Chicama, El Cardo and Fernández (in the province of Contralmirante Villar, district of Casitas); Encuentros, El Chaylo, Jabonillos, and Chorreras (in the department of Piura, province of Sullana, district of Lancones).
The district of San Jacinto has 7,450 inhabitants, district of Casitas has 2,660 and Laconens has 12,600 inhabitants (23).
Depending on their proximity, the communities have differing levels of influence on the national park. Casitas Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Jorge Marchan Sánchez, commented in an interview that his community benefits from the protected area because they can harvest mesquite, and firewood, and there is pasture, among other things. He mentioned that some residents make charcoal, some extract firewood for home use, and that the community has good relations with INRENA, whose staff give informative talks to the community members.
The towns with the most influence over the protected area include: 1) Cañaveral, a larger town, capital of the Casitas district in which at least 160 families farm and raise cattle; 2) Rica Playa with 60 families (between 200 and 300 people); 3) Fernández is found in the southern portion of the area and there are approximately 350 people, 70 families.
Lack of water is a serious problem in the region that creates greater pressure on the forest. Migration and growing population is increasing the size of towns and there is more demand for a variety of products. Trade between Peru and Ecuador has shifted because Ecuador is now using American Dollars as its currency and more Peruvian products and primary resources are sold to Ecuador.
E-mail sent to ParksWatch – Peru on December 29, 2003 by José Ríos, Forestry Consultant, regarding invasions into the region.
One month ago I was in Tumbes to help CESEL do an EIA for the LTE 220 KV Zorritos-Zarumilla project; the Mantaro interconnecting electricity project that Peru will be selling to Ecuador soon, which seems like a good idea to me. The possibility of providing electricity to almost all of the border towns of both countries is almost a reality, and means that electricity will replace firewood use. However, there are increasing invasions into the dry forest of the zone, apparently done by land prospectors. I think that they represent the biggest threat to these ecosystems. There is no control to stop these invasions, and there is no sustainable development plan to offer alternatives or alleviate the needs of many people living in poverty. In addition, there is a notorious black market of contraband gasoline going Ecuador to Peru because those involved take advantage of the large, open border covered by dry tropical forest. It is possible that this gasoline trafficking is what is motivating migration towards the east and provoking new invasions into the dry forest. I ask myself if the Regional Government of this part of the country has thought about what it plans to do in 2004 to resolve these types of problems. I hope so.
The park is accessed using a series of secondary roads off of the Northern Panamerican Highway heading east. In the town of Máncora there is an unpaved access road that enters the protected area in the southern part, by Fernández Creek. Or, another alternative is to enter the park by Quebrada Seca. Near Punta Mero there is a secondary road passing Plateritos going towards Cherrelique and Cañaveral that enters the park. By Bocapán Creek, from the town also called Bocapán off of the Panamerican Highway, there is a major access road that goes from Huásimo that then splits to reach the police and army border posts of Cabo Inga, Teniente Astete and Cazaderos located in the eastern zone of the protected area, on the Ecuadorian border. Another major access route is using the road parallel to Tumbes River, which is partially paved and passes by the communities of San Jacinto and goes to Rica Playa.
Tourist activity in the national park is low, mostly because of lack of infrastructure and visitor facilities. There are approximately 200 visitors per year, mostly local people. The most visited area is Rica Playa, in the Bocana Carrillos sector, where tourists can reach Tumbes River.
In Bocana Carrillos there is a signpost demarcating the national park. There are several buildings made of rustic materials for visitors in this area. One of these located next to the river is a dressing room, but most people mistake it for a bathroom since there are no signs. The other is a small cabaña made from hualtaco where one can see the beautiful Tumbes River and surrounding mountains. This is a simple building, apparently for storage. The actual lookout building has a palm roof and no walls. It is located at the same elevation of the hill and it takes 10 minutes of brisk hiking to reach it. It seems as though there used to be a table and a few benches as well. According to our guides, the benches and seats were wood and they were stolen some time ago.
Many visitors go there to camp, swim in the river, or take a trip on Tumbes River by boat. One of the most frequently visited places within the park is Ucumares, where there is a beautiful waterfall and well-conserved archeological remains. It takes four hours on horseback to get there.
There is a local tourism committee in Rica Playa. The president is Bernardo Ordinola; he is also a guide. There are 30 people involved in the committee and they are trying to organize tourism in the area.
Even though tourism is low, some impacts can be seen in the most visited areas. For example, in Bocana Carrillos we observed the trash from a recent campsite, which according to our guides belonged to some university students from Tumbes. They left their garbage where they had their campfire. Máncora is the main tourist attraction in the area, it is towards the southern point of the park. During peak visiting season (summer) almost 5,000 people visit there and during an average season, 2,000 people visit. During the low tourism season only about 200-300 people visit. People go there mostly to visit the beach, but some end up going into the protected area. The trend among Máncora tourism operators is to offer hunting trips into the interior of the zone, most of the time into the protected area.
The cascades at El Pilar are located a couple hours walk from the town of La Choza found along the Bocapán Creek. This would be an interesting place to promote tourism within the national park. Mr. Francisco Luna, a local resident, told us that he wants to show these cascades to tourists, and he has already brought 4 groups from several hotels in Zorritos to the area and he believes the place offers a good future guiding opportunity.
Some people interviewed during this evaluation informed us that they think that the required permits are too complicated and they do not facilitate visits from tourists who spontaneously arrive to the area. Tourists are required to travel to the city of Tumbes to obtain their entrance permits. This is a barrier to local tourism promotion. One park guard commented that the permit system could be changed and that tourists wanting to visit the park for one or two days could get a simple permit from the park’s INRENA control posts. Special permits, for businesses, scientists, or educational institutions could still be distributed from the Natural Protected Areas Agency Tumbes headquarters.