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The protected area’s principal goal is to conserve representative samples of equatorial dry forest and Pacific Coast tropical forest biodiversity; the expanding agricultural frontier, indiscriminant logging, and desertification threaten both ecoregions (15). The park is also supposed to protect flora and fauna associations, successional and evolutionary processes, as well as protect the landscape of Amotapes Mountain Range and archeological resources held within (16).


Noroeste Biosphere Reserve


Cerros de Amotape National Park together with its two neighboring protected areas, Tumbes Reserved Zone and El Angolo Game Preserve, make up the Noroeste Biosphere Reserve. Peru proposed to incorporate these three areas into UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program. On March 1st, 1977 UNESCO declared the Noroeste Biosphere Reserve along with two other Peruvian reserves: Huascarán and Manu Biosphere Reserve. Peru’s proposal, as well as UNESCO’s recognition, designated Cerros de Amotape National Park as the core zone and El Angola Game Preserve and Tumbes National Forest as the biosphere reserve’s buffer zone. Neither the transition zones’ extensions nor the level of cooperation between these areas’ management were defined.


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The idea to include terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems into an internationally recognized program was conceived in 1974 when the Man and the Biosphere Program began. Biosphere Reserves accepted into the program should incorporate three complementary functions: a conservation function, to protect genetic resources, species, ecosystems, and landscapes; a development function, to promote sustainable human and economic development; and a logistic function, to support and encourage research, education, training, and permanent monitoring of activities of local, national, and world interest relating to conservation and sustainable development (17).


Historical background


Even though the national park was declared in 1975, implementation did not begin until 1988.  Before 1988, there were no management or control activities and no one knew what natural protected areas were or why they were important for the region. During these years, there was intense logging and hunting. People freely carried arms throughout the then national forest, extracted timber, and let their animals graze. The management began with a participative process in 1988. This is when the first workshop was held to formulate Cerros de Amotape National Park’s work plan, promoting participation in various sectors. The state of the area’s conservation was analyzed and recommendations given for creating consciousness regarding its importance. A work plan was finalized for the national park and for the other areas making up the Noroeste Biosphere Reserve.


The biosphere reserve’s planning and administration began many years after its actual creation. Nonetheless, what used to be Peru’s Forestry Police (of the Civil Guard) played in an important security and vigilance role in the protected areas enforcing the forestry bans. The Forestry Police was created in 1976, and in 1977 it began working in the area with headquarters at the 56th District in Piura. The police force in Tumbes was large with three control posts: one in Pampas de Hospital, one in La Bocana – Casitas and the last one in Máncora. The General Forestry and Wildlife Office of the Ministry of Agriculture implemented the control posts and provided vehicles and some field equipment. 


Control and security began in 1989 when directors and park guards were assigned to the area after the General Forestry and Wildlife Office and the Peruvian Foundation for Nature Conservation (today ProNaturaleza) signed an agreement and secured financing from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (18).


Specific actions were taken in 1989 to implement the activities described in the work plan that included building and maintaining control posts, staffing park guards, and carrying out security and control patrols. There was a police post in Rica Playa that was adapted to control timbering activities in the area. Later, they started working in the zone of Húasimo and with funds from GTZ (the German International Aid Organization), more control posts were built—both in the national park and reserved zone—as were posts in Faical, Fernández, Quebrada Panales, Papayo, El Caucho, and Isla Noblecilla, among others. These were built using funds from Peruvian Foundation for Nature Conservation (today ProNaturaleza) and GTZ. When management of the park began, it already faced various pre-existing problems, like animal grazing, hunting, and wildfires.




In 1993 it became necessary to implement the entire reserve and the 1994-1998 Sustainable Development Plan for the Noroeste Biosphere Reserve and Adjoining Areas was completed. This plan divided the reserve into three zones: Core Zone, Buffer Zone, and Transition Zone. At this time, the suggested Core Zone included Cerros de Amotape National Park, Tumbes National Sanctuary (officially not part of the Noroeste Biosphere Reserve), and part of Tumbes Reserved Zone (the sectors of El Caucho and Campo Verde). The Buffer Zone included the remainder of Tumbes Reserved Zone and El Angolo Game Preserve. The Transition Zone was made up of the adjoining areas. 


ProNaturaleza administered the area until 1996. At that time, there were nine park guards for the national park and two promoters for the reserved zone. Part of ProNaturaleza’s job was to pave the way for the state to assume responsibility, which it did thanks to funding channeled into the PROFONANPE program from the Global Environmental Facility. For the first time, 20 years after the national park was created, the state agency INRENA assumed direct responsibility for the administration and management of all protected areas of the Noroeste Biosphere Reserve (19). From that moment on, ProNaturaleza provided only technical help to elaborate the protected areas’ master plans, following INRENA’s lead and with funding from GTZ. With the World Bank, they published four documents on the biosphere reserve and Manglares de Tumbes National Sanctuary (20).


Cerros de Amotape National Park has a management committee made up of 13 members: institutions and local organizations like INRENA, ProNaturleza, the Regional Government, the Ministry of Education, the Water Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, the tourism sector, the NGO Bosques del Norte (“Forests of the North”), the Shrimp Harvesters Association, and the Lieutenant governors of the corresponding districts. The committee meets formally every three months and holds special meetings as necessary. Attendance is average, although it is harder for those people located farthest from the meeting place to make every meeting. Normally, the meetings take place in the city of Tumbes.     


