- Grazing animals with the protected area
- Timber harvesting
- Charcoal production
- Overharvest of non-timber forest products
- Exotic species
Grazing animals within the protected area
Grazing animals within the park constitutes a serious conflict in the zone. Goats and cattle have been within the protected area since before it was declared a national park. Currently, the Natural Protected Areas Agency (INRENA) is working to eliminate grazing activities from the park. The ranchers ask for consideration since they have nowhere else to take their animals.
Cattle and goats affect the forest’s integrity; they eat sprouts and small plants thereby inhibiting natural regeneration. Goats stand up on two legs to reach higher leaves, they tear off tree bark killing the tree, and they scratch the soil to get at herbs and plant roots. Overgrazing has caused loss of native grasses, and has left the soil uncovered and degraded and susceptible to invasion of the exotic weed, Ipomoea carnea (27).
According to one local leader, the problems are with the ranchers association because INRENA wants to remove cattle from the park. The association is willing to cooperate as long as they have other options, for example, if a water well were built for them to plant and water pasture and remove their animals from the area, and if they were given the opportunity to work in agriculture as well.
Exploitation of pasture grasses from within the park is generally considered low intensity and is conducted by the human settlements such as Hoyle, Cazaderos, and in the influence zone: Rica Playa, San Marcos, and Casitas. Both cattle and goats graze during the rainy seasons when native pasture grasses are abundant.
During the first half of our field evaluation along the Tumbes River, before reaching El Guanábano Creek, we did not see cattle or goats. According to our guides, this was because we were in the park during the dry season when the ranchers remove the animals and feed them directly because of lack of native grasses. The guide also said that it is possible that the animals were even further inside the protected area searching for food. He said, “During the rainy season, when the park is green and lush, the animals are easy to spot.”
One local rancher from El Cienago commented that he thought expanding the protected area was a good thing because it would bring about additional work opportunities that could replace ranching. He got into the animal raising business four years ago and he currently has 50 goats. Before he worked as laborer doing odd jobs. He commented that raising goats provides him just enough income to survive; he only has a small herd and can only slaughter approximately eight per month. The buyers pay 4 soles per kg. He said to live relatively well he needed at least 200 goats so that he could sell 30 per month. His goats graze the forests around the park, but he admitted that they do enter the national park. During our walk along Bocapán Creek in the sector of La Choza, we did see a large number of goats and cattle grazing within the protected area.
Goats within the protected area
In the town of Fernández there are more goats than cows. The community of Chicama has approximately 1000 cows that enter and leave the park depending on the rains; when they do not find any food, they return to their corrals where their owners feed them. The cattle wander 15 to 20 km within the park to feed. According to key informants, the cattle within the park are actually very lean and if the owners intend to sell them, they will get them out of the park to fatten them up. More cattle are sold during April and May, just after the rains when the cattle are in better shape and are fatter. Many times, ranchers sell the fatter cattle to maintain the leaner ones. In Chicama, ranchers keep most of the cattle in corrals, which is not an option for the average person in the community who lacks the same economic capacity.
According to some locals, there are cases of anthrax and foot and mouth disease. Infested cattle can pass the foot and mouth disease to wild deer, usually at watering holes.
According to locals, Ecuadorian cattle are present in Peru in the sectors of Zapallal, Jurupe, Los Pindo and El Gramadal. Some also claim that there are Ecuadorian cattle in the area called, “Los Encuentros” in the southeastern part of the protected area. Apparently, there are also several corrals within the national park’s borders.
According to Mr. Arturo Correa, vice president of the National Rancher’s Society of Peru (SONAGAN), they have 250 members in Tumbes. He said that the main problem in the protected area is the lack of coordination between the ranchers and INRENA. He claims that INRENA never goes where they should go. They want to remove all cattle from the reserved zone and the national park. He also claims that INRENA helps Ecuadorian ranchers gain access to the reserve during certain times of the year. He said that INRENA never finds Ecuadorian ranchers and they make more trouble for the Pervuvian ranchers than the Ecuadorians. Apparently, Ecuadorian ranchers are logging the forest with chainsaws, but Peruvian ranchers are not even allowed to remove trees to build their corrals or fence in their pastures. Ecuadorians take wood, but when INRENA is informed, they never go to verify the claim and they never take any action.
