Tambopata features a high diversity of habitats, and therefore an incredible number of species are represented (4). In the Andes there are high levels of endemism (5), and this is true in the protected area as well. The protected area is concentrates rich biodiversity for several groups of organisms (6). The protected area features common species and concentrates a rich biological diversity in several groups of organisms. The Tambopata River watershed is considered to be one of the world's richest ecosystems in terms of biodiversity. An indicator of this vast wealth is the fact that in an area of just 550 hectares, researchers have found 91 species of mammals, 570 birds, 127 reptiles and amphibians and 94 fish, among other surprising records (7).
The Tambopata River in Madre de Dios near the Puno foothills is riddled with clumps of bamboo, the exclusive habitat of a variety of species of birds and mammals. The area features mature flooded forest and jungle typical of lower cloud forest. Flora in the national reserve is fairly typical of the southwest Amazon Basin (8). The Heath River and surrounding plains are a unique ecosystem in Peru. The pampas are pastures that are periodically flooded, and small groves of trees with varied plant life grow in isolated clumps on the plain.
The protected area is home to a wide diversity of plant life, including exploited forest species such as cedar (Cedrela odorata), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), tornillo (Cedrelinga sp.), Brazil nut (Bertholetia excelsa), palm trees such as the pona (Iriartea ventricosa), aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa), huasaí (Euterpe sp.) and ungurahui (Jessenia bataua).
Researchers have discovered in the protected area large numbers of species that are now rarely found elsewhere in the Amazon jungle due to poaching, particularly tapirs and spider monkeys, but also jaguars, white-lipped peccary, medium-sized and large monkeys and caiman. The rivers teem with giant river otters.
Within the reserve, the lower elevation zone is dominated mostly by Amazonian bird species, the ones that are at or near their upper elevation limits, and by species that are restricted (or partially restricted) to the narrow band of rain forest found on the lower slopes of the Andes. Because of the growing deforestation rate along this latitudinal border in other parts of the Andes, this ecosystem is one of these most threatened in all of South America. A relatively large portion of this ecosystem is found within the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.
In a 5,000-hectare area where La Torre River feeds into Tambopata, almost 575 bird species have been registered. In addition, this same area contains approximately 1200 butterfly species, making its conservation extremely important (CI Peru) (9).
The Heath plains and environs have yielded 74 species including marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus), maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), short-haired highland dog (Atelocynus microtis), 28 species of amphibians and 17 species of reptiles (10).
According to the Red Book on Wildlife in Peru by Víctor Pulido, the protected area features various species with differing conservation status. There are species on the verge of extinction such as the otter (Lutra longicaudis) and giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis); vulnerable species such as the anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), white squirrel monkey (Cebus albifrons), black squirrel monkey (Cebus apella), choro monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha), jaguar (Panthera onca), pink river dolphin (Ajaija ajaja), paujil (Crax globulosa), South American river turtle (Podocnemis expansa), yellow-headed river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), anaconda (Eunectes murinus); and rare species such as the hairy armadillo (Dasypus pilosus), Goeldi's marmoset (Callimico goeldii), highland dog (Speothos venaticus), pacarana (Dinomys branickii), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja); and species in a status yet to be determined such as the musmuqui (Aotus miconax), shot-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis), tropical weasal (Mustela africana), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), margay (Leoparduss wiedii), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguaroundi), ash deer (Mazama gouazoubira), macaws and parrots Ara ararauna, Ara militaris militaris, Ara macao, Ara chloroptera, Ara severa castaneifrons, Ara couloni, red-footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria), white cayman (Caiman sclerops), and rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria).
4 Conservación Internacional Rapid Assessment Program. The Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone of Southeastern Peru: A Biological Assessment. 1994. P.15.
5 Young, K. R. y Valencia, N. "Los Bosques Montanos en el Perú" P. 5 - 10. 1992.
6 Ascorra, C.; Solari, S.; Vivar, E.; Tenicela, M. Y Arana-Cardó, R. "Patrones de diversidad y endemismo de los mamíferos peruanos". Vol. III. En: Halffter, G. (Eds.), Diversidad biológica en Iberoamérica. Programa CYTED. Instituto de Ecología. México.
7 Conservación Internacional Perú Sistemas de producción y manejo del café en el alto Tambopata.
Serie técnica 4. CI-Perú ediciones. Lima, Septiembre 2001. P. 6.
8 Ibíd. P. 20.
9 Ibíd. P. 21.
10 Ibíd. P. 23.