There is a proposal to incorporate Tumbes Reserved Zone into Cerros de Amotape National Park, thereby enlarging it to 161,732.92 hectares.   




The Natural Protected Areas Agency of the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) within the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for Peru’s natural protected areas. Law Number 26834, Natural Protected Areas Law passed June 30, 1997, and its corresponding Supreme Decree Number 038-2001-AG regulate their administration.


The Noroeste Biosphere Reserve, of which Cerros de Amotape Naitonal Park is part, has approximately 21 park guards, four professionals, one administrative assistant, and a director. There are five control posts in the park: Rica Playa, Fernández, Panales, El Chaylo/Los Encuentros, and Capitan Hoyle/Astete. These posts lack radio communication because INRENA does not own its central office building in Tumbes; rather they rent it and have not been able to install a communication network. INRENA has purchased land for its central office and plans to implement its communication network once they construct the building.


These posts are basic; in addition to no radio communication, they lack bathrooms, showers, and space for educational or interpretive materials. There are two park guards per control post. The guards rotate between the protected areas of the biosphere reserve every three months: those stationed in Cerros de Amotape National Park may be moved to other posts within the same park or to posts in Tumbes Reserved Zone or Manglares de Tumbes National Sanctuary. 


There is also a volunteer park guard system, made up of local community members who participate in security and maintenance work on a part-time basis. Usually, there are one or two volunteers per control post. Twenty-one park guards for all the protected areas is not enough and as a result many infractions occur in remote areas of the park without the protected areas’ administration even knowing.


During our visit to the area, we noted the absence of park guards in some of the control posts. According to the director, there was a training and coordination workshop for the area’s personnel in the city of Tumbes. According to the park guards, they never abandon the control posts. When the paid park guards are needed somewhere else, the volunteer park guards maintain watch. However, we were unable to confirm this fact during our visit.


One ex-park guard interviewed for this study confirmed that someone is always in the guard station. He told us, “The control posts have to maintain vigilance, it is what the regulations say. Any park guard unable to go to a training workshop is later trained by those that went. Before, there were fewer park guards, only four in Manglares de Tumbes National Sanctuary, five in the reserved zone and seven in the national park. We also had fewer vehicles, we only had one old truck, less motorcycles, and less professionals—we only had two.  Today, there are more motorcycles, more park guards, and more professionals. There is even a lawyer to help them enforce the law. Now that they have a master plan they supposedly can enforce the law; we did not have any master plan when I was a park guard, and we controlled things better (21).


According to one interviewed park guard, the park guards receive benefits like social security and life insurance. He also explained that the park guards are changed every five years, and he believes this damages any advancements made in the natural protected areas because people who have been trained by workshops and courses are then ignored. This is a waste of money and means losing sometimes very valuable people. Park guards turn in detailed monthly reports to the area’s director. If something happens that requires immediate attention or urgent actions, the park guards have to travel to get approval from the director or get support from the police and the prosecutor’s office. These procedures are a waste of time and demonstrate the legal loopholes within the protected areas. The park guards do not even have authority to directly fine or sanction anyone. It is extremely inefficient. The park guard gave us the following example. He said that illegal logging of two trees, “palo de sangre,” was discovered in the sector of Brunos within the national park’s buffer zone and the park guards were able to detain the loggers. But, because of the coordination delays between the Ecological Police, National Police, and the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, the perpetrators escaped with some of the confiscated wood (22).


According to the national park’s master plan, the area’s spatial arrangement follows the regulations established by the Natural Protected Areas Law, which defines the internal zoning according to the protected area’s category and protection objectives. The following zones were established to efficiently manage Cerros de Amotape National Park: 

  • Strictly Protected Zone: Located in the upper altitudes of the Amotapes Mountain Range. Covers 43,343.93 hectares.
  • Wildlife Zone: Surrounds the Strictly Protected Zone. Covers 14,622.34 hectares. Its area has already been affected by anthropogenic actions. Permitted activities in this zone include research, education, and recreation.
  • Tourism and Recreation Zone: This area has also been affected by anthropogenic actions. It covers 36,221.58 hectares and includes the following sectors: Rica Playa – Quebrada Panales, Cabo Inga – Capitán Hoyle, Quebrada Cuzco, and El Cardo – Chicama.  
  • Historic Cultural Zone:  The area where archeological remains have been found.  
  • Buffer Zone:  Because of their nature and location, areas designated as buffer zones are areas that require special treatment to guarantee the protected area’s conservation. Cerros de Amotape has two buffer zones, one to the west running parallel to the national park and the other to the southeast near Ecuador. 


According to the protected area’s master plan, Cerros de Amotape National Park has the following programs: Administration, Biological Diversity Protection, Research, Public Use, Conservation Awareness Creation, Participative Management, and Monitoring and Evaluation. 


The national park’s budget comes from a joint budget for the entire biosphere reserve and sanctuary. The total budget for all the protected areas in the region is $200,000 per year; it covers salaries, uniforms, fuel, expenses related to control and security and administrative costs.


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