Actually, the relationship between SONAGAN and INRENA has been broken, they do not communicate. INRENA wants to remove cattle from the zone, but they do not offer any alternative job for the ranchers. The ranchers have been in the area since before the park was created. Despite their long-standing presence, there is still native flora and fauna in the area. Actually, one might argue that cattle actually help the ecosystem because they are an important seed disperser—mesquite forests have grown thanks to seeds dispersed by cattle. They say that the ranchers are not the ones causing deforestation. Today there are 60% less cattle in the zone than there was 20 years ago. The loggers, who get permission from INRENA, cause deforestation. He says that INRENA is trying to cover their own poor job by blaming the ranchers for the current state of the park.
The informant also commented that there are not large numbers of goats in the protected area. Member ranchers in his association do not bring their goats to the park. He said that at least 80% of the goats within the park are from the sectors of Casitas and Sullana.
He explained that cattle roam everywhere because that is how cattle raising is done in this lowland zone. They are not fenced in because there conditions are not right, there are no pastures and it is woodland. Cattle raised in these woodlands feed mostly on fruits.
During 1998-99, with Engineer Almir Salazar, the ranchers took responsibility to care for the areas they exploited. Each rancher was assigned a specific area so that he would not deforest it, would not harvest honey, would not hunt birds, etc. Today, these destructive practices are in full swing since there is no coordination with the ranchers.
When asked about the dogs that the ranchers bring into the protected area, the informant confirmed that the dogs help round up the cattle. He said that they are from the area and do not represent a disease-vector threat.
SONAGAN has 2000 heads of cattle and the ranchers have fields and closed-in areas to manage them. Each rancher has 2000 hectares, there are four groups and they rotate fields. The Ecuadorian has 3000 heads of cattle and they use barbed wire.
The informant told us that SONAGAN’s cattle feed mostly on pasture grasses and that the cattle from Pampas de Hospital (approximately 500), travel into the interior of the area and they feed on fruits, alleging that those cattle are the ones competing with the native fauna in the park and not SONAGAN’s cattle. SONAGAN cattle are mostly along the right bank of the Tumbes River, along the limit of the reserved zone. The Casitas cattle are the ones within the national park, the owners are part of a different committee, and they are also fighting with INRENA. He says that actually, the problem there is even worse than our problem.
SONAGAN’s official position is against any national park expansion and the organization opposes elevating the reserved zone’s status to national park. The informant believes that small ranchers cannot afford to remove their cattle and take them farther away because it is just not profitable. He thinks that it is not fair to treat the ranchers in this way, they should be provided solutions and alternatives, for example, assign them other areas with projected growth potential.
The informant also mentioned that INRENA and ProNaturaleza trick local campesinos into signing agreements instead of discussing the situation with them. He said that initially, the campesinos acted in good faith, but today they better analyze the situation since they have been tricked. Pasture requires less water than agriculture. If improved pasture grasses were introduced and areas fenced in, the ranchers would remove their cattle from the protected area. Cattle go into the protected area because there is food there. If pasturelands were created outside of the protected area, the ranchers would be closer to their homes and families and they would gladly accept that alternative. The campesinos from Pampas de Hospital live from both ranching and farming, however those belonging to SONAGAN make their living entirely from cattle raising and without it, they have nothing (28).
Timber extraction is the most serious threat to the protected area. Trees are systematically and uncontrollably cut, mostly trumpet and hualtaco trees that are fine woods and in demand for use in parquet wood floors. Extraction is done surreptitiously. Timber extractors use hidden roads and paths, and they work at night. According to some locals, the extractors get consent and cooperation from some corrupt officials and authorities.
Years ago, people worked freely with wood, there were no impediments. Today, however, logging is prohibited. Yet, we know that people still extract wood. Outside of town there is a sawmill. Soft woods, such as palo santo and “pasallo”, can be cut and used to make packing boxes for fruit grown in the valleys: limes and mangoes. This logging impoverishes the already bare slopes. Even worse, claiming to cut soft wood, loggers cut trumpet and hualtaco trees. The trumpet tree, either the white or black variety, is considered one of the best woods in the country. When it is used in wood flooring, it is very valuable. It used to cover all the slopes, but today these slopes are covered by sparse and stocky invaluable vegetation, shrubs or small trees that are eaten by free grazing goats before they can grow into healthy trees (29).
Local people extract timber, mostly those from Encuentros and El Chayllo in the province of Sullana in Piura, southeast of the protected area. Wood is extracted mostly from the following places: El Barco and Campana Hills, Quebrada Cusco, Cabo Vordoba, La Brigida, Modroño, Uña de Puerco, El Gallo, among others. 30 There is also some extraction from the sector of Casitas.
We spoke to people from several communities that indicated there was also indiscriminate logging from Hoyle. They told us that at least one truckload per day leaves Hoyle heading towards Ecuador and that the two park guards are never in their posts. Today, the “parqueteras” (the sawmills that produce wood flooring) are located in Ecuador. Timber traffickers and speculators use the roads constructed by previous sawmills that were also used by the military during the conflict between Peru and Ecuador.
Wood for sale in the Casitas sector
Historically, the state has tried to regulate timber extraction in the zone. In 1974, the Peruvian Government established a logging ban for the area that included Cerros de Amotape National Park. But, unfortunately, the ordinance was never backed by any financial or administrative support so illegal logging continued further into the protected area every year (31).
Despite the efforts of protected area staff, hardwoods continue to be logged and taken out of the park. Local authorities want more legal support in order to punish perpetrators (32).
Charcoal production negatively impacts the forests. Mesquite trees are in highest demand and are cut to produce charcoal. Charcoal is sold to poultry factories and barbeque restaurants mostly in Lima, Trujillo and Piura.
Charcoal is primarily produced in the national park’s buffer zone, in the sector near Fernández Creek, where one can observe many production sites. Production also occurs in Casitas, but it is not as prevalent. Charcoal production is a labor intense job that requires 24-hour supervision over a period of a few days. The producer continually inhales smoke during the process. To start and maintain the fire, forest floor duff (decomposing leaves, sticks, etc) is used. Duff collection negatively affects forest regeneration since it removes primary organic material necessary for soil nutrition and forest health.
According to one local authority, charcoal production near Fernández Creek is legal. There is a small business association of charcoal producers in Fernández. They have gone to Piura to solicit various documents to formalize their business and obtain extraction permits. They have already received permits to produce charcoal, and now they are waiting for the permits to remove and transport it. According to our informant, this charcoal goes directly to Lima. At the time of our evaluation, only one shipment had gone out since the business was in its beginning stages. They are waiting for their permits to continue. Charcoal production occurs outside of the buffer zone as well (33).
Sacks of charcoal ready for sale Preparing charcoal in the Quebrada Fernández sector
Illegal charcoal production and extraction occurs in Casitas, Bocapán and other places. The community of El Trigal also produces charcoal. According to locals, charcoal is transported at night when it is harder to detect.
Forest duff used in charcoal production There are hundreds of sacks like these for charcoal production use
Overharvesting of non-timber forest products
Firewood is the principal non-timber forest product collected and used from the park. People do not just collect fallen branches or trunks; they cut down entire trees for the firewood. Firewood collection is most prevalent near communities. People also collect timber for home construction. The popular beach town Máncora is found south of the protected area, and there is large demand for timber to build homes and hotels near the ocean as well as large firewood demand for cookouts and cooking.
Several other non-timber products are collected, but on a small scale. The fiber from the Ceiba trischitrandra tree is collected and used as pillow and mattress stuffing. Its trunk and acorn is used as livestock feed. The fig tree Ficus sp. is used as a treatment for malaria. The palo santo (Bursera graveolens) is used as a repellent, and the western soapberry (Sapindus saponaria), to wash clothes (34).
Locals also collect goat manure from the forest and sell it as fertilizer. Most of the manure is sold to Ecuador, where it is used to fertilize plantains for export. Normally, the soil in the protected area receives nutrients from fallen leaves and small branches. But the goats eat these leaves and prohibit the nutrients from directly reaching the soil; instead, the nutrients reach the soil only after the goats excrete them. But, if the manure is collected and removed, these nutrients never reach the soil and overtime, soil quality goes down and forest regeneration is negatively impacted.
As occurs in Tumbes Reserved Zone, honey is collected in Cerros de Amotape National Park. There is a growing demand for honey from wild honeybees. It is found either in tree hollows and is known locally as “tree honey,” or in ground hives and is known as “ground honey.” To extract tree honey, the harvester chops down the tree in order to get to the bees in the interior cavity of the tree. To collect ground honey, the harvester digs a large hole in the soil, which contributes to erosion. In the process of collecting honey, the harvester usually destroys the beehive and in some cases, the entire colony dies or disperses after the intrusion. Honey overharvesting has driven most of the wild honeybees out of the most human-influenced areas into the interior of the protected area. The animal herders are now the ones who find beehives within the remote areas of the national park and who extract honey.
According to locals, this honey is very popular. Ecuador is paying higher prices than in Peru, so it is very hard to find honey for sale in the local communities. Also, because the wild honeybees are relatively tame, they are being out competed by more aggressive (non-native) bee swarms escaping from cultivated beehives. Ecuadorians are knocking down trees of 25 to 30 meters in height from within the protected area to harvest honey. They come prepared with weapons, dogs, and axes to carry out their illegal work.
The trees are cut to harvest honey and the hives are destroyed
Apiculture has become a popular moneymaking activity in the zone. Beehives can be seen around the communities and in agricultural plots. The bees most often used are Italian (Apis melífera) that have been Africanized, meaning they are mean and attack people and animals. This introduction of non-native bees is creating an imbalance because the native bee species now have to compete for food, habitat, and they could contract the non-natives diseases. Both wild honey extraction and increased domestic apiculture could threaten the native honeybee species within the reserved zone.
Locals engage in subsistence hunting. They kill deer, wild pigs and birds like tinamous and doves. The exact situation regarding hunting is unknown, but according to locals, the hunted species are harder and harder to find. With increased immigration to the zone, especially agriculturalists coming from Piura’s highlands, pressure on the native fauna has increased. Another problem are the Ecuadorian hunters. In Ecuador, the natural resources have been severely degraded, and it is hard to find any wildlife there so the hunters cross the border in search of prey.
According to people interviewed during our evaluation, in the past non-locals were the ones hunting in search of bush meat to sell. They said that there used to be more sport hunting as well, but it has diminished. Now, deer, wild pigs, tinamous are hunted for subsistence by local agriculturalists and ranchers. The magnitude of subsistence hunting and commercial hunting is unknown. Hunters avoid control posts and they seek out ways to get the bush meat to market, many times it is by special order. Ranchers hunt inside the park. People from Máncora hunt deer, and many times visitors staying at this tourist town help coordinate the hunt. There are residents that hunt deer to sell to restaurants in Máncora.
Actually, thanks to park guard presence, the control posts, and greater consciousness among the municipal leaders and police, there is less poaching and less bush meat on the market. According to one key informant illegal hunting has been truncated, as we say. It does not occur at the magnitude of the past today there is respect. He said, “We would be lying if we said deer was being sold.”
In addition to wildlife hunting, poaching occurs to supply the pet market. Three or four years ago, parrot poaching was intense. Today, it continues but to a lesser extent because the National Police control the park better.
Commercial bird extraction (mostly Psittacine) is small-scale in the southern park of Cerros de Amotape (35). in the sectors of El Chayllo and Sullana. Most sought after birds include Brotogeris pyrhopterus (which is a threatened species), Aratinga waglerri, Aratinga erythrogenys and Forpus coelestis (36).
As is the situation in Tumbes Reserved Zone, there are two main sources of contamination in the zone. First, there is solid waste and garbage produced in human settlements that are not properly treated and are tossed into the open air and second, there is water contamination from gold mining upriver in Ecuador. There is also garbage from Ecuadorian towns that floats downriver into the park. According to people interviewed for this report, some fragile fish species have disappeared from the river and the endemic crocodile is increasingly hard to find—evidence that contamination is negatively impacting the national park.
Locals who frequent Tumbes River comment that three years ago, they used to see crocodiles more frequently and today only rarely if they area lucky. Comparatively, they see mounds of garbage everywhere. Most of the garbage consists of plastic bags coming from Ecuador hanging on the riparian vegetation. Tires have settled to the bottom of the river, and can be seen during low water levels. During our field evaluation along the beaches and riparian areas of Tumbes River, we saw huge quantities of plastic, bottles, and all kinds of garbage trapped between rocks that were not entirely obviously at first glance.
In the Ecuadorian side of the watershed, there are approximately 450 gold mines dumping their waste along the Amarillo River, tributary of the Puyango – Tumbes Rivers. These mines are rustic operations. They only produce one ton of gold per year and they use mercury in their production process. They cause serious heavy metal contamination in Tumbes River. Because the protected areas are found in the lower portion of the watershed, there should be more attention to this serious problem. In addition, this watershed is governed according to international protocols and corresponding action should be taken.
Tumbes River is one of the best northern coastal rivers and just a few years ago, it was not contaminated. This contamination has still not affected regional agriculture, but it is obvious when it comes to river health. Tumbes River used to supply a lot of fish, and in the middle portion of the river is an endemic species called the “raspa” that has altogether disappeared from the Rica Playa portion of the river. There is no plan to deal with this river contamination, but a large-scale project is needed. Tumbes River has always been high quality, it has water year-round, and it should be saved. I have always said that water is a finite resource, and it can be lost to contamination or overuse. Contamination needs to be stopped (37).
Tourism also brings pollution to the river and the zone, albeit it is minimal when compared to the garbage floating downriver from Ecuador, but it is a problem nonetheless. In the popular waterfall area of La Choza, we observed plastic pop bottles floating in the river’s pools. Also, in the tourist area of Rica Playa called Bocana Carrillos, we saw plastic and containers left by visitors.
It seems that fishing with nets is common in Tumbes River. Over a period of two hours during our visit, we saw several stakes in the water supporting fishing nets. According to our guides, it is subsistence fishing and they mostly catch bass, catfish and “zabalos.” Fishing is mostly done at night, not to hide the activity; rather the catch is better.
Shrimp are also extracted from the creeks and streams. Shrimp harvesters use chemical poisons to get the shrimp and as a result, shrimp are disappearing from the streams and the water is being further contaminated. Creeks most affected in this way are Casitas, Fernández, Seca, Panales and Ucumares. This method kills the shrimp (that are then harvested), and also destroys the ecosystem and kills off other species like the Chaetostoma micropf that is no longer found in the rivers or creeks. The chemical poison does not just disappear after its application; it settles in the sediments and contributes to bioaccumulation. The rivers and creeks on their own cannot recuperate. The shrimp harvesters are well aware of the damage they are causing; after all, they carry out this illegal activity at night.
One resident of Fernández Alto said that his community did all they could to eliminate the use of toxic substances for shrimp harvesting because they were extremely worried about it because the species were practically extinct. Nonetheless, enough survived to reproduce and now we are trying to work to protect them. He said that they are forming an auto defense committee to coordinate with INRENA as efficiently as possible to patrol the most affected creeks and streams. Those responsible for using toxic substances are locals. First, the people from Cajamarca came and left behind this dangerous shrimping technique, which locals accepted as an easy way to make money. This informant told us that he is a volunteer park guard and he works together with INRENA to carry out better work. He said that they are waiting for a solution from Lima, so that the auto defense committee made up of local campesinos can patrol the affected areas (38).
Some plants are equipped with adaptive strategies that help them succeed and take over under climatic variations and take advantage of human-impacted areas. When these plants alter the natural succession of the forest, it represents a significant change to the detriment of native species that cannot survive in the face of these changes or other anthropogenic pressures. In Cerros de Amotape, several species are increasing in population sizes, including Mimosacea, las convolulaceae and cyperaceae. Negatively affected species belong to the bignoniaceae, burseraceae and anacardiaceae families, as well as some leguminous species that could be used as forage (39).
Photo Diego Shoobridge
Italian Pine is an exotic species growing along the Fernández Creek close to Máncora. This species is replacing native mesquite species and competing for water and space.
According to one local interviewed during our evaluation, deforestation brings about a series of situations such as loss of biological diversity and landscape destruction. He said that invasion by non-desired species like the “borrachera” are now common all over the national park. This particular species invades when tree cover is removed because it likes full sun and other conditions present in deforested areas. It is a clear indication of ecosystem degradation. This is happening throughout Cerros de Amotape National Park because of deforestation and overgrazing. This impact cannot be hidden (40).
Current threats worsen
The park’s natural resources will be seriously compromised if current threats such as illegal logging, unregulated grazing, commercial extraction of non-timber forest products, and contamination continue as they are. All evidence indicates that the trends will continue, and even worsen. If they are not reversed in time, the protected area.